Picking Out the Best Dog Training Collar

One of the more intriguing aspects of dog ownership is the large number of accessories that are available to assist with all kinds of training. Out of the many tools that you can purchase to make the entire process much smoother and much more straightforward, one of the most popular and effective is a dog training collar. There are many different kinds available, but the three most common are standard nylon or leather collars, electronic shock collars (AKA bark collars), and metal collars. These different kinds of collars come in many styles and with many different options, providing you with plenty of choice in deciding which dog collar is suitable for your training needs. Whether you need a durable all-weather collar for a working dog, or a training collar for your pet dog, the following article will help you to pick out the best dog training collar.

best dog training collar

Standard Nylon or Leather Collars

Everyone is familiar with these common styles of dog collars, and they can be an effective way to teach your dog how to walk politely on a leash and keep your pet under control in public. These collars can be a very effective way to train your dog and correct behavior problems. In the hands of an experienced dog trainer, a good sturdy collar and leash is often all that’s needed. However, if you need to stop your dog’s bad behavior such as relentless backyard barking or need a reliable tool to assist with training your pet, you may need to consider a metal or electric dog training collar. Many people are concerned about the safety of these dog training collars, but used correctly these tools are completely safe.


Metal Dog Training Collars

metal dog training collarThis type of collar is a simple leashed option made of medal with prongs or studs on the inside. While walking your dog, you pull back on the leash slightly which then presses the collar into your canine’s neck. When pulling on the leash, the metal elements push against the neck of your dog as you give a correction. Don’t worry, this not going to harm your pet, and it is not a severe choke collar such as the ones you may have heard of in the past. This is a reliable, no-harm solution that will slowly train your pet while you are walking. You’ll still have to spend a great deal of time teaching your pet the right commands, but using this kind of collar will allow you to show that you’re the leader of the proverbial pack.

If you are considering this option, look for adjustable collars that aren’t too blunt. Contrary to popular belief, it can be more dangerous to have blunt spikes in a metal dog training collar than sharp spikes, as blunt spikes can cause very painful neck bruises and sores. Also, make sure the collar you get fits snuggly around your dogs neck (if your pet has a very heavy coat you may need to get it trimmed slightly in the neck area). If the collar is too loose this can be very painful for the dog if the collar slides upwards.

These kinds of dog collars are usually used to correct bad behavior in adult dogs (especially the more difficult to train breeds), and are not generally used to train a puppy.


Electric Remote Shock Collars

shock collarThe next option is an electric shock collar. These send a small shock to your dog when you press a control on the transmitter. The small electrical stimulations do not do any long term harm to the animal. You can use these to assist in training your dog, as well as to prevent undesirable behavior such as barking or destructive chewing.

A remote electric allows you to train your dog from a distance and correct undesirable behavior without having to be close to your pet (some e-collars work over several miles). To the dog wearing the collar, the mild electric shock is an undesirable but not painful stimulation and is as method of training works by having the animal associate the unwanted behavior with the stimulation of the collar.

Remote electronic shock collars were originally created to train hunting dogs, but have become commonplace in households as a method to prevent many pet dogs’ behavior problems, including barking, destructive digging and chewing, aggression and to stay within invisible boundaries.

The electric shock from a e-collar is not a punishment, but acts as an unpleasant sensation to train a dog to avoid performing a certain behavior. In the animals mind, that action results in the unwanted outcome – the stimulation from the collar.

how to use a bark collarRemote dog training collars allow you to train your canine from a distance, and are commonly used for training gun dogs and for other outdoor sports. They can also be used to assist in teaching your dog boundaries in your yard or when training over larger distances while outside. These options come in a variety of different styles and have various ranges, anywhere from a hundred yards to over two miles (note that the range is based on there being no obstacles between the transmitter and the collar). Based on your training needs, you can select a model that will do everything that you need it to do. An e-collar with a shorter range is suitable for use in back yards, but if you are going further outdoors or need a collar for a working dog, then a collar with a range of about 1/2 mile should be sufficient in most cases.

There are many electronic collars available with many different options and features. Some models are designed for light use and are ideal for household pets, while others are designed for heavy duty outdoor use or for experience dog trainers and have many different functions and modes.

One of the main benefits of using a shock collar over other training methods is the quicker results that can come when training is done by someone experienced with their use. Also, they can be invaluable if you need to keep your pet on your property but don’t have any fencing.


How to Use a Shock Collar

remote k9 training collarShock collars or remote training collars come with a small handheld transmitter and the electronic collar which receives the signal from the transmitter. The electronic collars or “e-collars” have a small box with two metal prongs on their inside which press against your dog’s neck. You simply put the collar snugly on your dog and then by pressing a button on the transmitter you can send an electric shock or “stimulation” to the collar. Using a dial or some other method of control on the transmitter you can control the intensity of the stimulation. Naturally, the main advantage of these collars is the ability to maintain control of your dog over long distances.

