I had a lot of preconceived notions about training before I ever snapped a lead to my dog, and the biggest included electronic training collars. Growing up with an ankle-biter Welsh corgi that possessed the discipline and temperament of a saltwater croc, I knew her bark collar worked about well enough to cause slight discomfort after each bark.
As for quelling her raucousness, let's just say her persistence was admirable.
Then again, other than setting the level of stimulation and strapping the thing around her neck, the dog had no formal training. Under the assumption the collar would simply train the corgi, and upon realizing it didn't work, we chalked it up to our dog being too much to handle.
In hindsight, even with minor training and the proper introduction, I have no doubt that dog and collar would have meshed. Once I began training my own hunting dogs and realized the importance of a solid foundation built on a proven program, I had an epiphany: There was no magic solution or silver bullet. You just had to be consistent and put in the work. Period.
In conjunction with field-tested training techniques, e-collars are a godsend. And while some old-timers still refer to them as "shock collars," modern e-collars are far, far more than simple stimulation devices. These feature-packed units allow you to keep tabs on dogs even out of eyesight, which certainly makes them deserving of any dog owner's belt loop.
Just like shotguns or decoys or cactus-proof brush pants, e-collars are an investment — and they aren't cheap. They're also dropped, soaked, covered in mud, put through crazy temperature extremes and, on rare occasions, used as chew toys (don't ask me how I know). Nothing is break-proof.
But instead of grudgingly tossing an on-the-fritz remote trainer into the trash, try Collar Clinic. They'll repair practically any make and model, or let you trade in an older model to receive credit on the purchase of a new device. Talk about a sweet deal!
$TBD | collarclinic.com
D.T. Systems R.A.P.T. 1450 Upland/Beeper
There comes a point when you simply don't have enough hands€¦like during steadiness training when you're juggling the gun, bird launcher and e-collar remote. That's where the R.A.P.T. 1450 can assist.
With a functionally-designed remote that can operate with just a thumb, D.T. has made it possible to effectively handle a dog without potentially missing a chance to issue a correction or take a shot. It comes loaded with the same features as the original R.A.P.T. 1400, but also includes a beeper to signal a dog's whereabouts. And the remote floats, too.
$270 | dysystems.com
I love getting new gear, but there's something to be said about an old standby. The same is true with e-collars, especially when it comes to delivering commands without taking your eye off the dog. Consider the Dogtra 200C your new, old standby.
Introduced this spring, it boasts intuitive one-handed controls that include a rheostat intensity dial, quick access to nick and constant stimulation modes, and a non-stimulation pager button.
The handheld transmitter and collar feature 2-hour rapid charge batteries, 1/2-mile range, and are waterproof. Bonus for spaniel lovers: The compact receiver/collar won't slip around on small-statured dogs.
$TBD | dogtra.com
DogWatch BigLeash S-15
Your hunting dog may be a machine in the field, but the rest of the year it's a family pet. An e-collar like the BigLeash S-15 that can also make the transition from field to home is ideal.
Not only does it have 15 levels of stimulation in both nick and continuous (as well as vibration and tone) but the receiver's FireFly nightlight feature means you can play fetch with Fido well past sunset.
It's a good safety feature when taking the dog on wee-hour walks, too. And whether you're hunting thick cover or just want to keep tabs, In-Touch Two Way Communication displays signal strength on the transmitter's LCD screen to indicate if a dog is in range.
$230 | dogwatchtrainingproducts.com
Garmin Sport PRO
There's nothing like hunting with a dog — except maybe hunting with more than one. The Sport PRO is an economical way to effectively control up to three dogs with one system.
Whether you're working a brace of pointers or sending two retrievers on separate blinds, the intuitive remote is laid out to issue commands exactly when you need them.
First select the correct dog, then choose the stimulation level, and finally press the button for continuous stimulation, momentary stimulation, vibration or tone. And when training is through, keep the collar on because the built-in BarkLimiter has settable levels so you can customize exactly what your dogs need to keep from spooking the mailman.
$250 | garmin.com
Lion Country Supply Bird Dog Trainer 800
During training sessions, it's convenient to have electronics that are compatible to cut down on the confusion and clutter. LCS's Bird Dog Trainer 800 is a complete system that streamlines your training days.
Especially handy when dealing with multiple dogs or simply adjusting from one setup to the next, it includes a feature-packed remote trainer that is no one-trick pony. While it has multiple stimulation levels, tone, and expandability to three dogs, it will also launch birds from LCS Universal Bird Launchers, or activate the LCS Remote Backing Dog ( both sold separately) for honoring work. That's some serious power in the palm of your hand.
$200 | lcsupply.com
SportDOG Brand SportHunter 825
Sometimes no-frills is all you need. The SportHunter 825 may not be the flashiest remote trainer on the market, but it has everything a handler wants without being overwhelming. A half-mile range is more than adequate for most rangy pointers or retrievers on lengthy blinds.
It's also programmable, with a mode to run add-on beeper collars. Seven instantly selectable stimulation levels with low or medium ranges offer plenty of options to fine-tune a dog's pressure requirements. And the vibration and tone features are great tools if you want to train a more subtle recall command. It's also waterproof, and it charges in two hours.
$200 | sportdog.com
Tri-Tronics PRO 550
Depended upon by pro trainers and amateur handlers alike, the PRO 550 is a top-of-the-line e-collar system that's about as versatile as they come. Regardless of breed or training type, it can take what you — and your dog — dish out with 21 levels of momentary and continuous stimulation, and the ability to quickly switch between up to three dogs.
With a little familiarization, you can quickly issue momentary or nick stimulation, or utilize tone and vibration features. There's a remote beacon light, too, as well as a built-in BarkLimiter. Plus, the remote can be programmed to operate the accessory Upland Beeper for the pointing-dog folks.
$400 | garmin.com