Dog training collars can be a daunting subject for dog owners – even trainers have mixed views on what’s the best! However, dog training can become a lot easier when you use the right tools and equipment.
The key to training a dog is to make sure they understand what behaviour you want them to do. Many dog trainers believe that a dog should perceive correction as ‘unpleasant’. After all, if there is nothing unpleasant, then there is nothing avoidable, and the objectionable behaviours will continue. Right?
This is not always the case. Many undesirable behaviours occur simply because they are inherently reinforcing to the dog – they get the dog what it wants; they work! If a dog lunges and barks at another dog and the other dog moves away, that behaviour has produced the dog’s desired response; increasing the distance between them and the strange dog. However, many people reprimand their dog for a behaviour, without teaching the dog what they want them to do instead.
It’s important to first train the dog, so it understands the behaviour you want it to do. For example, if you’d like your dog to walk on a loose leash, you need to train the dog to walk next to you and do this in a low-distraction environment.
Some dog trainers justify the use of certain highly punishing dog training collars stating that it’s the same method that a mother dog uses to train her puppies. In a litter, the mother or dam of the puppies corrects puppy biting by gently nipping them. This is why, many dog trainers and vets recommend dog training collars to train dogs. In some cases, dog training collars can even save dogs from a one-way trip to the dog shelters. However, some dog training collars such as electric shock collars and prong collars have been shown to increase aggression and stress in dogs.
In this guide, we talk about the different types of dog training collars and also answer some questions about them.
Table of Contents – Dog Training Collars
- Types of Dog Training Collars
- Do Dog Training Collars Work?
- What Type of Collar is Best for Dog Training?
- Are Dog Shock Collars Illegal in Australia?
Types of Dog Training Collars
Flat And Rolled Collars (Fixed Buckle Collars)
These are general-purpose collars that your pet can wear indoors and outdoors. Its main purpose is to attach a leash, and most come with D-rings for that. You can also place ID tags on the collar for easy identification in case your pet goes missing.
A flat collar should fit snugly (not too tight, not too loose) around your pet’s neck. You should be able to slip a finger underneath the collar. It should cause chaffing or irritation to your pet. Look for softly padded fabric collars or pure leather collars.
Avoid using flat collars for dogs that pull, are aggressive, or are known escape-artists. Even properly fitted collars won’t be able to restrain a determined dog who can back up, shake, and easily escape.
Choke Chain Collars (Working on the same ‘choking’ principle are Slip leads, but they are made from fabric and not a metal chain)
The term “choke’ is a misnomer since the purpose of these collars is to not choke the dog. The tension on the dog’s neck can be tightened and released quickly once you release the tension on the attached leash.
Some trainers recommend using a choke chain collar or slip lead only during training and when the dog is on a hand-held leash. Avoid using choke chain collars when you are not training or when the dog is being crated. There is a high risk of strangulation if your dog’s chain gets caught on an object.
Never use choke chains or slip leads to punish the dog. Furthermore, it’s important to keep in mind that the dog decides if a training tool is punishing or not. Positive reinforcement-based training methods should be used to train a dog to walk loosely on a leash.
Many positive dog trainers consider slip leads and choke chains to be unethical as they work on the premise of choking the dog in order to keep the dog in the heel position.
Martingale Collar (Slip Collars)
These are flat collars with rings at both ends and resemble the number 8. They work by employing negative reinforcement and are not considered a tool used by positive dog trainers. A chain goes through each ring, and the chain also has rings at both ends. If the dog pulls on the leash, the chain squeezes around the neck.
The dog learns that in order to stop the unpleasant tightening sensation around it’s neck, it must slow down. By adjusting the size of the flat collar, you can modify the pressure or tension on the dog’s neck (which you apply by pulling on the leash).
Unlike choke collars, you cannot put on martingale collars backward. Furthermore, because they are flat collars, martingale collars apply far less pressure than choke collars. That is why they can be easily ignored. Therefore, you must avoid using a martingale collar if your pet is stubborn, inattentive, or has a thick padding of fur around its neck.
