Balanced Trainers Logo

Community driven site dedicated to intelligent exchange of ideas and experiences between both dog training professionals and enthusiasts. We apply principles of critical thinking and peer review to the often controversial and provocative topics on dog training.



eCollar Controversy

Below you will find a list of common myths and controversies that surround eCollar use. There are many assumptions and unproven claims that put a “smear” on training approaches involving eCollars. We hope this article will put some of the myths to rest.

There are many who put out a political message describing how electronic, prong and choke collars are tools of the past that can’t be used humanely. These people claim that the purpose of these tools is only to inflict pain on an unsuspecting animal. They offer alternatives in the form of pure positive / motivational based training.

Sarge

K-9 Officer Asa W. Andersion III with his dog, Sarge.

If you apply basic reasoning, you will conclude that a dog’s life, like a human's life, is shaped by good and bad experiences. Being totally isolated from all bad experiences doesn’t make your life much better.

Let's assume that the exact same results could be had via Positive Only methods in six months versus in two weeks with an eCollar. Now say your dog engages in negative behavior occasionally like running out the front door. You would would have to ask yourself, if you were willing to risk your dog's life for an additional five months so that you could continue to adhere to a religion; the religion being one of artificial rules constructed by humans. Let's remember that dogs often correct each other.

Dog training has evolved a lot in the past 30 years. Before, training a dog, with an eCollar, without making him go through an unpleasant process was very difficult. This isn’t the case today. Today, you can train a dog in few weeks time without the dog showing signs of stress, fear or submission. Many years ago, eCollars were primitive tools that had few levels. This sometimes translated into unhealthy amounts of stress. Today though, eCollars have many levels and can be used in a very soft manner. They are extremely effective tools for shaping a dog’s behaviors with impressive precision. They allow us to extend our communication beyond a leash, clicker, food and toys.

Critics claim that dolphins and wild animals are trained very well without these “barbaric” tools. What they don’t understand is that a “trained” wild animal or marine mammal is radically different than a trained dog. These critics often don't admit that if the marine mammals don't perform they don't eat. They were also kept in an isolated environment by being kept out of the ocean resulting in these animals being bored to death. This is hardly positive.

Mike Loesche Clears up the Confusion

Here's a video of an established professional dog trainer Mike Loesche clearing up confusion with regards to eCollars being abusive to the dog. Claims are often that "Shock collars are abusive". This is a very typical statement made by Pure Positive trainers that call themselves professionals.

Training done with an eCollar isn't abusive at all. If it was Sport Dog competitors wouldn't be able to obtain the highest scores because the abuse would be obvious to the judges. It is possible to use eCollars inhumanely but the sort of individual that would do this, will always find a way to use other tools inhumanely also. If one's intent is to operate in this manner, then even a regular leather can be used for wrong doing.

The video shows Mike's training style and his own opinion on whether or not eCollars are abusive. He did the video as a response to the hysterical Pure Positive community that loves to claim Balanced Trainers are abusive, as can be seen in the video.

