Are Electronic Collars a Proper Canine Training Device?

On the next episode of Alpha Dogs, Kenny and the Vohne Liche Kennels gang head to the west coast to check up on the VLK West kennel location that opened up close to a year ago in Banning, California. In order to develop and grow the kennel, Kenny needs to find a supplier of high-quality dogs for the kennel. Without it, VLK West will never flourish.

The first stop is with Tom Tennant, president of Green Dog K9 Sales, who is a breeder of working dogs located in Mexico. Shipping dogs in from Mexico as opposed to Europe will help reduce shipping costs and save VLK a lot of money. But in order for Kenny to recruit his dogs, a high standard must be met in order to make the deal.

Next, Kenny meets with Doug Roller, a trainer that has worked with VLK West. Although he is an outstanding trainer, he uses an E-collar to train his dogs. This device has been noted to be very controversial and Kenny is left with the decision whether this technique will mix well with VLK’s K9 philosophy.

These devices send a vibration or electric stimulus to a dog’s neck through the dog’s collar. These signals can be set either by an electric fence sensor in the ground or by a remote control used by a handler. These came into use in the 1960s and were used to ward off bad behavior. The intensity setting could be compared to a lightning strike, but has since changed and made more effective for trainers to use today. They are now seen as effective in teaching good behavior and comparable to a tug on a leash.

The effectiveness and safety of these e-collars has brought up heated debates since the inception of the device to the public. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), recommends the use of these devices during search and rescue missions. The main concern is proper education is needed on behalf of the handler before this device is used in a practical setting.

Tactical K9 is a company that specializes in the education of proper handling of the collar and is currently working alongside VLK to teach the proper use for their training courses. They are located in Los Angeles, California and offer their services to polices officers and military dog handlers across the country.

Make sure not to miss Alpha Dogs: Growing Pains Friday at 9P and see if Tom is able to provide dogs for VLK West and if Doug can show Kenny that the E-collar can be an effective training device for their K9 philosophy.


  1. Pete Stevens
    United States
    March 17, 2013, 2:27 pm

    Just like any tool used for K9 training, it can be abused. Having trained dogs both the old school and current methods, I can tell you the Doug Roller is ahead of the game. I’ve seen it used improperly too much, in fact, my initial training with it was just straight compulsion. But now that I’ve trained with Doug Roller from Tactical K9 and Manuel Villanueva from Man K9, I now have a great tool for a handler to communicate with the dog at anytime.

  2. dfhiggins
    March 20, 2013, 11:20 am

    I disagree. Look at:
    Best regards, Dean

  3. Mason Mund
    Fargo, ND.
    March 26, 2013, 11:46 am

    Dean, that article dealt mainly with litter boxes and feline diseases with only a small menntion of e-collars, with extremely low relevance to dogs at all. In other words, that argument has no basis here. E-collars, when used correctly, can be an extremely useful tool to enhance communication between yourself and your dog at a distance without using a long lead as Vohne Liche kennels in Indiana has used since it opened up. If you watch the episode of Alpha Dogs that is now airing disucssing e-collars, you will see how useful of a tool it can truly be. The ability to communicate with your dog at a distance without the hassle of a long lead or choke chain is unrivaled, and in many cases can save a dogs life in extreme cirumstances. That is why the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals advises the use of this tool. Do more research Dean.

  4. Ian Dogtra UK
    United Kingdom
    April 9, 2013, 6:32 am

    The video shows particularly high drive and excitable Belgian Malinois.

    When I trained high drive sdogs such as these my training partners would say that is not a correction it is a minor inconvenience in a dog with such high drive.

  5. Beth Licht
    April 12, 2013, 8:37 pm

    I began training in 1973 and have trained everything from basic obedience to Schutzhund III in just about every method. I firmly believe that e-collars are an excellent tool if used properly. Our two newest dogs (personal not client) have been trained almost exclusively with these collars.
    The dogs are both doing great with training and are happy, confident, and social animals.

  6. Danielle
    April 19, 2013, 9:58 pm

    Just wanted to point out the ASPCA does NOT recommend an e-collar as anything but an absolute last resort and only then if the dog must absolutely be off-leash to do their job.

  7. Tammy T
    April 23, 2013, 2:34 pm

    My husband and I have trained our last 2 labs with Nick White @ Off Leash K9 in Woodbridge Va. He is an excellent trainer! On our first visit, he placed the e-collar on our hand so we’d know what the stimulus felt like. I’m a nurse and It felt like a TENS unit, doctors prescribe to people for pain control. It was not painful or harmful. I wish everyone would educate themselves on this technique before passing judgement. I personally think the choker chain and prong chain is a harsher form of training. An e-collar will never crush a trachea or cause a skin laceration!!

