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How to Introduce Your Dog to a SportDOG Brand® E-Collar

By SportDOG™ Staff

Training a dog is easier than ever, thanks to today’s highly advanced yet affordable electronic remote training collars, also commonly known as e-collars. However, it is important to understand that while the e-collar is an amazing tool, it is just that: A tool. It cannot replace the need for you to understand the basics of dog training.

An e-collar does not actually teach a dog to do anything. What it does is reinforce commands that you have already taught. It is never OK to correct a dog for not obeying a command it doesn’t know. As long as you remember that, your dog training will go smoothly.

Perhaps the No. 1 reason that dog owners purchase an e-collar is to reinforce a command from a distance. Most would agree that it’s a better solution than making your dog drag a rope around for its whole life. For example, when you call your dog but it decides it would rather lie in the grass and chew on that old tennis ball awhile longer, a correction in the form of low-level static stimulation from the e-collar is a reminder that your commands must always be obeyed and that you are able to correct misbehavior from any distance.

The other common use for the e-collar is to put an immediate stop to flagrant or dangerous misbehavior such as digging in the garbage or chasing the neighbor’s cat down the street. In these cases, it is very simple to quickly increase the static stimulation level to administer a heavy correction.

Understanding Correction Levels

The basis for everything you’ll ever want your dog to do is obedience training. Heel. Sit. Stay. Come. No. Your dog should know the meaning of these commands and respond to them consistently before you ever start with e-collar training.

Some trainers refer to the e-collar as a finishing or polishing tool. That’s a great description; it means that for a dog that is perhaps 95 percent compliant with your commands but occasionally hesitates or ignores you, the e-collar gains you that other 5 percent. The key to finishing your dog’s training is to start with the lowest level possible. That means Level 1 on a SportDOG collar. Level 1 is extremely soft, and some dogs won’t even react to it. However, understand that every dog is different. Some might never require more than a Level 1 or Level 2 during their entire lives. Others with a more stubborn temperament will require higher levels.

So, follow this rule: Always use the lowest level that your dog will respond to. Your aim with the e-collar is to deliver a correction that creates a mild discomfort, no more, no less. The end result is that your dog would rather comply with your command than continue to feel that tingling, or static stimulation, on its neck.

As important as it is to know your dog’s temperament and use the e-collar as minimally as possible, there are times when you are justified in raising the correction level. All SportDOG Brand collars allow you to instantly raise the level on a moment’s notice, so you’re covered for any situation.

When you’re walking your dog at heel and it starts to tug a bit, you want to issue a small correction as a reminder that its proper place is next to you, not out in front. It’s quite possible that a Level 1 or 2 will do the job. However, if that same dog sees a squirrel, rips the leash out of your hand and takes off toward the woods, a low-level correction isn’t going to fix the problem. You need to stop the chase immediately before you lose your dog or it gets hit by a car. A loud “No!” followed by a continuous correction on Level 5, 6 or 7 might be called for in this situation.

Introducing the E-Collar

Here’s an example of how to introduce the e-collar in conjunction with the heel command. Your dog should know what the heel command means and should walk at your side without tugging at the leash. Even if you’ve done a good job of teaching heel, there’s a pretty good chance your dog will want to test you every now and then by getting out in front of you, trying to wander to the side or walking behind you. Now it’s time to teach the command again, this time with the e-collar.

With the dog still on the leash and the e-collar set at Level 1, walk your dog in a small area, making frequent turns and occasionally changing your pace. Earlier in its training, the dog learned that when it got out of position, you corrected it with the leash. You’re still going to do that, but now you’re going to press the Transmitter button at the same time. You press the button and keep it pressed until the dog is back at your side. As soon as your dog is back in position, you release the button. Now the dog is learning that it can turn off the pressure (previously it was the leash; now it’s e-collar static stimulation) by complying.

Pay close attention to your dog’s reaction to the e-collar static stimulation. If your dog seems indifferent, you can go to Level 2. Continue the heel exercise, reinforcing with the e-collar and going up one level at a time. If your dog reacts by voicing out, that is an indicator you need to go back down a level. Your goal is to find the level at which your dog is happy and motivated to obey.

When your dog is walking at heel and following your turns with perfection, go ahead and try a session without the leash. Keep in mind that getting to “off-leash” could be a matter of days … or weeks. Every dog learns at its own pace. So, take your time. The results are worth it.

Additional Tips

  • A “collar-wise” dog is one that behaves while wearing an e-collar but misbehaves when the collar is off. To avoid this situation, put the e-collar on your dog at an early age every time you let it out to run or for obedience sessions. There’s no need to turn the collar on during the early stages of training. You’re simply conditioning the dog to associate the e-collar with getting out and having fun.
  • Keep training sessions short. It’s better to do two or three 10-minute sessions a day than try to work your dog for an hour straight.
  • Never press the Transmitter button when you’re angry or frustrated. If you’re having a bad training session, it’s best to stop for the day and start fresh tomorrow. Strive to end training sessions on a happy note.