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Although the term "shock collar" has fallen out of public favor in recent years, behavior modification systems for pet and working dogs are often still used as part of a larger training regimen.
These collars deliver short bursts of electrostatic energy to discourage bad behavior — not to injure the animal. Many of these training devices use other means to deliver negative reinforcement, such as vibrations or sonic cues.
There are three main types of shock collars to address different kinds of behaviors.
Boundary collars shock or vibrate when the dog is close to the set boundary lines. These collars are meant to keep the dog on the premises of a property without a visible fence.
Remote controlled collars emit a beep, vibrate, or shock upon a button press from a remote control that the handler has.
Bark shock collars vibrate or shock whenever the dog barks (with no manual press from the handler).
We analyzed dozens of humane canine behavioral modification systems currently on the market to pick our top five contenders.
Nicole has been training animals for over 15 years, from bears and tigers to household dogs. A member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers, she has been certified by the American Kennel Club as a Canine Good Citizen evaluator and she focuses on positive reinforcement methods so that training is always fun. Every year, Nicole attends SuperZoo, the largest pet product showcase, to research new pet products from cat litter to electric dog toys and she loves sharing what she finds with other pet parents.
If you're having trouble training your dog on your own, start by hiring a positive reinforcement trainer and exhaust all other options before considering a shock collar. When improperly used, shock collars can cause significant paint to your dog and make problems worse. A balanced trainer will help you learn how to use the collar safely with other techniques for lasting effects.
Construction and design are important considerations when choosing a dog training system. Some shock collars are completely waterproof for outdoor use. Others are intended for short-range, indoor use. Some collars are designed to fit larger dog breeds; others are suited for smaller pets. In this section of our ratings, we consider product elements such as comfort, durability, and responsiveness.
Most of our top contenders use some form of remote control as part of the behavior modification process. The range of these remote control devices is an important consideration. Working or hunting dogs may require a shock collar system with a long range. Smaller house dogs, on the other hand, can be corrected within a few hundred feet of their owners. Potential buyers should note that behavioral modification systems with extended ranges tend to be more expensive.
During our research, we observed many additional features that were unique to each of our top shock collar contenders. For example, some training systems use supplemental corrective methods in addition to electrostatic shock. Others make it possible for owners to train two dogs at the same time, which could definitely be useful for owners of multiple pets. Whenever possible, we note these additional features and explain their usefulness in more detail.
Our top shock collar contenders run the gamut in terms of price, and we urge potential customers to consider their personal dog behavioral modification needs before committing to a specific brand. Indoor dogs with inappropriate barking or property destruction issues often need a different form of correction that hunting dogs working in heavy brush. Some shock collar systems deliver much more powerful electrostatic charges than others, which can affect smaller breeds more negatively than larger breeds. Price is definitely an important consideration, but the animal's comfort and safety should always be a higher one. The idea is correction, not punishment.
The SportDOG SD-425 is a rugged piece of training equipment designed for medium to large dogs. The collar itself is completely waterproof and is submersible up to 25 feet. Owners of outdoor and working dogs particularly appreciate that feature! The transmitter and receiver are both powered by rechargeable batteries with exceptional working life between charges. We like the SportDOG SD-425's wide range of training options. Dogs can be trained with the help of beeping tones, vibrations, and up to seven levels of shock reinforcement.
The PetSafe Yard & Park remote training system uses a positive/negative reinforcement model. Audible beeps confirm good behavior and mild to medium electrostatic vibrations correct bad behavior. Both the transmitter and the collar's receiver unit are completely waterproof, and they are suitable for most dog breeds of eight pounds or more. The receiver is exceptionally light, weighing only a few ounces, but it will deliver a noticeable shock/vibration at higher settings.
Instead of punishing a dog with a painful electrostatic shock after the first unwanted bark, it is more humane to deliver an attention-getting audio signal via the shock collar. This gives the dog time to adjust its behavior naturally.
The Dogwidgets DW-3 pet dog training collar takes a measured approach to reinforcement, starting with a strong vibration and working through seven settings of shock correction. Many users report good results with the vibration settings alone. The collar can adjust from 12 to 20 inches, making it suitable for dogs weighing anywhere from 15 to 100 pounds. The unit is water-resistant and exceptionally lightweight, but there are some concerns about overall durability. The transmitter works on a 9-volt battery, but the collar receiver is rechargeable with an AC wall charger or USB connection.
