Dog Training Collar Aka Shock Collar Buyers’ Guide

In an era of high speed Internet access, cell phones, and palm pilot organizers, it was only a matter of time before dog trainer 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 Dog Training Collar”.

More than 30 years ago, electronic collars made their way into the dog-training scene. However, because the first generation of dog training 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 collars.

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 dog 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 known 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 dog training 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.