Throughout the journey training with a remote collar, one of the biggest challenges you’re likely to face with the tool is making consistent contact on the dog.
If the contact points on the receiver are not consistently making good contact with your dog’s skin, the stim mode will be spotty at best. This can leave you hanging during critical training moments or in the midst of an emergency.
It can also lead to overcorrecting your dog; if you set the transmitter higher in response to your e-collar not working as you expected it to, and then the dog shifts its posture and gets better contact with the contact points, you can end up using levels that are too high for your given situation.
Obviously, we want to avoid this.
A good remote collar is marked by its reliability. Let’s talk about how to keep your dog training tools reliable.
Your Dog’s Posture During E-Collar Fitting
It’s a good idea when putting on your dog’s remote collar that your dog’s neck is in a neutral position. If your dog is sitting, they will tend to look around at you as you maneuver and manipulate the collar. This movement causes flexion and extension of various muscles within the neck, and in turn affects the size of the neck in general.
When you size the collar for the dog in this position, the collar can come loose when your dog stands up and those muscles relax.
This is why I always recommend putting on the e-collar when your dog is standing, because their neck will be neutral. Your dog will also most likely be in a standing or some other neutral-neck position for most of the time you plan on using your e-collar, so fitting it to that is going to be the best for getting good contact.
Getting the Best E-Collar Fit
Firstly, you want to make sure that your remote collar is fitting snug on your dog.
One of the most common mistakes I see with dog owners who are struggling with the remote collar is that they are having their dog wear the collar too loosely.
Understand that the e-collar is not like your dog’s standard flat collar that they wear to carry their tags. The collar needs to be snug in order for it to serve its purpose.
The e-collar should ideally sit mid-neck. This allows for you to employ other gear, like a flat collar, slip lead, head halti, muzzle, prong collar, or whatever setup you might have for your dog.
However, you’ll find that some dogs with very tapered neck will end up with their remote collars slipping to the narrowest part of their neck, which is often up high behind the ears. This slipping can cause the e-collar to no longer fit properly, and contact can then become spotty.
If this happens to your dog, best to claim it, and put the e-collar on at that spot when it first goes on.
When checking that your remote collar is snug enough, slip two fingers underneath the band. You should barely be able to do so.
You can also check the fit by trying to rotate the collar or move the receiver around. If doing so is easy, fit the collar again.
Managing Fur and the E-Collar
Another common issue with getting good contact on the remote collar is the dog’s fur.
Some dogs are easy. Dobermans, Danes, Pitties, and other dogs with very short hair are a walk in the park when getting good contact with the e-collar.
But what about the likes of Huskies, German Shepherd Dogs, Samoyeds, Keeshonds, and Pomeranians? The small breeds are especially difficult when they have long, dense coats, because then you have two obstacles to overcome: the coat and the size.
I do have more information on How to Train Small Dogs with the E-Collar in regards to the size. But I’ll confess that it took me much longer than I care to admit to figure out how to get a good contact on the remote collar for my own Pomeranian.
The reason that plush coats make getting good contact so difficult is that it pads the space between the receiver and the neck. Fluffy dogs have hair that battles with the fit of the collar itself, creating false space that results in the collar sitting too loosely and sliding around. Dense-coated dogs also have more fur to obstruct the actual contact points on the receiver. It’s like a pillow for their skin, except the pillow isn’t being helpful in making sure those contact points actually meet the skin.
You can manage this in a few ways.
Firstly, I recommend giving your dog a quick brushing if they are a shedder or have a lot of extra hair. Brushing will remove any excess hairs, and also hopefully smooth out the hairs that remain, making the rest of the process easier.
Find the spot on your dog’s neck where you’d like the receiver to sit, and part the dog’s hair the best you can. Place the receiver in that spot, with the contact points sitting directly on the part. Tighten the collar, being careful to pull your dog’s hair away from the buckle or clip (on bungee collars) before securing it.
Then, take one more go-around and pull excess hair out from under the collar band. You can use your fingers or a brush for this; it shouldn’t take more than a minute. Then, see if the collar could use any extra tightening with the hair pulled away from the strap.
Picking the Right Accessories for Your Dog
Picking the right contact points is very important for insuring that you are consistently getting good contact on the remote collar.
Most dogs will do just fine with the contact points that come in the box of most good remote collar brands, like Dogtra and E-Collar Technologies.
If your dog is short-haired like a Beagle or Lab, the shorter points will most likely suffice.
If your dog is a longer-haired dog like a Golden Retriever or a Border Collie, the longer points will most likely be the best bet for you.
There are also several other options for different coat types. Wing tips help tremendously with my Pomeranian’s double coat, and my Doberman wears a comfort pad for his very short coat. There’s options for dogs who are particularly sensitive to stim (reducers) and dogs with very long, plush coats (extra-long contact points).
Note that “right contact points” does not equal “longest contact points.” Extra-long contact points on a dog that doesn’t truly need them can put the receiver on an awkward balance. This can cause the receiver to get pushed around easily or even flip to the side, which definitely defeats the point.
What’s more, using contact points that are longer than the dog needs can cause undue discomfort because of the extra pressure on a coat that doesn’t need it.
Another type of accessory that can be helpful is replacement collar bands. Bungee collars, for example, have elastic portions that allow for the e-collar to tighten perfectly every time, and flex with the dog’s movements. I use third-party bungee collars for both of my smaller dogs, where sizing day-to-day can be more of a challenge.
My doberman mix, Milo, wears a custom-made hidden e-collar that I put together myself. Despite the fact that it does, indeed, hide his e-collar, hiding it was not really the point in setting this up.
Because Milo has a short, slick coat and a tapered neck, the remote collar kept slipping up to behind his ears and causing hotspots over time. So I put together a collar that would let me position his collar anywhere on his neck without slipping.
I like that the collar closes with velcro and then buckles, which lets me tighten it exactly right each time it goes on.
Mine is a DIY version, but similar designs are available from Ray Allen, made to fit Dogtra’s curved design. If/when his mini educator ever goes kaput, I’d seriously consider switching him to a Dogtra just to get the better version of my homemade hidden e-collar.
Finding the right contact points and accessories for you comes down to evaluating the dog in front of you and their particular needs. Luckily, though, most dogs will do just fine with the setup right out of the box.