Vets Say Electric Dog Training Collars are Unethical: Here are 6 Humane Alternatives for Training Your Dog

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Need to train your dog? These 6 dog training collars come highly-revered — and are available online.

When you're ready to train your dog, but not sure where to begin, your best bet is to choose a highly qualified, experienced professional dog trainer. That said, there are many new pet parents who don't have time for weekly classes with their pups but still want the benefits of the training. Those folks are becoming more often inclined to purchase a training collar, which work primarily using vibration, shock, noxious spray, or audible warning tone — and which some find unnecessarily cruel (many are banned in Europe, for example).

One trainer we spoke to explained that if a pet parent prefers training with a training collar, they should first choose a respected professional trainer to show them how to use it properly. Without a solid understanding of canine behavior and proper usage of the products, the collars can become counterproductive, confuse the animal, and damage your relationship with your dog irreparably. 

While there may not be actual classes offered using the products, some trainers would happily set aside the time to show you how to use the collars appropriately. Further, the Canine Journal states, "We suggest NOT using these collars until your dog understands basic commands like sit and stay. That way you know that they comprehend what you are asking them to do and they can draw the association between any negative behavior and the “shock” (or other action). 

While there are plenty of new pet training products on the horizon, f or our purposes today, we will focus on the shock-free, smart collar options available online and where to buy such training collars. Our research revealed the following best-of categories in the process:

Link AKC Smart Dog Collar 

ethical dog training collars

Ideal for dogs of at least 10 pounds, this smart collar from Link AKC won the Best of Innovation prize at CES 2017. With GPS tracking, activity recommendations, and alerts sent to your phone whenever your dog leaves their 'digital safe zone', your fur baby will be closely monitored when this learning collar is paired with the Link AKC app. 

Bundle a year of service when you purchase the device, or set up monthly payments of $6.95 per month.

Price: $79.00

Buy it: You can get this one on the LINK AKC website, or on Amazon. Get 15% off your purchase with one of our Link AKC promo codes.

Pros: 

  • Works with iOS and Android
  • Record, remember, and share special walks, hikes, and other adventures with your dog   
  • App-controlled LEDs
  • Temperature alerts
  • GPS tracking is excellent
  • Battery life up to 3 days

Cons:

  • Some reported activity tracking was off quite a bit of the time
  • Requires monthly service plan for connectivity

Bottom line:

This is a high tech training collar rated in the top 11 best smart collars by Heavy and rated above average after 762 Amazon reviews. As long as you have no trouble pairing with the app and you don't mind the monthly (or annual) fee, this one should meet just about any expectations.

WOLFWILL Humane No-Shock Waterproof Remote Dog Training Collar

ethical dog training collars

The Spruce gives this WOLFWILL training collar high praise for its pain-free sound tones and vibration effective up to 660 yards away with 16 levels of intensity. Maintaining a solid 4 stars after receiving 70% 5-star reviews on Amazon, the WOLFWILL is one of our favorite dog training collars with a remote. And, it has "touch-distinguished buttons" which are ideal for the blind, but not restricted to use by the blind or for seeing-eye dogs. 

Price: $66.89.

Buy it: You can find this collar on Amazon. Be sure to check for our Amazon promo codes here.

Pros:

  • Great customer service
  • Works adequately as described
  • Works well for deaf dogs
  • Rechargeable
  • Works well for the blind and seeing-eye dogs
  • Helpful for reducing problematic behavior, i.e. keeping dogs from jumping on furniture, chasing cats, etc.

Cons:

  • Very large; hard for smaller dogs to wear (fits 22-80 pound dogs best)
  • May not work for especially aggressive dogs or pups with thick fur

Bottom line:

This training collar is best for medium to large dogs. The collar works with two warning beeps followed by a gentle vibration to reprimand the pup. The gentle vibration is helpful to redirect dogs' behavior without the displeasure of a painful shock. Use the 'tone' button a couple of times to stop prolonged barking.

JANNIK Barking Control Collar

ethical dog training collars

Boasting a 4.5-star rating after 877 Amazon dog training collars reviews, the JANNIK Barking Control Collar has all the best training features for your doggo and none of the nasty ones. 

Price: $22.45.

Buy it: You can get this one on Amazon, with assorted promo codes here. 

Pros:

  • Easily adjustable strap
  • Water resistant for puddle-loving doggos
  • Tunes out barks of other dogs besides yours
  • Fits all sizes of dogs from 5 lbs. to 150 lbs.
  • Made of durable and reflective nylon

Cons:

  • Not ideal for very aggressive dogs
  • Some found their dog was able to determine pitches undetected by the collar, then only use those

Bottom line:

This is an adequate pain-free training collar alternative for those who want bark control and wish to avoid shocking their fur baby.

