Electronic collars are a controversial professional dog training tool. Many people do not like them, and will have no trouble telling you so in person. In some places, the use of eCollar's on dogs is illegal.
Using two metal prongs (called “contacts”), eCollars deliver a low-level stimulus, or a “shock”, to your dog at the press of a button. Stimulus varies from mild, like a fingernail scratching against your skin, to very, very high.
Used improperly, electronic collars can be abusive, and their use is not a replacement for rules, exercise, and regular training. Like any tool, eCollars must be used correctly to be effective.
When choosing an eCollar, take into consideration your dogs size and overall sensitivity. Contrary to what you might think, eCollars with 1-100+ levels are better for sensitive dogs because they're more precise than collars with a range of, say, 1-10.
I use a Dogtra Arc collar, because of the low-profile design, build quality, and 3/4 mile range.
eCollars are worn high and tight on your dogs neck. If the contacts do not both touch your dogs skin at the same time, the collar may not work, or may only work intermittently.
If your dog isn't responding to the eCollar:
Before putting an eCollar on your dog, you should try it yourself. :)
Power the collar on and connect it to the remote. Usually, a light will flash when the collar is paired. When it is, place the collar on your hand with the contacts facing down.
On a low level, press “continuous” or “nick” on the remote. If you're using a Dogtra Arc collar on a setting of 10 or under, you should barely feel anything.
Keep turning the dial up until you do.
Fit the collar high and tight on your dogs neck and let him wear it for 30 minutes without using it.
Properly introducing an eCollar means letting your dog get used to it before jumping into training. This is important, because your dogs body, particularly the muscles around his neck, will be sensitive to wearing the collar at first. Without time to adjust, he can get sore where the contacts rub his skin.
Prevent this by letting him wear the collar intermittently before you start using it. Put it on and take it off a few times a day until he doesn't seem to pay much attention to it at all.
With the collar fully charged and paired to the remote, take your dog on a walk wearing the eCollar and his regular collar (or harness) at the same time.
Introducing the eCollar on a walk in conjunction with your dogs usual gear keeps things as stress-free as possible.
Wearing the collar high & tight on the neck ensures good contact
You can tuck the excess biothane strap through the eCollar buckle, or cut it off altogether
If your collar has a very narrow range of stimulus, like 1-10, increase the dial 1 degree at a time. If your collar has a wide range, like 1-127, adjust 5-10 degrees at a time.
If you're concerned the collar isn't working, take it off and try it yourself by pressing it into your palm. If you've ruled that out, try adjusting the collar strap on your dogs neck.
Both contacts much touch at the same time to be effective.
You should get the same response with an eCollar as you do with a leash. When you've found the right level, your dog will stop, hesitate, itch, or look to you, but not yelp, bark, or growl.
You can adjust the dial for the situation your dog is in. Some dogs adapt to low levels very quickly and need higher levels in certain environments, or during demanding training. This is why eCollars have ranges in the first place.
For best results, eCollars should be used in conjunction with reward-based training, voice commands, and other tools, like a regular leash and collar. Think of an eCollar as a tactile way to communicate with your dog; like pushing, holding, tapping, poking, or pulling, its one way to communicate, but it will only get so far.
It's better to use comprehensive training methods that communicate small steps clearly to your dog, such as:
Using an eCollar along with your voice, treats, toys, and regular leash will make training progress much faster than using an eCollar alone.
Used by themselves, corrections can leave your dog confused and stressed, because while you're telling him what you don't want, you're not telling him what you do want. Add frequent rewards in and breaks to tell show your dog he's done a good job.
If you're using an eCollar to have control over your dog off-leash, you still need to train him to understand what you want with your voice and leash alone. Although it's great to use an eCollar when your dog is off-leash for safety, you should still practice your recall and voice commands regularly.
Corrections are not a replacement for regular practice, but many professional trainers, working dog owners, police officers, hunters, and dog walkers use eCollars to compliment their dogs training.
It's common for some trainers use eCollars with already-trained dogs to fine-tune their obedience, or proof them in difficult situations. While corrections are not required to train every dog, and most dogs can be trained without the use of an eCollar, when properly introduced, eCollars can be very effective tools for decreasing unwanted behavior in adult dogs.