It’s essential that the collar is snugly on your dog so that the prongs are always pressed against his or her neck. The sensation of the electric shock from the collar is similar to a static electric shock. No lasting harm is done to any breed or size of dog with a shock collar.

Out of the different levels of stimulation on an electronic collar, a low level of stimulation is usually adequate for most training needs.


Electronic Collar Modes and Functions

Different collars have different selectable levels of stimulation, which are usually based on numbers (although different models have different numbering systems). Most collars have an adequate range of stimulation levels for most training applications.

Most training collars have two modes of stimulation: continuous and momentary.

Continuous stimulation allows the option of changing the length of time that the stimulation is applied – i.e. as long as you hold down the button the stimulation is active. You can select the level of intensity of the stimulation from the transmitter. Usually, the maximum length of stimulation is about 9 seconds, preventing the collar from remaining active if pressed accidentally.

Momentary stimulation is a quick short shock that last less than one second regardless of how long the stimulation button is held down. As with continuous stimulation, you can select the level of intensity for this mode.

garmin shock collarFor best results, ensure that you don’t turn up the level of stimulation too much at first – test from the smallest amount and move upwards until you get the right results.

Also, many collars have a “non-stimulation” or “vibration” mode. These are useful for warning your dog of an imminent danger, or for giving your animal silent commands. Some also have a “tone” feature which is useful for having your dog perform a command that he/she has been trained to do upon hearing the tone.

The transmitters on k9 training collars have various dials, buttons and even LCD screens, depending on the features of that model. They also come in various sizes, from extremely small keyring-sized transmitters to large 12-inch sized controllers.


Training a Dog with a Remote Collar

The electronic stimulation from a so-called shock collar doesn’t harm a dog in any way. Many people are under the misapprehension that using a training collar is abusive or dangerous, but e-collars are a safe way to train a dog if used correctly. These collars are designed to give an unpleasant sensation to the dog to so he or she will not want to repeat the behavior that triggered the stimulation. The shock a dog receives from the collar is similar to a static electricity shock.

The length of time it takes to train a dog with a remote collar can vary, but for most training applications, 10-15 minute sessions two or three times a day are adequate.


The Correct Way to Use a Shock Collar

dog training with a high quality bark collarThe best way to begin to use an electronic collar is to set the stimulation level to the lowest setting and then gradually increase the intensity. If you observe any visible reaction in your dog, such as a slight twitch in the neck or shoulder, you can tell that the stimulation level is too high. It’s only necessary to use a moderate amount of stimulation for most training applications, although some dogs will be less reactive to different levels.

Make sure you only have your dog wear the collar when necessary. Don’t have your dog keep wearing the shock collar longer than 10 or 12 hours, as this can cause painful sores where the metal prongs press against the animal’s neck.

If you are planning to use an e-collar on a puppy, it’s advisable to not start until your puppy is at least six months old. Most collars will be too large for puppies anyway, and by the age of six months most puppies will have gone through basic obedience training and will be ready to begin additional training or behavior modification with an electric collar.

Electronic remote collars can be one of the most effective tools a dog trainer can use, but only when they are used correctly. Essentially, you train your pet that the unwanted action (barking, digging, chewing, stealing food) results in the undesirable shock from the collar. They can also be used to train your dog in obedience skills by teaching that performing the action correctly doesn’t result in the stimulus from the collar.


Obedience Training with E-collars

Most people use electronic dog collars to train their dog in the basic obedience commands and to correct common behavior problems, such as destructive chewing, barking at visitors, jumping up onto people, digging, chasing other animals or stealing food from the kitchen. Most brands and styles of remote collars will allow a good trainer to resolve these problems, but different makes and models of collars vary in price, range, quality and intensity of shock options. There are a variety of training and instructional tools available, including books, YouTube videos, DVDs and professional dog trainers to assist in getting the maximum benefit from using training collars.


The Various Kinds of Electronic Collars

bark-collarBark Collars

Most people who are interested in purchasing a shock collar for their pet dog are looking to use it as a way to prevent the animal from barking while outside in their back yard. Electric collars can be ideal for this application, they aren’t a substitute for correct obedience training. Just using an electronic collar will not alter your dog’s behavior problems unless used in conjunction with effective training methods.


family-pet-collarsFamily Pet Collars

Perfect for family pets and basic training needs, these “light duty” models are usually cheaper and have a shorter range than their heavy duty counterparts. These collars are easy to use and can make the process of training your pet much quicker and easier.


heavy-duty-dog-collarHeavy Duty Outdoor Collars

Designed to be used in all-weather conditions, these collars come with more advanced features for the serious outdoorsman. Whether it’s for duck hunters needing to keep control of their dogs in waterways or bird hunters needing to control their dogs from long distances through thick undergrowth, these collars are designed to be tough to be able to do their job time and time again during extended outdoor use in adverse conditions, and come packed with many advanced features.