Note: Before reprimanding them, always consider what could actually be making your dog bark. Is there an intruder or stranger somewhere? Is there a different type of danger? Most of the time there's a reason for your dog's communication. Do your best to figure it out before using the anti-bark collar.

Garmin Astro 430  

ethical dog training collars                                                                                                                            

Got a wandering pupper? Train them to stay closer and keep an eye on their location during their adventures with the Garmin Astro 430 dog training collar with tracking. This system's powerful GPS can track up to 20 dogs from 9 miles away, provides hunt metrics data (like distance traveled), and has 100K of preloaded mapping stored to boot. 

Price: $649.99.

Buy it: You can get this one on the Garmin website, or find it on Amazon. Be sure to check for Garmin promo codes while you're at it.

Pros:

  • Perfect for rural or remote areas where dogs may go off the trails and become "lost"
  • Comes with optional in-unit rechargeable battery, or opt out to use standard AA batteries
  • No monthly data plan fees to cell phone companies
  • Monitor your dog remotely when your friend or mate takes them out hiking, hunting, etc. - even several miles away
  • Has a long battery life

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Some reported this equipment is disabled outside the U.S. and will not work

Bottom line:

Worth the price if your dog wanders a lot, if you hunt or hike in remote areas often, or you have other reasons for needing to monitor your dog's location.

PetSafe Gentle Leader Head Collar 

ethical dog training collars

Does your dog pull you along on walks? We've got you covered. When your morning dog walk gets a little too hectic, try this simple re-directive training collar harness from PetSafe. Just loop it around your dog's muzzle as shown in the included DVD and Fido will feel a gentle tug when they're too far ahead, jumping, etc. No painful zaps necessary.

Price: $15.95.

Buy it: You can find the Gentle Leader directly on the PetSafe website, or on Amazon or Chewy. You can find PetSafe coupon codes here, or find deals for Chewy here.

Pros:

  • Available in 8 colors and 6 sizes
  • Affordable
  • Works for dogs from 5-130 lbs.
  • Includes helpful DVD that demonstrates the appropriate way to use the collar 
  • Truly does help dogs stop pulling on the leash
  • Helps calm anxious or aggressive animals (if used properly by well-trained individuals)

Cons:

  • Some recent reviews report the quality and craftsmanship of the product has deteriorated since the company started

Bottom line:

The Gentle Leader is one of the gentlest, easiest ways to train your dog to heel on walks. Most report their dog responds almost instantly to the PetSafe collar and noticeable improvements to the daily walk occur right away. Brilliant DVD demonstrates proper usage so customers can use the collar easily. Still need help? Don't fret. Their customer service is open 6 days per week via call, chat, or email.

PAWONIT Gentle Spray Citronella Bark Control Training Collar

ethical dog training collars

For dogs that bark a bit too much, Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine's Animal Behavior Clinic explains that, “When it comes to calming 'nuisance-barking' dogs (which, if alone, are often experiencing separation anxiety), a spritz of fragrance under the chin is more effective than electric shock..." and followed up with, "Dog owners who tried both types of anti-barking collars preferred citronella spray." 

Several models of this type of dog training collar can be found on Amazon.

PAWONIT's Gentle Spray Citronella Bark Control Training Collar, one of the best bark control dog training collars, releases a tiny spritz of citronella beneath the dog's chin when barking is detected. This tiny spritz is usually enough to quiet the dog as they'll notice it, be distracted by it, and try to figure out where it's coming from.

Price: $28.99.

Buy it: You can get this one on Amazon as well.

Pros:

  • Compatible with several different types of eco-friendly CFC-free citronella fragrance
  • Adjustable spray amount and collar strap
  • Collar's technology is able to identify your own dog's bark over others to emit the citronella
  • Comes with 6V alkaline battery
  • Easy to maintain
  • LED indicator lets you know when the battery needs changing

Cons:

  • Citronella refill bottle is not included with purchase, but is said to be compatible with PetSafe, Dogtek, and other citronella refills available on Amazon
  • Only available in one color
  • Only shipped in the U.S.

Bottom line:

For those who prefer training with dog collars, this is a gentle option for bark control. Eco-friendly citronella sprays onto the dog's chin when they bark, distracting them from their barking, which leads to them being quiet. Change the battery when the LED light indicates and refill the citronella as needed. 

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KJ Callihan
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