When Can I Stop Using My Dog’s Remote Collar?

when can i stop using the e-collar

One question I receive a fairly frequently from reluctant dog owners is when they can phase out the e-collar or remote collar from their dog’s life, or if their dog will need to wear the remote collar “forever.”

When it comes to deciding to take your dog off e-collar or not, my response is almost always the same: if you have a tool that’s helping you bring about great results and give your dog its best life as a result, why would you want to remove that tool?

I think there’s an understandable disconnect there because I am so comfortable with e-collars and remote collars as a part of training and daily life. With each dog I train, there’s always new things to learn and new situations to respond to, and so having that tool in my toolbox is valuable to have for most dogs even after their initial training period.

That said, I do understand where these clients are coming from. While some clients are more than comfortable incorporating remote collar training into their day-to-day with their dog and are thrilled at all the living they get to do with their dogs as a result, other dog owners are a lot more hesitant. If you’ve been on the internet for five minutes or watched Animal Planet as a child, you’ll surely have been exposed to the fear-mongering around remote collars.

There are so many unfortunate myths and misconceptions that it’s easy for dog owners to think that remote collar training is mean or that all versions are exactly the same. Every once in a while, I’ll have a client who needs help desperately and is willing to do anything to save their dog, but still holds that unfortunate stigma against the tool that helped make it possible. For those dog owners, I’d recommend my article on What is the Difference Between Shock Collars and eCollars? which goes into detail on remote collar training and hopefully helps in dispelling some of those myths.

How Long Should You Use an E-collar?

E-collar use is important for as long as the dog is not consistent or reliable in the set of behavior standards you have for them.

For example, if you are in situations where your dog is mostly fine but might chase cats sometimes, the e-collar is going to continue being helpful and possibly even critical to training.

Usually, there is a period of at least several months where e-collar is going to be helpful during real-world training as dogs learn several new standards and get the reward feedback they need, as well.

This is on top of the brief conditioning period, where we teach our dog that the e-collar is not, as a rule, aversive. I talk about this conditioning process and its purpose in my article, How to Condition an E-collar or Remote Collar.

At the end of the day, the period you need to have your dog regularly using their e-collar is going to vary based on the dog, the human, and the circumstances including goals. However, I typically see dogs using their e-collar for several months before reconsidering.

Do You Have to Use an E-collar Forever?

You do not have to use the e-collar forever, if that is not what you want to do as the dog owner. However, I find that most dog owners asking about discontinuing use of their dog’s e-collar have certain hangups or are still holding onto myths and misconceptions about the tool.

To put it simply, my recommendation to my clients is to not fix what isn’t broken. Quality remote collars are an incredibly beneficial part of training that keeps your dog reliable and safe by giving you a means to follow through on both small boundary-pushing behaviors as well as severe life-happens moments. Remote collars can save your dog’s training, but they can also save your dog’s life.

You can read about my early days using remote collars, and how having access to the tools saved my dog’s life in the article, The Dog That Turned Me Into A Trainer.

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Even if your dog is reliable most of the time, a remote collar is a great tool to have on-hand for those moments and emergencies. I always recommend continuing use of the remote collar, at least during “when in doubt” moments like traveling, off-leash time, and new situations. For dogs with a history of aggressive behavior, this can mean wearing the remote collar quite frequently for some time.

That said, “forever” is an awfully strong word, and at the end of the day, not all dogs will absolutely need to use the remote collar in their normal day-to-day. Luckily, we at Lugaru K9 Training have a simple test for e-collar training to help you decide if your dog is ready to wean off the remote collar.

How Do I Know When My Dog Is Ready to Stop Using the Remote Collar?

While reducing or stopping use of the remote collar is certainly possible for many dogs, the truth is that most dog owners will attempt to stop using the remote collar too soon. Some dog owners will also try to do this cold-turkey after seeing how reliable their dog is after one of our 3-week board-and-train programs.

The truth is, transitioning off the remote collar too early or attempting to do so cold-turkey can actually be quite detrimental to maintaining your dog’s training and keeping up with your dog’s reliability.

I’ve had clients become so comfortable with their dog’s behavior and stop having the dog wear the remote collar altogether, leading to a slow but steady loss in obedience compliance, and gradually worsening behavior. What’s more is that it’s rare for dog owners to attempt to compensate for this with an increase in reward, essentially abandoning their maintenance plan entirely.

You can avoid making this mistake by putting your dog through a vetting process prior to actually removing the remote collar. At Lugaru K9 Training, we recommend testing your dog over a full month before removing the remote collar.

Prior to this weaning period, it’s a good idea to keep up with your maintenance training for about two months to ensure that your dog has a lot of practice receiving both reward and correction consequences within your own lifestyle environments. This period is non-negotiable and will help your dog understand and practice the standards in your home.

After roughly two months and your dog has been reliable in your daily life, you can start the vetting process.

remote collar off leash training

The first part of transitioning your dog off the remote collar lasts for two weeks. During this time, rather than using the stim function on your remote collar, you will switch to using either the tone or the vibrate function. During this time, the goal is to remove the stim function entirely, and have your dog receive feedback with only tone or vibrate.

If you have to resort to using a stim correction during these two weeks, your dog is not ready to put away the remote collar yet. Give it another month of training with the ecollar, and then start again in the vetting process at day one.

If all goes well with no stim function for two weeks, you can move onto the last step in the weaning process.

During the next two weeks, have your dog continue to wear the remote collar as usual, and stop using the tone and vibrate as well. If you end up needing to use the stim, vibrate, or tone during these two weeks, your dog is not ready to be reliable without the remote collar.

If your dog isn’t ready, it’s best to spend a little more time in the first phase of using the remote collar, and then start the month of weaning over when your dog is a little more consistent.

If all went according to plan during the last two weeks, congratulations! Your dog has passed the test, and you can put away the remote collar if that is your wish.

Other Things to Consider While Weaning Off the E-collar

Remember that even if your dog does not need to be wearing the remote collar constantly, there are times when it’s going to be recommended to have your dog wear it, even if they are mostly reliable.

I recommend that dogs with a history of aggression wear their remote collars around their old triggers for a longer period of time. All e-collar trained dogs should also be wearing their remote collars during off-leash time or any situation where reliable behavior is especially important.

While most people can wean their dog off the remote collar if that is their desire, I often ask clients to consider why they would want to remove entirely a tool that helped get significant improvement in their dog’s behavior and quality of life.

A remote collar worn does not always have to be in use. But a remote collar at the back of a drawer can’t help you in an important training moment or in an emergency.

Author: Kimberlee Tolentino

Kimee has worked hands-on with dogs for over ten years, and today serves the role of head trainer and owner at Lugaru K9 Training in Port Orchard, Washington. Kimee has been a shelter volunteer, a dog walker, dog behavior intern, a dog trainer, and now specializes in behavior modification for pet dogs.