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E-collars are an extremely effective training tool when used properly and responsibly under the guidance of a balanced dog trainer.

In fact, an e-collar can do more to keep your dog safe than almost any other training tool out there.

However, there’s much about the use of e-collars for dog training that is misunderstood or misrepresented.

That’s why we’ve put together this guide on e-collars and dog training—so you can get all the information you need, in one place, to make an informed decision about e-collars.


An e-collar is a dog training tool used to teach and modify behavior by establishing clear and effective communication between a dog and their owner or trainer.

E-collars, also called electric collars or remote training collars, include a receiver that is worn around the dog’s neck and a handheld transmitter that is operated by the trainer or owner.


Using the e-collar’s handheld transmitter, the operator sends a remote signal to the receiver around the dog’s neck that corresponds with a specific command or action. The signal from an e-collar helps the operator tell their dog the difference between wanted and unwanted behaviors in a way that the dog understands.

The signal from an e-collar isn’t a shock—it’s a mild stimulation or vibration. It feels much like a neuromuscular stimulator feels to humans during a physiotherapy session.

The key to safe and effective e-collar training is finding the dog’s “working level,” or the range of stimulation at which the dog responds to the e-collar’s signal. That’s why the most effective e-collars have more than 100 stimulation levels, allowing the operator to find the exact range of stimulation that is best for their dog.

E-collar training is one of the tools and techniques balanced dog trainers use with the four quadrants of operant conditioning, a method of modifying behavior through rewards and consequences.

Balanced trainers assess every dog they work with individually and find the right combination of the four quadrants for that animal based on several different factors, including breed, drive and genetics.

The tools and techniques of balanced dog trainers span across the four quadrants, from positive reinforcement methods such as clicker training to simple negative punishment techniques like withholding a treat when a command isn’t obeyed.

An e-collar helps balanced dog trainers reinforce desired behaviors and extinguish unwanted behaviors through negative reinforcement and positive punishment, respectively.

For example, stopping an e-collar stimulation when your dog responds to recall is negative reinforcement while giving an e-collar correction when your dog jumps up on the kitchen counter is positive punishment.


The benefits of using an e-collar for dog training are wide-ranging.

An e-collar can be used to reinforce commands, give corrections, extinguish unwanted behaviors and keep your dog safe in situations where you would otherwise lose control.

Let’s dive into these four benefits of e-collar training for dogs in more detail.

·  Teaching and enforcing recall — Combined with a long line and treats as a motivator, an e-collar can help your dog learn to return you when you call them back. This technique utilizes negative reinforcement and can also be used to reinforce basic obedience commands.

·  Giving a remote correction quickly — You only have 1.3 seconds to correct a dog’s behavior after it happens. An e-collar gives you the ability to correct an unwanted behavior from afar in enough time for your dog to understand the correction’s meaning.

·  Extinguishing unwanted behavior — E-collars can help stop undesired behavior through association. For example, your dog jumps up on the counter and you deliver an e-collar correction. When conditioned to an e-collar, your dog will understand their action is causing the stimulation.

·  Acting as an added safety net — Even when your dog is conditioned to an e-collar, it acts as an insurance policy in case of an emergency. For example, if your dog suddenly chases an animal into the road, the e-collar gives you an added layer of safety that ensures you can call them back in that high-distraction situation.     


An e-collar is a dog training tool. Like any tool, an e-collar can be misused when in the hands of a person who doesn’t understand how to use it.

As a result, there are misconceptions about e-collars and they’re role in dog training. The tool and its intent have also been mischaracterized by the use of terms like “shock collar.”

The common misconceptions about e-collars all come down to one factor: misuse. When used correctly, an e-collar is a safe and useful training tool. It’s when they’re misused, however, that we see problems arise.

With that in mind, we’ve addressed three common misconceptions about e-collars below:

Are e-collars cruel?

E-collars are not cruel when used correctly. They are designed to communicate with dogs meaningfully and, in many cases, keep dogs safe.

Do e-collar stimulations hurt dogs?

E-collar stimulations are not painful when using the appropriate “working range.” Instead, the stimulation feels like a neuromuscular stimulator.   

Do e-collars cause wounds or sores?

E-collars will not cause injuries to your dog if the collar is regularly rotated and not left on for long periods of time.  


If you plan to introduce your dog to e-collar training, we recommend doing it under the guidance of a professional balanced dog trainer.

A balanced dog trainer will bring the knowledge, education and experience needed to ensure you understand how to use an e-collar correctly and your dog understands what the e-collar stimulation means.

How do balanced dog trainers use e-collars to train? We’ve broken the process down into five steps:

1) Use the appropriate e-collar

We only use a professional e-collar equipped with at least 100 stimulation levels. While these e-collars cost more money, less expensive options tend to have fewer levels with a wider range of stimulation between levels. We recommend the ET-300 Mini Educator.

2) Find the correct e-collar fit

Fitting a dog’s e-collar properly is crucial to effective e-collar training because the contact points of the receiver have to touch skin. Every dog has a different type of coat, so e-collars will fit every dog differently. This is where having professional experience with e-collars is vital.

3) Establish the dog’s baseline

Once the e-collar is properly fitted, the next step is to find out at which level the dog feels the e-collar’s stimulation. We start at zero and slowly work up to the next level until the dog shows that they feel the e-collar stimulation (this looks like an involuntary muscle reflex).

4) Determine the dog’s working range

After the dog’s baseline level is established, we find their “working range.” These are the levels of e-collar stimulation that will get the dog’s attention when training in low, medium and high distraction environments. Finding an effective working range is why it’s important to have an e-collar with a wide range of stimulation levels.

5) Overlay with commands

Now we start to overlay the e-collar stimulation with commands. We typically begin e-collar training by teaching recall with a long line and using food as a motivator.

With the dog on a long line in a wide-open area, we let them explore. Then we give a verbal command to return and tap the e-collar stimulation. When the dog turns to look, we stop the e-collar stimulation, encourage them to return and reward them with a treat.  

This process is repeated with a higher level of distractions gradually added to the situation as the dog becomes conditioned to the e-collar.


The balanced dog trainers at Koru K9 rely on e-collars to help many of the dogs we work with around the country, and we recommend them as an effective training and communication tool.

However, using an e-collar properly requires a level of knowledge, education and experience the regular dog owner simply doesn’t have. If you want to learn more about how e-collar training works and if it could be effective in building a better relationship with your dog, get in touch with us.