Martingale collars are less likely to slip off if your dog pulls back on the collar and leash. That is why they are often used on sighthounds like Afghan Hounds, who have narrow heads.
Some dog trainers recommend busing a prong collar for dogs that are stubborn, reactive and undisciplined on a lead. You might have seen them on breeds like Bulldogs, Staffordshires and German Shepherds, which are known to pull or show stubbornness while walking.
Positive dog trainers believe prong collars to be inhumane and cruel. In contrast, balanced dog trainers believe that when prong collars are used and fitted properly, they won’t hurt your dog. In fact, they can help improve your communication with your pet. However, the pain and stress that prong collars can inflict increases other problem behaviours in dogs, such as aggression.
Head collars are a popular training tool for teaching leash manners to dogs. They are recommended for dogs that pull and can also be used for retraining dogs that have learned bad habits like pulling.
Like a horse’s halter, the head collar has a strap that goes around your dog’s neck and another strap that sits behind its ears and around the muzzle. A loop underneath the muzzle strap can be used for attaching the leash. Since the head collar goes around the dog’s muzzle, it is highly effective in preventing pulling as the dog loses a great deal of leverage equivalent to its entire body weight.
Head collars are not recommended for aggressive dogs and dogs with certain medical conditions. Some dogs can escape from head halters, hence they are not recommended for aggressive dogs.
Remote Training/ E-Collar (Shock Collar)
As the name indicates, an e-collar/shock collar delivers a shock to your dog. You can remotely control the collar and most come with a fairly long range.
E-collars also come with different levels or intensities of shocks or vibrations, and you can control how much you use. The lowest settings will simply be unpleasant for your dog. Although it isn’t designed to hurt or cause pain to your buddy; like any training tool, it is the dog who decides whether to not the device is painful and punishing.
Anti-Bark Dog Training Collars
These are of two types:
Spray Dog Training Collars
Also known as citronella collars, these automatic collars detect barking and release a burst of citronella spray that is unpleasant (but 100% safe) for dogs. Again, you can adjust the spray quantity and sensitivity of the collar. They are USB rechargeable, waterproof, and can be turned off when the dog is sleeping.
Ultrasonic Dog Training Collars
These collars let out an ultrasonic sound (when the dog barks) – a sound that only your dog can hear.
Do Dog Training Collars Work?
No one piece of equipment results in success every time with every dog. Training collars are no exception. They are believed to work on 75-80% of dogs, but it is important that you have the skill and expertise to use them as they have the potential to be dangerous and cruel.
In selecting training equipment, always take your specific circumstances into account. For example, some dog trainers use prong collars and slip leads on aggressive and highly intent-driven dogs. These tools may even save them from a one-way trip to the shelter.
However, a skilled positive reinforcement method dog trainer can usually train your dog to do more appropriate behaviours without the use of aversive dog training collars.
Some balanced dog trainers believe that the only way to train a dog not to chase livestock is to use a shock collar.
Similarly, if you are training your dog in your backyard, where there are fewer distractions, a simple buckle collar may get your pet to respond. Beware of dog trainers that promise quick fixes and recommend using a slip lead, e-collar or prong collar before first trying rewards-based dog training.
By using a prong collar, you can negatively affect the relationship you have with your dog and worsen their leash aggression. If you can’t walk your dog without the use of a prong collar, it hasn’t actually modified the dog’s behaviour. In which case, has any training actually taken place?
What Type of Collar is Best for Dog Training?
The type of dog training collar you ultimately choose depends on your dog’s temperament, size, and training goals. In addition to these tools, you must use the right training methods, such as positive reinforcement or reward-based training.
Irrespective of the type of collar you select, make sure it fits well. Avoid misusing the collar – many of these training collars inflict pain and can hurt your pet. Remove the collar whenever you are unable to supervise your buddy.
Are Dog Shock Collars Illegal in Australia?
According to the RSPCA, certain states and territories in Australia have deemed dog shock collars illegal. These include SA, NSW, and the ACT. These territories prohibit the administration of an electric shock to dogs, and some even deem it illegal to possess and sell these tools. In SA, it is illegal to use electronic devices to confine or control a dog.