Electronic Dog Training Collar Reviewsby Geoffrey English
In an era of high speed Internet access, cell phones, and palm pilot organizers, it was only a matter of time before gundog enthusiasts would adopt the electronic training collar as an acceptable and humane way of training dogs. Notice I did not use the term “shock collar”. The reason will become clear after a brief look into the evolution of “The Electronic Collar”.
More than 30 years ago, electronic collars made their way into the dog-training scene. However, because the first generation of electronic collars were only capable of delivering one level of stimulation to the dog, they where appropriately nicknamed “shock collars”. These collars required the trainer to select the level of correction by inserting an “intensity plug” into the collar (before putting the collar on the dog for training, once the collar was on the dog they could not change the intensity level). This plug would then cause the collar to emit the same level of stimulation for all corrections issued during the session, regardless of how small or large the infraction – hence the nickname “shock collar”.
The term “shock collar” had a very negative connotation that dramatically decreased their widespread acceptance in the dog-training arena. It was commonly stated that, “Only hard headed dogs that could not be trained by traditional means where run with shock collars”. As a result, very few professional trainers were public about their use of electronic collars fearing that clients would not entrust dogs to their care. However, some professionals, including legendary Rex Carr, where up-front about their use of electronic collars and worked diligently at developing a training program that utilized the collar in a way dogs could understand. Rex quickly became know as a pioneer of training retrievers with electronic collars. In fact, most if not all training techniques used today with retrievers are derivate from Rex’s original work.
Recognizing the limitations of the first generation of electronic collars, manufacturers worked to refine their design. It was only until the release of the second generation of electronic collars that allowed the trainer to vary the level of intensity from the hand-held transmitter. The trainer could now select from one of three levels of intensity for a particular “intensity plug”: high, medium and low. This design still had its shortcomings. The trainer still only had 3 levels of stimulation to choose from and the lowest level of stimulation was typically inappropriate for simple corrections.
While the second generation of electronic collars was a great advancement in training collars, this technology was replaced in the last decade by collars that gave the trainer the ability to select multiple levels of intensity from the transmitter. This single advancement combined with customer education has done more for the widespread acceptance of the electronic collar than any other advancement in the collar’s history.
Manufacturers quickly recognized that a great design alone was not going to give their product the acceptance needed to support their newfound industry; it was only through education that new customers would understand how to use these training devices to advance their dog in a proper manner. The most significant form of education came when Tri-Tronics released a book written by Jim and Phyllis Dobbs and Alice Woodward, Tri-Tronics Training Retrievers. This book focused on incorporating electronic collars in all phases of training retrievers and walked the reader through a series of detailed steps, bringing a dog from A to Z.
As a result of the technological advancements and the educational support provided by manufacturers, the days of the “shock collar” are gone, giving way to the remote training collars. Today, like cell phones, its becoming more difficult to find someone who trains without an electronic collar.
The remainder of this article will focus on the technology found in many of the collars manufactured by the industry leaders and explain how each is applicable in training gundogs and your selection of an electronic collar.
Transmitter design is a matter of personal preference. Each manufacturer (From Left to Right, Dogtra, Innotek and Tri-Tronics) offers a slightly different approach to selecting the stimulation levels at the transmitter.
Types of Stimulation - Continuous Stimulation vs. Momentary Stimulation
Let’s start by defining the two forms of stimulation available on the market today. First, there is continuous stimulation; this method of stimulation delivers an electronic correction to the dog for as long as the trainer presses the button on the transmitter. If the trainer holds the button down for five seconds the dog will receive five seconds worth of stimulation. However, most models on the market today will timeout after seven to ten seconds of stimulation has been applied to the dog.
The second form of stimulation available on some collars is momentary stimulation. Momentary stimulation, sometimes call a “nick”, is different from continuous stimulation in one simple way; no matter how long the trainer depresses the button, the dog will only receive a short electronic correction, the duration of which is measured in a fraction of a second.
When might you use continuous or momentary stimulation?
Continuous form of stimulation can be used in training when you need to extend a meaningful correction to your dog and re-establish control of a training situation. A great example of a training scenario where you might need to apply continuous stimulation is when you need to gain control over your dog on a runner. In this situation, a simple “nick” or short burst of stimulation may do nothing to stop him on that illusive cock pheasant. Often, a dog might just run through a short burst of electronic stimulation because he is too excited about the prospect of fresh scent to listen to your sit or “hup” whistle. The continuous level of stimulation is what is required to stop him in his tracks. Because the correction is applied to the dog for as long as you hold the button down the effect to the dog is a stronger form of correction. Another example of when continuous stimulation would be a valuable training tool would be when teaching a flushing dog to turn on the “come around” whistle. Here you would use a much lower level of stimulation and apply the stimulation in conjunction with the “come around” command/whistle, only releasing the pressure when he complies with your command. In both training scenarios, the dog has to be taught the way out of the pressure (or the correct response) before utilizing a collar.