Training your dog is one of the most important things you do as a pet parent. Teaching puppies not to jump, how to hold their bladder and where they can—and can’t— sit is crucial to developing happy, healthy adult dogs. Many dog owners use training collars as tools to curb bad habits. Some emit sounds or vibrations to divert your dog’s attention away from a naughty activity. Others are designed to create resistance if your dog moves in a certain way. Some use electric or static shocks to halt behavior. Training collars are not miracle solutions and they won’t work without your diligence and dedication to a consistent training regimen. But, they can definitely help if you’re stuck.
The 10 Best Dog Training Collars—And How to Use Them Safely
For boundary training, pulling and more.
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The Best Dog Training Collars at a Glance
Positive Reinforcement Training Is Key
In the past few decades, researchers have established time and again that canines learn best through positive reinforcement. Hannah Gillihan, a Certified Dog Trainer at Zoom Room Dog Training, says positive reinforcement training is Zoom Room’s entire brand. “Using this method, your dog will become excited to train with you and pick up skills much faster…The best fix for pulling, barking or jumping is training—and your dog will work so much better if they are being rewarded for doing something right!”
Negative, dominance or “alpha male” training, like verbal anger or physical force in response to unwanted behavior, often sends dogs in the opposite direction we want them to go. Canines are emotionally intelligent (that’s what makes them pros at therapy work!). Fear-based training establishes unhealthy relationships and your dog is more likely to develop anxious or aggressive behaviors.
Positive reinforcement training means rewarding good behaviors to signal your dog which actions they should continue. The key is administering rewards immediately—almost instantly —after the desired action. Praising (or scolding) your dog in a general sense won’t teach them anything. They need to know exactly which behavior you're responding to so they can associate it with a particular result.
Before turning to a training collar, try positive reinforcement training, working with a professional dog trainer (Zoom Room conducts virtual sessions) or clicker training.
Are Training Collars Ethical?
Many dog owners interested in training collars are hesitant. Are these tools ethical? Yes and no. Some training collars are generally accepted as more ethical than others. For example, the ASPCA warns shock collars that use electricity or static charges to administer small shocks to dogs during obedience sessions “can create fear, anxiety and aggression in your dog toward you or other animals.”
In fact, many training collars with shock capabilities advise against using them on dogs who already display aggression or reactivity, as it can exacerbate this trait. It’s also unwise to try out a shock collar on older dogs, puppies younger than six months and dogs with existing health conditions.
Another big issue with shock collars is you may inadvertently administer a harsher shock than anticipated (most shock training collars come with levels of intensity). Once this happens, you’ve frightened and potentially harmed your dog, making future relationship building and training sessions infinitely more difficult. Some users have reported defective shock training collars burning their dogs’ skin.
“We do not recommend the use of aversive collars like prong collars, choke collars, or shock collars, as these collars are ‘correct[ing]’ and ‘punishing’ your dog for an unwanted behavior,” Gillihan told us. “These collars may temporarily change your dog’s behavior, but they are not long-term fixes.”
On the other hand, the ASPCA says collars that use vibrations only can be enormously beneficial to dogs—especially hearing-impaired or deaf canines. These collars, and those that emit high-pitched sounds, achieve the same goals as shocks. They stop dogs from doing what they’re doing and redirect their attention to you.
Gillihan also recommends fully adjustable martingale collars. These collars provide a separate loop of fabric for the leash connection. “If your dog pulls hard or tries to shake their way out of their collar, that extra loop of fabric quickly tightens the collar so your dog cannot get out – and it does so without choking them,” Gillihan said. Martingale collars are ideal for dogs who are leash training or have narrower necks, like Greyhounds.
How to Use Training Collars
Do not jump head-first into the world of training collars before your dog has a firm grasp of basic commands. Work with your puppy to establish the fundamentals—sit, stay, potty training, etc., before moving onto training collars.
Most training collars that emit sound, vibration or static shocks aren’t meant for dogs under six months old. Even then, it’s recommended you try other training tactics first, like positive reinforcement and clicker training, before turning to a collar. Once you begin collar training, follow manufacturer directions to ensure it fits your dog properly—not too loose or tight—before using it. Start with sounds or tones and vibrations before graduating to any type of static shock.
If and when your vet or dog trainer gives you the OK to use a shock collar, always begin with the lowest possible setting. Take careful note of your dog’s reactions and check the skin beneath the collar frequently to ensure there is no irritation. Finally, it’s wise to rotate the collar every hour or so to prevent one area from becoming sore. In fact, training collars shouldn’t be worn more than a few hours at a time or during training sessions.
The goal with any training technique is to establish healthy solutions for naughty behaviors. If your dog doesn’t respond well to your chosen collar or becomes fearful of you or the collar itself, it’s time to move on to another tool. Excessive panting, aggression or cowering are signs things aren’t working and the collar should be removed.
- Pros: Lock feature, hypoallergenic contact points, customization options, multi-dog capabilities
- Cons: Unclear definition of shock vs. tapping, expensive
Educator E-Collar users love it and praise its customization options. There are more than 100 unique levels of stimulation, including vibration, sound and what the company calls “tapping.” Some users insist the tapping is the same as a shock, while others say it’s less intense than other shock collars. An ergonomically designed remote with an LED screen makes it easy for humans to use. This collar’s range is a half mile from the remote and comes with six different contact points in various lengths.
