E-Collar Evolution: Top E-Collars for 2012

Those of you who are old enough to remember training dogs without electronic devices also probably remember the bad old days — when e-collars were new and largely untested, and most had two settings: fry and weld.

But the free market economy can be a wonderful thing. Trainers let companies know that they didn't want to hurt their dogs, and the units gradually got better. Today's e-collars are an improvement by an order of magnitude over the versions of even 10 years ago, and some collars now allow an almost unlimited amount of finesse, delivering stimulation at levels so low they're virtually undetectable, but easily capable of delivering a stout wake-up call when needed. As for the long running debate about the efficacy of these devices? It's over, and Team E-Collar won. It would be tough to find a pro trainer of almost any breed who doesn't use them. Used correctly, e-collars are safe, effective and humane.

On par with the improvement in e-collars are tracking systems, which have done more for the peace of mind of bird dog owners (especially owners of big-running pointers) than probably any other single thing in the long history of dog training. No longer do you have to wonder where your dog is; your GPS or tracking system will tell you.

Most of these units — e-collars and tracking systems alike — aren't exactly cheap. But they'll last for years, and the cost is money well spent if you plan on owning more than one dog in your lifetime. The following is a brief roundup of what's out there.

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