Zap! Why I finally put an E-collar on my dog

A dog with pet insurance runs after prey.

By: Chryssa Rich
For Pets Best Insurance

Electronic collars, also called e-collars, shock collars or static collars, are highly controversial among dog owners. Some believe they’re bad for pet health, and anyone who’s tried to buy one at a popular pet store has probably been intercepted by the resident trainer, pushing obedience classes over electronics.

When I adopted Jayda last year, I was definitely on team obedience. But after 15 months of dog training, I haven’t been able to put a dent in my dog’s insatiable prey drive. Jayda will run out the front door and sprint around the neighborhood looking for something to chase. She barks incessantly and chases cats and squirrels when we’re on walks or at friends’ houses. She even barks out the window at work when I take her to the pet insurance office. She jumps up on countertops to get cats and recently tried to join two wild mink fighting near the river. She picks fights with small dogs at the dog park.

In addition to being dangerous, Jayda’s behavior means she must be on a leash and prong collar 100% of the time outside the house, and she can’t come with me to visit friends who have cats. She can’t even be off-leash to fetch or swim while we’re camping.

Jayda is calm and obedient at home but seems to go into a trance when the prey drive kicks in. She doesn’t even flinch when I give a command or pop her prong collar. After one particularly stressful evening involving a Pomeranian at the dog park, I decided it was time to get complete control over my dog before she got us both in trouble.

The e-collar I chose has two buttons, a “tone” button that makes a beeping sound, and a “static” button that delivers the correction. The tone button is always used first, and for some dogs, that’s enough to disrupt the bad behavior.

The static button has 10 levels of correction, but Jayda only needed level 3 before she reacted to it. The reaction to watch for is very subtle: twitching the ears or trying to look at his or her own neck. No dog should vocalize or panic while wearing the collar. The goal is never to hurt them.

According to the instruction booklet, e-collars should only be used to correct one behavior at a time to avoid confusing the dog. This means that I‘ll only correct Jayda for chasing until she’s mastered the “no chase” command. Once we’ve covered that, we’ll move on to proper interaction with other dogs at the dog park.

Last night we took a walk and came upon the neighbor’s cat. Jayda usually goes crazy at the sight of Samson, but it was a different story with the e-collar. When Jayda started lunging, I said “No chase” and pressed the tone and static buttons. Jayda immediately stopped going after the cat and walked back to me. It was amazing. No yelping, no barking, no hissing.

I know that e-collars are controversial, but when my dog runs out the front door, goes after a cat or starts a fight with another dog, I need a way to stop her. Her life depends on it, and for that I’ll take any amount of controversy.

Dog owners and pet insurance enthusiasts , I’d love to hear from you: what’s your opinion on e-collars? How have you dealt with difficult dog behaviors?


  • Ashley

    My husband and I got an adorable american bulldog puppy 3 and half years ago. When we got her, she was 3 months old and 25 pounds. Boy, did we not have a clue what we were in for. Before we knew it we had a 100 pound wild child on our hands who loved to chase the cats and was a total menace. By her first birthday she’s torn up the flooring in our kitchen twice, terrorized every neighborhood cat and was digging a hole straight for our neighbors rabbit pin. The commands she learned in training went right out the window if she was distracted or chose to ignore us. Finally, against everyone’s advice, we tried a ecollar. It didn’t take long before the “beep” was all she needed to hear to behave. Now (years later), we have a healthy, happy dog who actively listens to us and we haven’t had to use the collar since the first month.

  • Retriever Rescuer

    I adopted a 3 year old golden, original owners gave her up because she ran through the invisible fence 3 or 4 times. She was not in very good condition when I received her (poor muscle tone & matted), I assumed her lack of training was due to neglect. Now she is a powerful dog with a huge prey drive, I am now inclined to believe she entertained herself by watching critters & birds. I have been through obedience classes with her, have an easy walk harness for her, but she has to trail a leash in the house in case she bolts out the door. Finally, for her safety since we live in a busy city I bought an e-collar and I spent a great deal of time learning how to use it properly before I even tried it out. I wish I had started earlier since I have have wrangled this dog for 18 months and finally making some headway. Our neighbor’s cat barely got away with it’s life for coming into our yard, that is what made me decide it was time to start using it after having one for 6 months. A prong collar did not work for this dog.


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