E-Collar or Leash Training

Dear Adam: I have read lots of your articles, and value your opinion. My dog, Chunk, is seven months old and we are looking for a training program for him. I met with what seemed like a great trainer yesterday, who uses the e-collar. I’d appreciate your advice on training my dog using this system.

Should I try group classes first that practice the leash, or go straight to e-collar?

It’s my understanding that this trainer offers strictly e-collar training, not leash training. It’s rather expensive, but I’ve always believed that you get what you pay for, and don’t want to waste my time going to group classes if they are useless like you noted. Please advise.

Thank you,



Dear Ami, To see what you are paying for, ask to sit in on some lessons, whether they are in a group or a private one-on-one instructional setting. Watch how the trainer interacts with both the dog and the owner; how the dog reacts to the trainer; and (if possible) how the owner works with the dog. This will give you a good idea of what you’ll be getting. Your only reason to hesitate is that this trainer uses only e-collars.

Be aware that a well-rounded professional has all kinds of tools in his kit for working with different dogs with different problems. If you like what you see and are willing to pay for results, there is nothing wrong with the e-collar approach, when applied properly and fairly. I have had a very good success rate with the e-collar. But they are generally used as ONE TOOL in a trainer’s bag of tricks, and not as the ONLY tool.

Update – September, 2011: These days there are many expert dog trainers who advocate a 100% e-collar regimen.  And they are very successful.  I still think it’s best to leave it up to the owner, as many dog owners do fine with a $15 pinch collar and a 6′ leather leash… never needing (or wanting) to get to the more advanced levels of training that the e-collar permits you.

Or for that matter, having to shell out the $200+ on a quality e-collar.  With my personal dogs, I prefer a blended approach.  And for good reason. Why? My e-collar’s battery started to fade this past week and I had to send it back to the factory for an upgrade.  Three weeks without a training collar would be a drag, if I didn’t have my trusty pinch collar to fall back on. Remember: Reinforcement is forever– whether it’s with an e-collar, a pinch collar or a buckle collar.

But I should also add: There are some dogs that I will go straight to the e-collar with.  Especially larger, more physical dogs with a hard temperament or dogs with extreme aggression issues.

Your mileage may vary.