The Epica Remote Dog Training Collar is the only one of our top contenders to feature two separate receiver units for two separate dogs. Each collar is designed to deliver either a strong vibration or what the manufacturer describes as a "safe but annoying" electrostatic shock. We recommend users employ the vibration or low-level shock to correct most unwanted behavior. The higher-level shock may be too strong for smaller animals. The Epica's receiver units are water-resistant but not completely waterproof; trainers of working or hunting dogs may not be satisfied with this limitation. The receivers are powered by rechargeable batteries, and the unit arrives with both an AC and USB charger. The transmitter uses a standard 9-volt battery and has separate controls for each collar. One dog could potentially receive a vibration while the other receives a low or high-power shock.
At first glance, the Petiner Advanced No Bark training collar may not appear to belong on a list of top shock collar behavioral modification system contenders. It is not designed to work by remote control, and its use is limited to excessive barking correction. However, the Petiner shock collar performs that one task extremely well. The lightweight receiver collar fits practically every dog breed -- even the smallest toy or lap dogs. The user attaches the unit around the pet's neck and ensures good skin contact with the electrostatic probes. When the dog barks for the first time, the receiver sends out a loud corrective tone. If the dog barks again within 30 seconds, the tone grows louder. After so many barks, the receiver switches to electrostatic mode until the dog remains quiet for at least 30 seconds. The unit then resets to the lowest corrective tone or goes into sleep mode. The Petiner is water-resistant but not completely waterproof. We recommend indoor use whenever possible to avoid too many false positives from other sources of noise.
Automatic shock collars have a high risk of over-correcting a dog, causing stress and fear. Be conscious of these types of collars when shopping if you are determined to buy a shock collar.
The SportDOG SD-425 boasts an impressive 500 yard range, one of the largest among our top contenders. This large range is very useful when training working dogs in the field or disciplining dogs remotely in a public dog park. There is no minimum range, so owners of indoor pets can also use the SD-425 remote trainer to curb unwanted behaviors such as furniture climbing, excessive barking, and jumping. We recommend maintaining a clear line of sight while working remotely in order to avoid confusion with invisible fences and other deterrents.
A shock collar with a large range is useful when training working dogs in the field, or disciplining dogs remotely in a public park or a large backyard.
The advertised range of the PetSafe Yard & Park training collar is approximately 400 yards, although some owners report even better performance in the field. However, many users say they rarely allow their dogs to stray more than a few hundred feet during training sessions or park visits. The PetSafe training collar works just as well for indoor behavioral modification (potty training, establishing boundaries, barking/jumping elimination, etc.) The PetSafe Yard & Park is ideal for backyard and dog park training, although users with existing invisible fences or other electrical deterrents may need to shut them off to avoid confusing their pets. The transmitter signal will penetrate walls and doors, allowing owners to discipline their pets remotely during outdoor play.
The Dogwidgets DW-3's advertised range is approximately 600 feet, which may be too limited for hunting and working dogs. However, it is ideal for indoor pets. Behavioral modification almost always works best when the trainer catches the trainee in the act and applies an appropriate level of correction. During training, the dog needs to associate the bad behavior with the vibration or shock immediately. The Dogwidgets DW-3's remote offers seven levels of static shock, but the numbers do not correspond to a natural progression of intensity. (The "1" setting is actually stronger than the "4" setting, for example.) Owners need to become very familiar with each of the seven settings so they do not inflict a higher level of correction than necessary.
The Epica's effective range is limited to approximately 1000 feet, which makes it ideal for training inside pets or use as a leash-less walking system. The limited distance could be problematic for trainers of outdoor working or hunting dogs. We urge users to disable other invisible fence systems during training, since the dogs could receive conflicting signals and become confused or agitated. A range of 1000 feet does make the Epica dog training system suitable for use in backyards and pet parks. Many satisfied owners report good training results with the vibratory setting alone, with only an occasional shock for extreme or repetitive behavior. The receivers can be removed from the original collar for use on smaller or larger pets. Because of the unit's stronger shock settings, use on smaller dogs (under 15 pounds) is not recommended.
Unlike the other remote controlled behavioral modification contenders, the Petiner's range is limited to a few feet from the receiver collar. A small microphone picks up the sound of a dog's bark and decides if it exceeds a decibel threshold. The owner can adjust the unit's sensitivity up or down to account for ambient sounds, such as a loud television or noisy occupants. Some users have concerns about the Petiner's sensitivity levels, since a dog's natural breathing or shaking can set off a false positive reaction. This is a known issue, and the manufacturer has recently made several design revisions to address it.
