There is so much controversy over remote trainers, partly because of the early models and cheaper models (available in stores) with only a few levels to choose from, and partly because of the many uneducated individuals spreading misinformation about them, like the biggest myth, that they electrocute dogs (calling them ‘shock’ collars). This is NOT the case. They stimulate the muscles, the same as a TENS unit (Dr. Ho!) used in physiotherapy frequently. They do NOT electrocute.
Some of the older and cheaper models available are very harsh so are only useful for a punishment only scenario. Example: dog that intensely tries to bite car tires – get them used to wearing the collar and then set them up with a moving car and correct when they get close to create a strong negative association with the moving vehicle and fix the problem so they don’t get hit/killed.
There are only a couple brands we will use to do the type of gentle communication training that we do. Ecollar Technologies and Dogtra. Their collars have at least 100 levels, some models have more. These collars have the ability to be extremely gentle while also having the capability of being more firm for situation like the above example. Again, every dog is different so for some dogs, they’re so sensitive they can feel a level one, in this case we will add on a stim reducer which cuts the sensation in half therefore giving still a wide range to work with that dog at whatever level is best for them. For most dogs the regular version is perfect and on average we mostly see dogs working between a 5 and 10 (we personally don’t feel anything until 14/15 – we’ve had some clients feel 10 on themselves and some don’t feel anything until 30). There are some dogs with very high ‘sensation thresholds’ that need a stronger version in order to have a level that will snap them out of their fight state (if you’re needing to correct a major aggression issue).
This tool has revolutionized dog training with it’s versatility and ability to have more precise timing mostly in the situation of off leash/distance training. It has made it far easier on dog owners as trainers and owners alike are able to get to their goals much quicker than before when used properly.
When people see injuries from these collars, it is because of pressure sores and/or hotspots, though the misinformed believe it’s because the dog has electrocution burns.
The collar needs to fit snugly so that the contact points are touching the skin. If you neglect to rotate the collar part way through the day (if it is staying on all day) or take it off at night and/or for part of the day, this can create a pressure sore. Like having an elastic on your wrist, for quite sometime you don’t even notice it, the more time goes by, the more you start to notice, just a bit annoying, then if you ignore that it can actually get a bit sore and leave an indent in your skin (which we know if we continued to leave it, it would actually make your skin raw). The other thing that can happen is if the dog has gone swimming or gotten a bath and didn’t get their collar taken off after to dry them off, the heat and moisture from the wet fur will create a hotspot.
There are also ‘pager only’ collars available now – ecollar technologies makes a vibration system with 100 level range. This can be a good option where ecollars are banned. Some dogs will do just fine with this but some will still do better with the full ecollar.