Best for Multi-Dog Households
- Pros: Rechargeable via USB, long battery life, sleek design, keypad lock
- Cons: Shock capabilities
With over 5,000 five-star reviews on Amazon, the Bousnic collar must be onto something. We love that a single remote can connect to two collars, making it an ideal option for multi-dog households. The collar adjusts to fit necks between six and 27 inches, too! There are 16 shock settings, plus sound and vibration options. We like that the metal prongs have silicone covers to prevent excess skin irritation.
Best for Barking
- Pros: Reflective material for nighttime use, dual-recognition for accuracy, water resistant collar
- Cons: Some dogs don’t respond to weak vibrations
If barking is the primary issue with your pup, find a collar dedicated specifically to that issue. This bark collar by Petdiary ($38) uses dual-recognition to make sure it activates only when your dog barks (it registers sound and the vibration of a bark in your dog’s throat). This also prevents it from activating when a nearby dog barks. As noted, one reviewer said their dog got used to the collar’s vibration and still barks when the collar is off. This is a clear indication the user assumed the collar would do all the work! You’re still a huge factor when it comes to training - don’t rely on the collar alone.
Best for Boundary Training
4. Halo Collar
- Pros: App control, activity and wellness tracking, GPS
- Cons: Expensive
Developed by world-famous dog trainer Cesar Millan and tech visionary Ken Ehrman, the Halo collar is the new-and-improved, shockless invisible fence. The collar is more comfortable compared to many other training collars and the battery lasts for over 20 hours. To use it, you program boundaries into the app. When your dog comes close to one - say, at the edge of your yard - the collar prompts them to turn back by emitting feedback (sound, vibration or static shock is available). Halo lets you build up to 20 wireless fences. Plus, there are specific training tools you can access. There are also Halo Beacons you can place around your home to keep your dog away from certain areas (like the pantry).
Best for Sporting Dogs
- Pros: Long range, lightweight, one remote can connect to three collars, waterproof collar
- Cons: Shock capabilities with no lock feature, pricier than many models
Dogs who have work to do and need to train quickly in the field can benefit from this collar, built specifically with outdoor sporting dogs in mind. This is SportDOG’s most popular training collar model. It’s also their lightest and smallest, which means more comfort for your dog. Choose between sound, vibration and static shock (there are 21 different levels). The remote to collar range is 500 yards and a two-hour charge gets you 50 to 70 hours of activity.
Best for Small Dog Breeds
- Pros: Fun design, made specifically for small breeds, reflective collar strap for nighttime
- Cons: Shock capabilities, metal progs without guards
Advertised as the “smallest dog shock collar in the world,” the eXuby certainly is tiny! Though manufactured specifically to deliver smaller shocks to teeny pups, some shock settings may be too intense for your dog, so begin with the sound and vibration modes first. (eXuby also recommends testing the shock setting on yourself first, to gage strength.) Use the remote up to 1,000 feet away and clearly read mode and settings on its large display.
Best with GPS
LINK MY PET
- Pros: Shock-free, device works with any collar
- Cons: Need to download an app and use your phone during training, pricey
While the primary goal of Link My Pet’s activity tracker is to keep an eye on your dog’s whereabouts and wellness via GPS, the app also offers training tools. Users can remotely control the collar to give off sounds or vibrations during training sessions. There’s also a YouTube channel to access with tutorials and tips. Link will send temperature alerts to you if your pup is overheating and location alerts if your pup wanders outside a programmed boundary.
Best for Dogs Who Pull
- Pros: Tech-less, wide size range available, shock-free, budget-friendly, ethical
- Cons: Stubborn dogs may find way to remove it, may be confusing to put on
This leader headcollar was designed by trainers specifically to deter strong-willed dogs from veering off-course during walks. This is not a muzzle - your dog can still drink, eat and play fetch while wearing it. While walking, if your pup tries to pull you, the collar puts pressure on the back of the neck (not the throat, as a normal collar would) to divert the dog’s pull back to you. The manufacturer recommends using this leader in short spurts to get your dog acclimated.
- Pros: Budget-friendly, ethical, safe
- Cons: No remote control capability
As recommended by Gillihan, this martingale collar tightens when your dog pulls on the leash. It’s a great solution for dogs while leash training or who have a tendency to pull. It comes in a variety of sizes and four bright colors. The security of the collar’s design also ensures your dog can’t wriggle free from it, which is good news for stubborn pups who are still very much learning how to walk with their humans.
Best for Large Dog Breeds
- Pros: Works on large breeds with thick coats, large range
- Cons: Battery-operated with specific batteries by PetSafe, no vibration option
This collar-remote combo provides a 100-yard range for you and your dog, making it a great choice for big breeds who like to roam. There are 16 unique levels of shock stimulation and a tone you can use, as well. If it rains, have no fear, this thing is waterproof! Only designed for use on dogs 40 pounds and above.