This is a fundamental must-read for beginners:
- Use a good, quality collar. Even if you already have one, check our article on what makes a good collar.
- If your dog is epileptic or suffers from heart related issues, eCollar stimulations could cause a seizure. Although this is very rare, have your vet check your dog for health issues.
- Test the collar on yourself first. Malfunctions can result in inconsistent stimulations or mixed up stimulation levels. You can also use the “test lamp” for this – watch the lamp in the dark and if its light is inconsistent then there could be a malfunction.Stimulations with the collar set a certain level should remain consistent. Cheap collars often have an issue where their levels vary depending on frequency of stimulation. This is not suited for the type of training that we advocate.
Now that that’s cleared up, please read on:
- If you just want to train your dog to avoid trash cans, snakes or similar dangerous objects see this article. Problem Behaviors.
- If you want to train your dog to stop chasing animals please see this article. Problem Behaviors
- If you have a fearful or aggressive dog please consult a professional or post on our forum about the specific issue.
- Using an eCollar as form of a punishment is only valid when you already have a 98% reliable command.
- You can still use an eCollar as a form of communication (invisible leash) to get to that 98% reliability with many dogs. This can be accomplished with very low level stims.
In order to avoid the dog becoming collar-wise, make sure you put the collar on the dog 15 to 30 minutes before any stimulations are used. Also, remove the collar about 15 to 30 minutes after the last stimulation. This is to prevent the dog from associating stimulation with the collar. If you don’t strictly follow this routine every time you use the collar then there’s no one to blame but you for your dog finding a hole in your training.
Fitting the Collar
When you fit the eCollar, the only two things that matter are that metal pins make contact with the skin and that the dog isn’t too uncomfortable. Any fur between a metal pin and bare skin will prevent or weaken the stimulation thus making it inconsistent.
Position the collar so that the eCollar receiver is on the side of the dog’s neck but still close to the throat. eCollar manufacturers recommend the receiver right on the middle of the neck but we have found that this can be uncomfortable to the dog and could cause unwanted muscle contractions.
Your eCollar will probably be much tighter than your flat collar – it must be tight enough that you can just barely put two fingers between the collar and dog’s neck.
- If the eCollar moves around your dog’s neck (ie does not stay on the side of the neck), then it’s not tight enough.
- If your dog has troubles breathing, shows strange behaviors, makes strange sounds or shows any obvious discomfort, it’s very likely due to the collar being too tight. Any rash, allergy, flea bite, mosquito bite or skin condition can make collar pins very irritating to your dog. Some stoic dogs put up with this and show symptoms much later on. Examine your dog’s neck. If your dog acts weird when barking or when you give a bark command, it could easily be due to collar irritation. If the dog lowers its neck when walking this may not be submission but the dog trying to avoid irritation from the pins. If the dog shows weird behaviors when biting a tug or sleeve, the collar may be too tight. Please always remember these points.
- If you can’t find a balance between the two issues above, then you could put two receivers on each side of the neck. This approach often gets a better fit which translates into better consistency. A lot of professional trainers use this approach so they don’t have to deal with the previously mentioned issues.
When the collar is put on, gently shake it left and right a bit so that the pins go through the fur. If you find that the fur is so thick that the pins still can’t reach the skin then try longer pins.They are usually available from the manufacturer of the collar.
Finding the Threshold Level
The Threshold Level is the lowest level on the eCollar where your dog first begins to feel it. Dogs have varying sensitivities to electricity regardless of their sensitivity to other things. For instance, a dog might be very insensitive to a prong collar correction but be very sensitive to eCollar stimulation. To determine your dog’s sensitivity you will begin with the lowest stimulation level.
The initial test should be done in an area of no distractions (dog trainers call this a “neutral area”). Start out with the level one or zero and hit the button. Look for a change in your dog’s disposition. Sometimes, it is just a twitch of an ear or the widening of the eyes. Other dogs might scratch as though a small insect has bitten them. I always caution people to go too low instead of too high in their first few sessions. You will keep increasing the stimulation level until you see some sort of reaction.
- If you exceed 25% of the collars limit, there is probably something wrong. You may have a faulty collar or you may not have fitted the collar correctly.
- If your dog is busy sniffing something he will not feel anything. When dog is fixated on sniffing his brain shuts off all external stimulations. Please always remember this.
Once you can hit the button and see the mildest of reactions in your dog, make note of that level. Now be advised that this is the threshold level under no distractions. As various distractions are introduced you will have to use a higher level. When dog is very excited or interested in a distraction he may not even feel the threshold level. With time, as you gradually introduce various distractions, you will learn to read your dog and determine if you need a stronger stimulation. If you come to a point where your dog is chasing a squirrel and running towards a busy road and your stimulation level isn’t working, it is a lot better to blast the dog with 3 times higher stimulation than end up with a dead dog. Obviously, it is best to avoid such situations and gradually train the dog in a painless and humane manner.
Always remember: eCollars are all about perception and sensitivity defined by various environmental and physiological variables. Often the low levels used for training are so low that in reality the dog could easily ignore them. He won’t though, because you will train him in such a way that he is under the impression that you have control over his actions. In other words you can reach out and touch him regardless of where he is. This creates a mindset of respect. Lets remember that a dog's primary language is a physical one. Dogs respect this physical language much more than verbal language. At some point in your training you might have to deliver a stronger or even painful stimulation to cement into your dogs mind the seriousness of these commands. This mindset may very well save your dog's life one day.