By Joe Glotz
To use or not to use – That is the question! A much-needed word to this line would be – Correctly. Yes, “Correctly” is the key word here, as a collar used incorrectly can produce disastrous results as can any training method not properly employed.
There was a time many opposed the use of electronics in training. I had the same misconceptions that some other people have that the collar was cruel and that I’d be ruining dogs or creating robots that simply reacted to the touch of a button. Over time I’ve learned about the proper use of electronics and about the benefits to be gained from them.
If you are to use an electronic collar, it is important that you understand that punishment training (giving a command and punishing for noncompliance without offering the dog incentives to perform before being punished as the sole approach) will result in a dog that responds only when it’s afraid of being punished. As soon as the dog is off the training rope and not wearing the collar, he or she will, in most cases, just revert to their usual behavior or at best, perform inconsistently. This is why many dog owners go wrong from the start.
“My dog is running too big and won’t listen to my commands. I’m going to get one of those collars and give him an education.” So, the frustrated owner buys a collar, puts it on the dog, releases the dog and then commands it to come. The dog is enjoying itself and would rather run. So, the owner shocks the dog (the milder term would be - stimulates it). The dog will now probably do one of three things: Run as far as it can, as quickly as it can and after 10 seconds the collar automatically shuts off (a built-in safety feature). Two, the dog freezes on the spot and after 10 seconds the stimulation goes away. And the third scenario, the dog runs back to its owner. Perfect, right? No. When the dog runs back, the stimulation turns off. Dogs are extremely place oriented and the dog may have just learned that being away from its owner is dangerous and that the area near its owner’s side is the safest place to be. You may now not be able to get the dog to leave your side in pursuit of your feathered targets.
Obviously, this is the wrong way to introduce a dog to the collar. To maximize the benefits of this device, you must teach electronic training to the dog. You want the collar to produce a bold and confident dog, one that is happy and performs with enthusiasm when in the field. Garmin, SportDOG and Dogtra are at the top of the list of companies that offer great training tools for hunting dogs. The following are three of my favorite devices on the market, with all available either online or in-store through your local Sportsman’s Warehouse.
The PRO 550 Plus incorporates the robust training features of the PRO 550 series, providing 18 levels of momentary or continuous stimulation, tone and vibration – as well as the ability to operate beacon lights on the dog device for low-light hunting situations. The PRO 550 Plus handheld is compatible and easily paired with any existing TT 15 or TT 15 Mini dog devices.
Integrating the proven training capabilities of the PRO 550 series, the PRO 550 Plus enhances communication between dog and owner through a built-in LCD display near the base of the handheld. This display provides an easy-to-read directional pointer and numerical yardage readout. The system provides location updates every 2.5 seconds for up to three dogs, so whether a dog is working in heavy cover or at a distance, a quick glance to the handheld gives individuals the ability to help pinpoint their dog’s location in near real time. Range for training and tracking is over two miles (depending on terrain) and battery life is approximately 24 hours for the PRO 550 Plus handheld.
The DriveTrack 71 includes preloaded TOPO maps of the U.S. and portions of Canada, a one-year subscription to BirdsEye Satellite Imagery and detailed, turn-by-turn road maps of North America – making the device fully capable for both town and country.
When paired with the free Garmin Smartphone Link app, the new DriveTrack 71 can access free live services, including live traffic, basic weather, speed cameras and red-light cameras and live parking lot availability. The app also gives users the ability to receive smart notifications from their phone, including text messages, calendar reminders, address sharing and app alerts. The LiveTrack feature lets users share their location with friends or hunting buddies, so they can efficiently coordinate rendezvous points and dog pickup locations. In addition, hunters can see their dogs’ whereabouts at-a-glance by pairing their PRO 550 Plus to any fēnix 3, fēnix 5, tactix Bravo or tactix Charlie series smartwatches.
The PRO 550 Plus comes bundled with a TT 15 dog device and is now available for a suggested retail price of $649.99. For those who already have compatible TT 15 or T 5 series collars, the PRO 550 Plus handheld can be purchased separately for $399.99 MSRP. The DriveTrack 71 is also available now for $399.99 MSRP.
The SportDOG 875 gives you the option of customizing the transmitter to fit your needs. It also allows you the option of changing the stimulation setup as your needs change or if you want different options in different situations. You can easily toggle between dogs, keeping the right stim level for each dog with the push of a single button, with no adjustments needed.
Modes include Continuous and Momentary STIM with Tone or Vibration, Tone and Vibration with Continuous or Momentary STIM, Continuous STIM with +2 Boost and Vibration or Tone and Continous STIM with Vibration or Tone and Locator Beeper (sold separately).
Another feature in the 875 collar is the ability to change stimulation settings at the collar. The collar has a low and medium setting. This allows you the option of finding the correct range of stimulation for your dog. Lower the overall stimulation choices for more sensitive dogs and raise the levels for hard-headed or stubborn ones.
You can change the collar setting at any time while it is in use. You can also have collars set up on different levels and work them from the same transmitter. This allows you the option of working sensitive and stubborn dogs from the same transmitter.
Dogtra has taken training to a new level with the ARC HANDSFREE unit, giving you the ability to adjust the sensitivity of the collar with ease. You can select from three levels or modes:
Dog training professionals from around the world have come to appreciate the ease of use that the ARC HANDSFREE offers. It is designed with hunting dogs in mind and will fit neck sizes from 6- to 26-inches and is best suited for mild to medium temperaments.
The handsfree remote can be worn on your wrist or strapped to your shotgun for easy access in hunting situations. Dogtra’s ARC HANDSFREE features a bluetooth connected HandsFree fingertip controller. When keeping the fingertip controller and the handheld transmitter within 33-feet of each other, you will be able to train your dog with the smaller fingertip device. This lets you keep the transmitter on your belt, letting you train your dog more discreetly. But, the ARC still has a range of up to 3/4 of a mile between the collar and the handheld transmitter.
Two other features stand out on the ARC that makes it a great choice for training your dogs. First, the ARC “Advanced Receiver Concept” is brilliant. Proper placement of the collar and a good fit are key to successful training. The ARC receiver collar is curved, allowing for an ergonomically correct fit and consistent contact with your dog’s neck area. Second, the handheld transmitter has a checkered pattern, so you always have a firm grip of the transmitter. Keep in mind though, this is a one dog system. It is not expandable.
The electronic collar should not be thought of as a training shortcut. You still need to develop habit through repetition. If the collar is not used only as a punishment device, it will help develop a well-trained dog that hunts in control and with style.
My name is Dan Kidder, I am Managing Editor of Sportsman's News Magazine. I am a former Marine who served with the Fleet Anti Terrorism Security Team Company during Operation Desert Storm. Prior to moving to Utah, I served as communications director for Georgia Congressman Mac Collins in his Washington, DC office. I am the President and CEO of On Target Defensive Training, offering firearms and unarmed combat courses to civilians and law enforcement. My students have included federal agents of the FBI, CIA, Secret Service, Border Patrol, ICE, local and state law enforcement, national celebrities, and the general public. My beat at Sportsman's News includes tactical firearms, personal protection, survival, first aid, camping, and hiking.