gps-collarGPS Tracking Collars

These collars come with a GPS tracking screen so you know where your dog is at all times. These are especially useful over long distances and dense forest terrain, as well as for military and police dogs in urban areas. Most GPS collars can be used with a smartphone app.


sport-dog-collarTracking Hound Collars

These long-range collars are designed for tracking hounds and sniffer dogs and are built to be used over extended distances.


small-dog-collarSmall Dog Collars

Collars designed for smaller dogs often come with the same features that their larger counterparts have, but are built for smaller breeds of dogs. Also, some models come with smaller sized straps which you can purchase separately to use a larger collar with a small dog.


invisible-fence-collarsInvisible Fence Collars

These collars are designed to keep your pet within your yard with an invisible boundary. If your dog steps over the boundary the collar automatically activates. These are perfect if you have a property with no fence or are on a camping trip and want your dog to be able to move about without a leash but you don’t want him or her to stray beyond a certain point.

Cables are placed along the required boundary and whenever the dog steps over the boundary the collar activates. These are great tools for keeping pets within property lines when there isn’t adequate fencing, especially for when you are absent.

invisible fence canine collar

Size and Fit

Some models of dog training collars come with changeable short and long probes. Short probes are typically used on short-coated breeds while long probes may be needed for dogs with thicker heavier coats. Depending on what breed of dog you have, you may need to make sure the collar fits and is not too loose or tight. A collar that is properly fitted should be tightly against the top of the dog’s neck, tight enough so that it doesn’t move when the dog is running or jumping.



Each model of electric dog collar has a different range, but most fall within the range of a few hundred yards to two miles. Collars with a shorter range are usually cheaper and intended for use on household pets; these are ideal for correcting a dog’s barking while in a back yard or in a dog park. Long-range collars are designed for use in large open spaces and while engaging in outdoor sports and activities.


Price and Quality

Prices can vary from less than $100 to more than $1000. However, a more expensive collar is not necessarily a better choice for your needs. Most good-quality remote collars are priced between $100 and $300, and it’s worth paying this price for well-known and respected brand, so that the product last for the length of time you need it and consistently works even in adverse conditions. It’s definitely worth paying a little more for a good model the first time around and then not having to buy another one when the cheap model stops working a few months after you purchased it.

Many of the more expensive makes and models also come with a warranty, usually for a period of up to one or two years. These warranties generally cover manufactural defects, and can be transferrable or non-transferrable.


multi-dog training collar for bird dogsMulti-Dog Training Collars

If you are a multiple dog household, there’s no need to buy two training collars, there are multi-dog collars that can be used for with two or more animals! This allows you to conveniently work with multiple dogs while carrying only one transmitter. Different models of multi-dog e-collars allow you to use them with anywhere from two to up to six dogs at the same time. The transmitter has separate controls for each canine wearing a collar, and some come with different color collars so you can easily identify which dog is wearing which one.


Generally, You Get What you Pay For

Price is usually a good determiner of quality, durability and reliability for most kinds of dog training collars. It’s best to stick with a well-known brand such as DT Systems, Garmin, Dogtra or SportDOG instead of trying to search for a cheaper “no-name” brand. In most cases, you’ll get much better value in terms of the transmitter range, features, options and lifespan from a good quality collar, and sometimes just paying a few extra dollars for a better brand can make a huge difference.


Is a Shock Collar Really Necessary?

If a dog has been properly trained in basic obedience from an early age, a shock collar shouldn’t really be necessary. An electronic collar is not the magic device to cure a canine’s behavior problems that many people think it is. As with all other dog training accessories, an electronic collar is just a tool and in the hands of a good trainer can be a very effective way to train a dog. The collar will only be as effective as the handler who is using it. If you think that by giving your dog a shock every time he or she misbehaves is going to be an effective training process, unfortunately you will have to think again.

However, electronic collars can save a considerable amount of time and energy in training a pet, and are especially effective when use correctly by experienced outdoorsman for their working dogs. Their effectiveness at correcting an animal’s behavior over long distances makes them invaluable tools in outdoor applications, and are commonly used for bird dog training and also for personal protection dog training.

good dog training using a nylon collar

Criticisms and Challenges

Many dog lovers find it difficult to understand why anyone would use an electric collar to shock a dog, and accuse them of being an inhumane and antiquated method of dog and puppy training. In contrast with other training methodologies, such as positive reinforcement, a shock collar is an aversive method of training and modifying behavior, and an e-collar by itself doesn’t provide the dog with a positive reward for doing the desired behavior. It can result in a dog becoming afraid of the person controlling the collar or afraid of the situations and events they associate with the shock. Also, many inexperienced trainers overuse electronic collars by activating the collar’s stimulation too often or inconsistently, causing the dog to become confused about what action caused the “punishment”.

If you have decided that a metal dog training collar or a remote dog collar would be suitable for your needs, picking out the right one can take a little time. Be considerate of your pet’s overall needs and well-being. That way you can ensure that they remain safe during all training and all indoor and outdoor activities.

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