Current List of Most Common Myths and Contoversies

  • 1Dogs trained with eCollars obey out of fearThis is true only on a philosophical level. This very much depends on the dog’s temperament. Some dogs definitely end up being obedient only because they fear the consequences of non-obedience; similar to a human that doesn't drive through red lights because they fear the consequences. However this doesn't affect a dog's persona, drive, mood, motivation or anything other than their obedience; just as obeying traffic signals won't turn a human into a quivering ball of fear. The eCollar, if used properly, will not create a fearful dog. Overall, there isn’t much fear involved in eCollar training and, The eCollar, if used properly, an eCollar will not create a fearful dog. In fact an eColler can be used to make a dog less fearful. The fear of consequences is only short-lasting and the dog rather quickly figures out that it’s in their own best interest to obey. Most dogs eventually get used to the lifestyle which typically makes them happier because they get to enjoy some new liberties. Dogs fear fire as well but if you have a camp fire near by it won’t cause the dog to melt in fear. They will lie down by it to warm up but they won’t step into it. The dog has the ability to avoid getting burned. Most dogs don't have a problem with fire at all. Compare a dog enjoying a cozy fire to a dog enjoying off-leash freedom with an eCollar.
  • 2eCollars are just shortcuts for lazy trainers.While eCollars do offer faster results in training some commands (usually recall and heel), they aren’t shortcuts. Consider the fact that a "proofed" recall with many dogs is impossible to get without an eCollar and "heel" might take years to train properly. As for laziness, it’s like saying “cars are shortcuts for lazy people”. If you feel like walking or biking 50 miles to work every day, "Go For It!" However to say that cars are only for lazy people is unfair and ignorant at best. Again, you could list a thousand cons about a car but it’s still better than walking long distances. One should at least have it as an option for travelling because when it’s raining or snowing walking long distances is not fun, to say the least.
  • 3Dogs trained on eCollars are addicted to eCollars.Actually a dog can’t get addicted to an eCollar. People can though. What is usually meant by addiction is that a trainer is over using an eCollar for the simplest of things. With that said, it all depends on how you work. There is nothing wrong with using it for many things but some may disagree. At Balanced Trainers we prefer a structured approach and don't rely on one tool for everything.
  • 4Dogs trained with eCollars won’t obey without eCollars.This could happen either through applying a completely wrong training approach or by doing it intentionally. If you properly train commands with actual cues, use of an eCollar should be faded out in a similar manner to fading rewards. On the other hand some people never fade out eCollars and they’re fine with that – it’s a personal choice. The problem with that approach, though, is that the dog could eventually become collar wise or simply rely too much on “guidance” from the collar. Dogs always put physical language over verbal. As a general rule, to keep your outings as safe as possible, your dog should always wear it. An occassional light stimulation will serve as maintenance.
  • 5eCollars affect your relationship with your dog!This is true in a positive way, though. If you use an eCollar correctly, it will benefit your relationship with your dog enormously. With some dogs, an eCollar is absolutely not needed for a quality relationship but for most it can only help. eCollars are less stressful than a verbal reprimand to many dogs because eCollars have many levels and can be used lightly. This also negates a popular myth that eCollars are only for “bad” or stubborn dogs.They can be used on any dog.
  • 6eCollars are only good for punishing the dog.They can be used for punishment, or they can be used for remote physical communication. They should only be used as punishment once the dog is fully capable of avoiding it. Once he understands the stimulation, he can correct his behavior to make it go away. During the teaching phase, the dog is taught how to make the slightly annoying feeling go away. Once the teaching phase has been completed, punishments will rarely be used. Typically they occur in a short proofing phase. They certainly won’t ruin your dog’s mood, drive or character.
  • 7I can train my dog just as well without an eCollar.That’s great and we have no problems with that. We will still use eCollars though because they are invaluable tools for our needs. Telling people that they should stop using eCollars is similar to shouting that cars are unnecessary tools and that no one should drive cars because you don’t need one.
  • 8eCollars cause skin burns on the dog’s neck.No evidence proving this has ever been produced (or ever will be for that matter). Skin allergies can cause irritations if the dog is too sensitive to metal parts. This only typically occurs if the eCollar was left on the dog for too long. Even if this happens, the mark will heal quickly. eCollars simply can not produce enough current to create even mild skin burns.
  • 9eCollars can kill or hurt dogs! If your dog has heart problems an eCollar could theoretically cause an issue. Therefore we don't recommend using them on dogs with heart conditions. They could potentially cause a muscle contraction (if very strong stimulation is used) and with one thing leading to another, could cause some kind of indirect problem. We aren't aware of this EVER happening. This is theoretical only.
  • 10eCollars cause aggression in dogs.If you haven’t done fundamental training with your dog in order to use an eCollar safely and you deliver a strong stimulation to the dog while dog is in the company of a human or another dog, it could trigger a panic bite. To be on the safe side you should avoid using the eCollar when your dog is interacting with other dogs or humans. Other than this potential hazard, your dog will definitely not become aggressive due to eCollar use. In fact, aggression problems can be fixed with the help of an eCollar but that’s another subject.
  • 11Dogs have no idea what happens to them when they are getting shocked.Please see our Fundamentals page, where we have explained in detail how to give your dog an understanding of eCollars. If a dog has never worn an eCollar, a stimulation out of the blue will probably cause the dog to think that either the earth or an insect has bitten him . Obviously, this isn't ideal so this is why foundation work is important.
  • 12eCollars are painful to dogs.They are actually less painful, to most dogs, than a “gentle” leader or a so called halti. In fact eCollars are far gentler than “Gentle Leaders" or a "Halti", due to their greater precision and consistency. Modern training methods, for the most part, involve very low levels of stimulation; in other words something that’s only mildly annoying to the dog. The eCollar can even be used as a form of communication; using levels that dog can only barely feel. However, if you want your dog to stay obedient without the eCollar you might eventually have to deliver small, sharp and somewhat painful stimulations, to help eliminate the chance that your dog may gamble with dangerous behaviors. This will only occur late in the proofing phase. This sort of punishment phase is only necessary with more stubborn dogs. This type of dog would be a lost cause with most other methods.
  • 13A dog will always find ways to avoid punishments!Read the previous statement about eCollar being painful. Then, also read the very first item on this list, about dogs obeying out of fear. It will clear things up for you. If you are consistent in your training, your dog will give up trying to find workarounds. Even if your dog is exceptionally stubborn, you will greatly lessen his willingness to gamble with other options. What will make you a good trainer is your willingness always to find ways to motivate your dog to obey rather than just delivering punishments when he doesn’t – a balanced approach will give you best possible results with least amount of effort.