Are electronic dog training collars safe?

If you have questions regarding the safety of remote training collars be careful who you seek information from. Too often, questions are answered with stories and opinion that has little to do with fact and reality. And individuals intent on portraying e-collars as harmful continue to spread misinformation by perpetuating the myth that the collars can burn.

This myth simply is not true. 

The electrical output of a remote training collar is not high enough to generate the heat needed to burn tissue. 

This chart provides a comparison of the energy output between remote collars, bark collars, fence collars and other commonly used static devices. It demonstrates how these tools stack up against equipment used in the human medical community. The energy output of a remote training collar is significantly less than these human devices and none of them burn skin. 
Electricity is a complex thing to understand and I won’t pretend to be expert enough to explain it, but the variance in output has much to do with how static electricity is different from current (ex: what comes from a wall outlet) and those differences make it safe and unable to burn tissue.

If you are still questioning the safety based on pictures you’ve seen with nasty looking sores on the dog’s neck or dramatic stories you hear about “burns” let me clarify some information. 

Those lesions are caused by friction or pressure necrosis. They are not caused by heat output burning the skin but by the user allowing inappropriate wear time or inappropriate fit of the collar. 

Pressure necrosis can occur if the collar is left on the dog for too long of a period of time. These sores can occur with other training tools as well. Gentle leaders or other head halters, ill fitted harnesses, prong or slip collars and even regular flat buckle collars can all cause problems when not fitted properly and/or allowed to be worn for too long of a time.

The restriction of blood flow to an area, over a period of time, will cause the tissue to break down and ulcerate. In humans an example of pressure necrosis are bed sores which are caused if immobile patients are not repositioned frequently enough. 

Imagine wearing a rubber band snug around your wrist for several days. The skin underneath that restriction will not fare well being subjected to limited blood flow for excessive time frames. The same can happen with e-collars left on too long. Because they have to fit snug in order to work properly they should not be left on the dog for unlimited amounts of time.

Additionally, e-collars must fit properly so that the neck is not subjected to unnecessary amounts of rubbing or friction. If a collar is too loose, the rubbing of the contacts points and receiver box will eventually wear at the hair and skin and could create a sore. The same type of sores happen when dog’s scratch, bite or lick at them repeatedly and cause a hot spot to develop. Hot spots are itchy and result in a moist, red, oozing sore that can quickly increase in size or become infected due to the dog continued scratching at it.

All of these problems can easily be prevented if you simply follow responsible management protocols. Keep these tips in mind when using an e-collar and you will not have a problem with any skin irritation developing.

  1. Fit the training collar properly. Make sure the collar is snug enough that it does not freely rotate around the dog’s neck, nor have the ability to “rise and fall” as the dog lowers or lifts his head to and from the ground. 
  2. If your dog is going to be wearing the collar for a full day of training, reposition the receiver box every few hours so that it is not always in the exact same spot. 
  3. Do not keep the remote collar on your dog for more than 10 or so hours daily. 
  4. To improve contact change the contact points, if needed, to suit the dog’s hair coat. Many breeds fair well with the standard 5/8 inch contact point. However, very short coated breeds such as Boxers, and Pinchers can use short 1/2 inch points or a 24 hour contact pad. Dogs with long or very thick coats will do better with 3/4 inch contact points.
  5. Remote collars are safe to use in water or wet conditions. However, it is advisable to remove the collar after swimming or exposure to extreme wet weather. This allows the skin under the receiver and strap adequate opportunity to dry out. Allowing moisture to remain for extended periods of time with the collar strap and box snugged down is akin to continuing to walk in wet socks and shoes. Moisture + friction accelerate the optimal conditions needed to create skin irritation. 
  6. Brush your dog on a routine basis to keep loose or dead hair from building up in the coat. 
  7. Check your dog’s neck each time you put on or take off the collar to make sure the skin is healthy and irritation free. 

The moral of the story is that remote training collars do not burn and pressure necrosis is completely preventable through good management practices. Train smart and enjoy time with your dog!


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