The ability to control your dog's behavior (even when you are far away or out of sight) is a critical factor in consistent, reliable training. Remote trainers (often called "dog shock collars") help accomplish this for many different types of dogs in many different circumstances.
Remote pet trainers are designed to help dog owners deter unwanted pet behaviors while in their presence and from a distance. Hunting dog trainers are used to teach and fine tune the pointing, flushing, retrieving, and catching or treeing of game - all accomplished at a distance. There are some differences that are worth noting to help you choose the right collar for you and your individual needs.Remote training systems consist of two parts: A hand-held transmitter that broadcasts a radio signal and a receiver worn on the collar of the dog, which translates the signal into a correction of some type that impacts the dog's behavior.
Most use of dog shock collars is for problem solving (such as jumping on people, chasing cars, stealing food, avoiding snakes) or for more involved training (such as obedience training or hunting dog training). Aggressive behavior is NOT a suitable candidate for electronic dog collars under any circumstances without a behavior specialist supervising the activity.
Today, not all remote training collars are dog shock collars. Correction methods are varied depending on the system and your individual situation: Some shock collar systems correct your dog using a harmless but unpleasant static shock (most of them). Some use unpleasant audible or inaudible sounds which have previously been used simultaneously with the static (shock) correction until they are understood by the dog to BE the correction. Some adjustable vibration (NEW), warning or pager features. Some use an unpleasant lemon spray deterrent, and some have praise tones.
Instant (Nick) correction is instantaneous and lasts only ½ sec (or less) no matter how long you hold the button down. Continuous correction lasts as long as you hold the button (emergency shut off in about 10 sec), and Pager or Tone-Only uses only a vibration, buzz or tone to alert or command the dog. (Vibration is a great tool for training deaf dogs).
The more finesse you have to tailor the correction to the exact temperament of your dog, the more quickly your dog will respond and the less chance there is of over-correction. Every dog will need at least a couple of different levels depending on the circumstances. You will find that a dog who performs flawlessly in the back yard will need a higher level of correction when he is outside his usual environment where distractions are high such as in the park or in the field. He may need a higher level still if he is engaged in a "high adrenaline" state such as when chasing a car, another dog or cat, or honed in on the wrong game. Dogs who are wet will need a lower level of correction due the high conductivity of their wet skin that will channel the full effect directly to them.
The number of different settings for corrections and the way to program them is important and completely individual to each manufacturer and to each collar in their line.
Some training collars have warning tones, vibration or pager features. Some have praise tones. Unleashed has a remote trainer that uses ONLY adjustable vibration - NO shock at all - a great new training collar for the sensitive dog or the sensitive owner.
During more than 30 years of training, we have found that warning tones are rarely useful and often do more harm than good when used in their assumed fashion - as a warning that a more severe correction is coming. They often cause the dog anxiety while making the owner feel that they have "saved" the dog. The trainer who uses the tone to warn often depends on it to the detriment of the dog and the training process - in short, it encourages “nagging" and inconsistent handling. We don't recommend their use in this fashion. Instead, we recommend a collar with a tone-only feature that you can use as a command tone. If you teach the dog to "come" using the tone, you will have a remote recall that will tell him when it is time to return to you. Or you might use it as a "whoa" command to tell him when to stop his forward movement. These are two very positive and useful techniques that make a warning or pager feature valuable.
A praise tone can be very useful. It is highly regarded as a positive reinforcement tool and it lends itself well to positive reinforcement (or clicker) training. It can be a very valuable tool to let a dog in the field know that he is doing the right thing. A little like the game "hot-cold", a praise tone lets your dog know when he is getting "warmer" and encourages him to continue in the direction you have praised.
Range is discussed below as far as different types of training. Range is adversely affected by terrain. Mountains, hills, dense trees all inhibit range and will reduce the range claimed by the manufacturers. We also recommend that you reduce the claimed range by about 1/3 in many instances just because "marketing" tends to exaggerate. Range for correction is not usually the reason to have a collar with long reach, as most trainers wouldn't dream of correcting their dog when he is out of sight and might be doing exactly what he is supposed to do. However range for recall is important. That is where the "tone-only" "Come" command (above) is invaluable and range matters.
The size of the transmitter is important when you must work quickly or under adverse conditions. Smallest are the Innotek FS15 and FS25 used for quick, problem solving. Largest are the long range trainers which (necessarily) must have much more antenna. Usually smallest means fewer features. Largest means longer distance. We picture each transmitter so that you can get an idea of what type of equipment you will be carrying.
Unless you have a very small dog, don't let the receiver size enter into your decisions. All of the companies have finally gotten the size of the receiver down to reasonable dimensions. Further reductions come at a cost. Smaller receivers have less room for electronics, which reduces their range, battery life, and reliability. There are two companies that make tiny dog trainers: Innotek and Petsafe.
Studies show that 25% of dogs and cats are euthanized or abandoned in their first year because they exhibit unacceptable behavior. Training is one of the most important responsibilities of a pet owner. You will find pet trainers at the lower end of the spectrum for features, distance and dollars. It is not necessary to spend a lot on a pet training system. They are usually used in closer proximity such as urban settings in yards, parks, larger enclosed areas such as school grounds. You would rarely need to use it miles away. Transmitter size is usually smaller and more convenient. Distance is in yards instead of miles. Whether the dog's receiver is waterproof (able to be submerged in water) or just water-resistant (able to get wet but not completely submerged) isn't usually important - water-resistant is usually less expensive - unless you will be training near ponds, lakes or streams. A waterproof transmitter is not necessary unless you think you will actually drop it in water. Although rechargeable batteries are nice, replaceable-battery-trainers are less expensive than collars with rechargeable batteries, and they often keep the price very reasonable for pet trainers.
You will find that hound training systems are at the high end for both distance and dollars. Hounds run very far afield (needing a mile range or better). Hounds often hunt in packs and many hound trainers come with more than one collar to train or control more than one dog at a time. Often used to break dogs of chasing the wrong type of game, most hound collars have average features and larger transmitters. There may not be a need for hundreds of levels of correction, as the dog chasing the wrong game usually needs a fast, fairly severe correction NOW - not much finesse to it. (This can be a life-saver for the dog headed into dangerous terrain or chasing a dangerous animal and is considered a "hot" situation). However, most collars with such long range incorporate more levels of correction anyway. (Super X Dogtra 3500NCP is designed for X-treme training)
Upland bird dog training collars have more range than pet trainers and waterfowl collars but less than hound trainers. However, range for correction is not usually the reason to have a collar with long reach, as most trainers wouldn't dream of correcting their dog when he is out of sight and might be doing exactly what he is supposed to do. However range for recall is important. That is where the tone-only "Come" command is invaluable and range matters.
These collars have more range than pet trainers but less than hound trainers and upland trainers. However, range for correction is not usually the reason to have a collar with long reach, as most trainers wouldn't dream of correcting their dog when he is out of sight and might be doing exactly what he is supposed to do. However range for recall is important. That is where the "tone-only" "Come" command is invaluable and range matters.