  8. Chris J
    Dayton, OH
    May 30, 2013, 5:42 pm

    I’ve had a session with Roger White from Off Leash K9 in the Dayton OH area also, and I have to agree that they are great trainers, and that the e-collar training is very human compared to old school “Yank and Crank” methods. Lesson 1, before they even have you put the collar on your dog they have you test it on yourself (which I had already done before I even considered doing e-collar training), and like Tammy T above me said, it is very similar to a Tens unit that I use for therapy for my knees. Also, the way Off Leash K9 teaches, each time you bring the level back down to 1 and work up until the dog responds…on the collar I used, I couldn’t even feel anything lower than 6, and the highest I had to use on my dog during the session was 4.

    Summary: Obviously harsher than “Positive Only” training methods, gentler than many old school methods, and done right (extremely important) e-collars can be a very effective training tool.

    Also, I’m in no way affiliated with Off Leash K9, they are just the only professional trainers I have gotten to witness using the e-collars. Didn’t want this comment look like I was trying to advertise for them

  9. JJ
    June 2, 2013, 4:51 am

    In a world where we are hyper critical of everything, the bandwagon riders are going to do what they do best. I would think their time would be better served addressing the issue of pet owners that beat the hell out of the dog because it does not listen. Leave the dog in the back yard for days, years, seasons on end because it won’t behave in the house. I have always kennel trained my dogs, as I don’t believe in setting them up to fail. From the comments I have had, you would think I hung them by their toe nails in a blast freezer after beating them whips.

    I have tried many training techniques, most work as well as all the diets I have tried,

    Lets put the training in perspective, I have a 9 month old Boston Terrier that runs from one end of the room to the other just to crash into the doors, swings off a rope swing until his teeth bleed. knows how to roll the window down in the back of car when I am driving and has jumped out the window while the car was in motion. He is always in his kennel, but I missed the lock and out he came (my bad). I would think that a little bit of trickle and some less destructive behaviour would be far safer than having to scrape him off the road.

    I do not want to quash his need for thrill seeking, I just want to know that when I give a command he will listen. I think this training is fascinating and quite doable for even the worst couch potato’s out there.

    It is unfortunate in the yuppie, keep up with the Jones society we live in everyone has to have a dog. The stats say in the US that money spent on pets has jumped over 20 Billion in ten years and will be over 50 Billion this year. Stats also say over 65 Billion are abused or killed each year. The ASPCA can recommend just about anything and make it sound official, have your read their training tips? To get your dog to come to you, run away from it because they like to chase things. Well I hope that works in traffic. You would think they would be happy to have well trained dogs that are not coming to them for the big dirt nap.

    So, why are the critics so focused on a little trickle of charge that will create a happy obedient dog, a proud owner and less abuse to animals. It is because they don’t take the time to learn all the facts. I would love to be able to train dogs like these fine trainers, not only do the dogs respect them, they love doing what they do.

    Just a cap to my letter, I have a tens machine for carpal tunnel and fibromyalgia and my kids would turn it up as high as it would go just to punch themselves uncontrollably while rolling on the floor in hysterics, the dog collar has nothing on that. Now I am wondering if I should have used it to train them. Never mind, nothing works on kids should of had dogs.

    Just saying, food for thinking

  10. Mike A
    August 24, 2013, 4:39 pm

    I agree with JJ. I’ve bought the dog whisperer program with its plastic version of a spike collar. With training DVD that demonstrated a knee jab to the dogs chest to discourage jumping on guests. Done the choker chain leash to walk while the dog pulled and choked herself. Then I came in contact with an dog trainer who’s program used the ecollar method. Within weeks all of the dogs bad habits were broken and not the dog is truly a pleasure to be around.

    No need to a leash (but use one in public spaces) .. no yelling .. punishing .. nothing. if she’s sleeping .. hearing the 5 beeps when the collar turns on will wake her and she comes running since she knows shes going out. Collar only needs to be on her neck .. no stimulation .. yet listens to all commands faithfully and willingly.

    Stimulation “could” be powerful if in abusive peoples hands .. but so are sticks and rocks. Our dog never needed levels more than 3 .. if you haven’t “felt” a stimulation (tingle) or seen a live trainer working with a student in person, stop criticizing.

    The etrainers when properly used are more effective than conventional methods and dogs learn proper behavior more quickly .. especially with stubborn students.

    Yes .. like all learned habits .. practice and repetition is key .. the ecollar gets the student there quicker over other abusive methods. and when proper simulations are used .. the dog enjoy being out with you in public rather than locked up in your backyard.