There was a time when shock collars consisted of a collar for the dog, and a transmitter with a button. No real way to adjust the intensity. You just pressed the button and shocked the dog. The result was an intense, searing pain for the dog. Such early examples of shock collars were only useful in teaching the dog to not chase deer,rattlesnakes, or skunks.
Since those early days, shock collars have gotten much more refined. And more subtle. Also, the list of features has grown considerably. Some features are great, some are not so useful, and some would be great if they did not cost so much.
Since I wrote my first shock collar article, I have gotten a few requests asking me which collar or collar manufacturer I prefer. I have purchased 3 shock collars in my life. One was made by TriTronics, One was made SportDog, and one was made by D.T. Systems. As you can see, I do not have a favorite manufacturer. When I shop for a shock collar, I am shopping for features and checking reviews.
Let me list the features I really like. Some of these features are really well suiting to training and working a hunting dog in the field. If the training you intend to do will be confined to the house and yard, some of these features will not be of use to you.
I cannot state this strongly enough: have a good handle on what you hope to train with your shock collar. This will keep you from spending on features that you do not need.
This is not an exhaustive list, so, please do your research.
Probably the number one thing I am looking for is a shock collar and transmitter that can communicate at a range of over 1 mile. That is 1 mile over unobstructed flat land. 1 mile line of sight. Where there are hills, buildings, and trees, that range gets shorter.
Unless one is running hounds, you really don't need a range of a mile. But if you compare the range of a shock collar with a 500 yard range with another collar with a 1 mile range in typical terrain, neither will reach out 1 mile, but the 1 mile collar will reach farther. I like a 1 mile collar for the extended range in hilly terrain.
Your training needs may extend to the house and back yard only. If this is the case, a collar with a shorter range will definitely work for you.
Water Proof Collar And Receiver
My dog likes water and will hit puddles and ponds to drink and cool off after a hard run. Sometimes I take my dog out in a rain. I need a collar and transmitter that are submersible. Again, if you will be using the collar in your house or back yard, this may not be important to you. Know what you need.
Levels Of Stimulation
My first shock collar had 6 levels of stimulation. Level 1: the dog could not feel it. Level 2: the dog would cry out in pain. I needed something in between. The term for this is "overstepping". Having a collar with a lot of levels means that the intensity difference between adjacent settings is a lot smaller. Which means you will be less likely to overstep.
The most important feature of a shock collar is having a lot of available levels. This is true regardless of whether your pupil is to be a hunting dog or a companion dog.
Momentary vs. Continuous
Momentary means you press and hold the button, but the stimulation that is delivered is only a fraction of a second. Continuous means you press and hold the button and the stimulation is delivered for as long as you press the button. Different manufacturers will provide a different number of levels of momentary vs. continuous. You will see things like 8c/16m, or 16c/16m.
For me, I have a nimble thumb. I can deliver a momentary stimulus with a continuous setting. I am just short and light on the button. Even so, the way I train relies heavily on continuous. I have not much need for momentary. Having said that, I have read a lot of published training plans and recipes that expect a momentary stimulus. Once again, knowing what your needs are ahead of time will help you decide what is needed here.
Many shock collars have a means to signal your dog, either through a high pitched tone (often audible only to about 5 feet away), or a painless vibration. I prefer the vibrate feature, since dogs (like humans) get hard of hearing with old age. I trained my dog to understand this signal to mean "Come". Others I know use it to tell the dog they are doing right...keep going. This could be useful for a dog doing a long retrieve. Others use the signal as a warning (about to be shocked). How you train it is up to you.
If your dog is not going to be out of sight in the woods, or making a long retrieve, this might not be of use to you.
As you do your research, and find a collar that seems to be close to what you are looking for, I recommend downloading the manual first. Sometimes the way the features are packaged in the collar can be a great asset or a weakness. So read the manual before you buy.
That is all for today. Future articles will include (but not limited to):
- Proper placement
- Getting the dog used to wearing the collar
- Finding the right level to train the dog
- Some training examples
If you already have a shock collar, what are some of the features you have found useful? Let us know in the comments.
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