I just got my e-collar, what do I do?

Written by: ROBIN MACFARLANE (dogtra.com)

It is not uncommon for remote collars to be purchased because pet owners are completely exasperated. Behaviors like bolting through the door, not coming when called, or constant nuisance barking become major annoyances when other reliable resolutions have not been achieved. The equipment is purchased, it arrives and the box gets unpacked, but then, hesitation about what to do next can set in.

Purchasing a remote collar and then becoming uncertain about using it isn’t an unusual situation so you are not alone if you’re feeling this way.

Today I’m going to give you a step-by-step process so you can start training. Follow these guidelines to end up with a better behaved pet and a happier relationship with your dog.



1. Get to know your equipment. The very first thing you must do is get comfortable with the equipment. Read the owner’s manual in its entirety. Make sure you understand how to charge your collar, what each button and dial on the equipment does, and register your product by filling out the warranty information. If you have problems in the future, this will expedite the process of any repairs or returns.

After reading the manual, work with the equipment prior to putting it on your dog. Familiarize yourself with the various buttons and understand how to adjust the stimulation up and down. If you have tone or vibration features on your system, know which buttons those are versus the stimulation so you can operate the remote relatively smoothly. Place the receiver in the palm of your hand and experiment with the buttons and changing the levels.

I feel this step is crucial to you becoming comfortable with the equipment. One of the biggest hurdles I’ve seen novice remote collar users struggle with is having the confidence to actually use the equipment because they fear they will hurt their dog. Confidence in using the equipment comes from knowledge and knowledge can only be obtained by hands on use. If you use the collar by placing it in the palm of your hand first and actually experience how to operate the buttons and what the sensations feel like, you’ll have more finesse when you actually start using it on your dog.

NOTE: Using the equipment in your hand does not mean you have to turn the stimulation up all the way to the highest level. If you want to, it is certainly fine. The sensation gets stronger as the dial goes up. Quality e-collars are designed with variable levels of intensity.  Understand that when you train you will adjust the stimulation to a level that is appropriate for your dog’s level of sensitivity.
The assumption that the sensation feels identical for you and your dog is not accurate. If that were true we would also be able to swim in the same cold water as our dogs, or run in the snow as they do, or trod on prickly ground cover, or roll in puddles and mud and enjoy it as they do. Each person and each dog is unique in how they perceive physical sensation so don’t leap to conclusions that may not be accurate. Learn how to work the buttons on yourself as a first step. Then learn how to read your dog’s response to the sensation so you can adjust the level to be appropriate for their individual level of sensitivity.

You can read more here on how to interpret what your dog is feeling. (https://www.dogtra.com/blog-and-events/right-level)

2.  Fit the collar on your dog.
Fitting the collar properly on your dog is also essential to having a positive training outcome. Check out this article (https://www.dogtra.com/blog-and-events/ecollar-proper-wear) for more in depth information on proper fit. It may be helpful to use a permanent marker to indicate exactly which hole in the strap is the best to use for a perfect fit. Be sure to bear in mind that if you’re starting with a young dog you may need to adjust as they grow.

Once you feel comfortable that you understand the correct fit of the collar, make sure your dog wears the collar somewhat routinely. Don’t get caught in the trap of ONLY putting it on the dog when you are having a “training session” or when the dog is being naughty. Routines that only use the collar to regain control after it has already been lost will do nothing more than teach your dog to listen when the collar is on, but ignore you when it is off!

It is prudent to allow the dog to wear the e-collar while he is playing, eating or taking a nap. The more he wears it as a normal part of a daily routine, the less likely he will associate it with a negative connotation.

NOTE: Most dogs can wear an e-collar 8 – 10 hours/day without undue skin problems. However, be aware of the potential for pressure necrosis though, so monitor accordingly.

3. Start the training.
An important word of CAUTION: Don’t begin your dog’s e-collar training by jumping immediately into those problem areas that caused you to purchase the equipment to begin with. Instead, start with a collar conditioning process in which you work with the dog on a leash (or long line) so you introduce them to the stimulation and TEACH them how to respond to it. This is a far more effective approach than putting the e-collar on, waiting for the dog to do something naughty, and then punishing them with a startling sensation they’ve never felt before. Read this article (https://www.dogtra.com/blog-and-events/i-have-ecollar-do-i-need-leash) for a bit more in depth idea of why starting on leash is so important to long term success.

If you actually take the time to collar condition your dog, you will find that training goals come together much more efficiently and without significant stress on your dog.

Learning anything new puts us outside of our comfort zone. Learning to use an e-collar isn’t automatically intuitive, but it isn’t that difficult either. It just takes a bit of knowledge. So once your equipment arrives, take time to learn how to use it, and then get started. If you have questions or problems arise, we’re here to help!

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