One of the SportDOG SD-425's best additional features is a user-friendly training DVD for owners who are new to behavioral modification training or have concerns about electroshock reinforcement in general. The collar actually delivers three different types of correction: a sonic tone (beep) for minor infractions or simple commands, a non-electric warning vibration for immediate results, and seven levels of static shock for major infractions. Many trainers use the vibration setting to warn their dog that a stronger shock is coming if the behavior does not stop.
One useful additional feature on the PetSafe Yard & Park training collar is a meter that clearly indicates battery status. Some users do report limited battery life per charge, but most training sessions are generally short in duration, anyway. Another feature that appeals to pet owners who are unfamiliar or uncomfortable with the idea of electrostatic shock training: the collar receiver is designed to generate an audible tone as the first line of behavioral reinforcement. Many dogs learn to respond to this auditory signal alone after a few days of training. Although there are eight shock level settings, many satisfied owners say they rarely apply anything higher than level "2."
The Dogwidgets DW-3 training system contains a transmitter unit, shock collar with rechargeable batteries, AC and USB chargers, and several different sets of electronic probes. The rubber probes help deliver strong vibrations to the dog, which many owners find to be sufficient for typical misbehaviors. There is also a set of short metal prongs for smaller dogs and longer prongs for large breeds. Maintaining good contact with the pet's skin is essential for effective electrostatic reinforcement, so owners may have to clip or shave a section of their pet's neck fur. We urge pet owners to use the lowest electrostatic settings possible during training sessions and to use the provided tester bulb to make sure the unit is working correctly.
One of the Epica's best features is its inclusion of two separate collar receivers. Many people own more than one dog, and with this system, two dogs can benefit from behavioral modification training at the same time. When one dog jumps on the furniture and the other scratches at the door, an owner can correct both behaviors without using confusing commands. If one dog runs off-course during a walk, the other dog is not punished as well. The unit features an auto-sleep feature which conserves battery power significantly. If the receiver does not detect activity for a set number of minutes, it will shut down until it receives a new command or the dog becomes active again. The original short probes can be exchanged for longer probes suitable for larger breeds. These probes may be covered with rubber caps between training sessions.
Many pet owners report that it took only a few incidents where they had to shock their pets. After that, their dig's behavior was easily corrected by a vibration or beep warning.
The Petiner Advance No Bark training collar does not arrive with many extra features, but it does include a comprehensive owner's manual that should answer most questions a new owner may have. The collar receiver works on a replaceable 6-volt battery and has an exceptionally long life due to its bark-activated design. When the dog is sleeping or remains quiet, the receiver conserves power by shutting off automatically. We give high marks to the Petiner's humane, gradated approach to behavioral modification. The dog does not receive any painful electrostatic correction unless the barking becomes excessive. Many dogs learn to respond positively after the very first tone, which serves as both a correction and a warning. Many shock collar systems receive negative reputations because the first correction is a sharp electrostatic charge, not an attention-getting tone.
At $169, the SportDOG SD-425 remote trainer is among the more expensive of our top contenders. However, it is also one of the most complete and versatile systems available to the general public. With the purchase of additional collar receivers, the SportDOG remote training system can accommodate up to seven dogs at one time, which is very useful for those who need to train large packs of working or hunting dogs. The SportDOG SD-425 collar receiver is also completely waterproof, not just water-resistant like some entry-level models. Some users have reservations about using this training system on smaller dogs (under 10 pounds), but the collar is adjustable enough to handle just about any breed.
The PetSafe Yard & Park remote training system is a bit of an investment at $139, but it is also among the most pet-friendly of our top contenders. It is extremely lightweight; most medium to large breeds should have no problem adjusting to the receiver or collar. Some owners report using this system as a leash-less walking device, not a behavioral modification system. With a 400-yard range, owners can control their pets from the other end of a dog park or train them to stop at the sound of a tone. Other dog training systems at lower price points often do not offer these kinds of range and control benefits.
The Dogwidgets DW-3 is a solid mid-range dog training collar at a retail price of $39. It is very powerful at the higher settings and should be used with caution. The unit's 600-foot range is generous enough for in-home behavioral modification training, but trainers of hunting or working dogs may find it limiting. We have heard of pet owners who use the lightweight DW-3 as a wireless leash system rather than a behavior modification system. We can certainly see this system working well in smaller dog parks and backyards. The Dogwidgets DW-3 includes some features usually found in higher-end training systems. These features include gradated shock levels and a choice of prongs. We only wish the shock level settings were not as confusing for users as they currently are.
Before buying a shock collar, always ensure that it is approved by the ECMA (Electronic Collar Manufacturers Association). Work with a balanced trainer to ensure that you use the collar safely and effectively.
At a very respectable retail price of $124, the Epica dog training collar is a great mid-range behavioral modification tool that won't break the bank. The fact that it arrives with two remote receivers makes the Epica an even better deal. The transmitter may not be rechargeable and the receivers may not be completely waterproof, but the Epica's results are comparable to some higher-end shock collar systems we examined. Dog owners who seek professional-grade training systems for working or hunting breeds may find the Epica's performance a little lacking, but owners who want to explore in-home obedience training should be quite satisfied with the Epica's performance and range.
With a relatively low retail price, the Petiner Advance No Bark dog training collar is an affordable alternative to expensive obedience training or drastic medical action. Excessive or inappropriate barking is a very common problem among indoor dogs, and many owners are not sure how to correct that behavior effectively and humanely. The Petiner shock collar isn't designed to eliminate a dog's natural barking instincts entirely. Rather, it's meant to provide owners with training options other than surgery or medication. We believe the Petiner anti-barking collar is a humane route for those who need to quickly modify their dog's behavior.
When using a shock collar to correct unwanted behavior, your timing has to be perfect. You don't want to increase fear or aggression in your dog or have your dog associate those with you. Consult with a trainer on proper use and timing.
One of the most important considerations when working with hunting or working dogs is effective communication between the trainer and the animals. This is why an extended range and gradated degrees of correction are vital when using electrostatic behavioral modification systems. The SportDOG SD-425 shock collar system has an impressive 500-yard range, allowing trainers to correct canine behavior without an actual line of sight.
The unit is completely waterproof and submersible, which could prove useful during hunting trips and other outdoor activities. Because of the SportDOG SD-425's outstanding performance (both indoors and outdoors) and its rugged construction, we wholeheartedly endorse it as the Best of the Best.
Although shock collar behavioral modifications are still controversial among pet owners, a complete training system like the SportDOG SD-425 offers a very humane approach. Electrostatic shocks are only administered if the vibratory and sonic corrections fail to accomplish the desired result. Some dog breeds are naturally resistant to corrective stimuli, so the trainer may have to increase the level of negative reinforcement accordingly. Once the dog begins to associate the unwanted behavior with an instant correction, it often reaches a point where no further reinforcement is necessary. That is the ultimate goal of any electrostatic shock training system, and the SportDOG SD-425 has delivered on that goal for years!
The SportDOG SD-42 shock collar provides the extended range and gradated degrees of correction that are vital to a successful electrostatic behavioral modification system.
Although it may not have the versatility of other shock collar system contenders, the Petiner Advanced No Bark dog training collar addresses one common canine behavior very well, and it does so at an extremely affordable price. Some dog owners face a dilemma when it comes to their pet's excessive barking. They may have to surrender the dog in order to avoid eviction. They may feel that they need to enroll the dog in expensive obedience courses. The Petiner anti-barking corrective collar provides an inexpensive alternative to both of those scenarios, and we declare it to be the Best Bang for Your Buck.
We do have some reservations about the Petiner's sensitivity levels and adjustments, but we strongly agree with its gradated approach to behavioral modification. Instead of "punishing" a dog with a painful electrostatic shock after the first unwanted bark, the Petiner delivers an attention-getting audio signal. In so doing, it provides the dog with enough time to adjust its own behavior naturally. Many dogs learn to stop barking excessively after receiving just a few warning tones. Electrostatic shocks are not delivered unless the dog continues to bark for several minutes. This is considered by many to be a very humane approach. The manufacturers of Petiner anti-barking shock collar systems understand how dogs learn self-discipline, and new users will usually get the results they need by using this training system at home.
Dogs can quickly become “collar wise.” They will listen and behave when the collar is on, but not when the collar is off. The dog is not learning or behaving because he wants to but because there is a threat. With proper training and positive reinforcement the dog should listen always.