The “shock” collar – or by it’s proper name the e collar – is an amazing tool for dog training. However, I’ve seen a lot of dogs out and about with the collar worn improperly, perhaps by owners who believe it doesn’t make a difference. So here are the details:
Where exactly should you be placing the shock collar on your dog’s neck? It should sit on either the left or right side of the throat, between 6 o’clock and 3 o’clock or 6 o’clock and 9 o’clock respectively.
The collar should NOT be sitting any higher (on the side of the neck) or any lower (over the throat) than that. Proper placement is an extremely important aspect for both the comfort of your dog and quality training with an electronic collar.
Why So Specific?
A “shock” collar works by electronically stimulating nerves and muscles similar to a muscle TENS unit would do. The reason you need to be accurate when placing it around your dog’s neck is precisely because of all of the different muscles in that area.
The large main muscles we avoid with proper placement are the sternocephalicus on the upper side of the neck and the sternohyoid along the throat, both of which are very sensitive.
Hitting a different muscle or group of muscles with that electronic stimulation can produce vastly different sensations to your dog. Moving the collar can create a situation where the stimulation is either not felt at all anymore or is felt as 10 times more powerful than normal.
It is extremely important to keep everything consistent – especially for amateur dog trainers or those just getting started with electronic collars. Placing the collar in a different place than usual or having it shift during training and causing a different level of stimulation is the exact opposite of remaining consistent.
Apart from causing discomfort to your dog with the actual electronic stimulation, placing the collar over the throat causes even more issues. The nature of a shock or e collar requires it to be tight – tighter than any other collar you would be placing on your dog.
Having the bulk of the collar with those contact points pressing tightly against their throat and windpipe is MUCH more uncomfortable for your dog than properly placing it and having just the strap over those areas.
Mistakenly placing the collar can also wreak havoc on your training progress. On many modern shock collars with many levels, even the lowest levels can be felt by your dog and are most likely the levels that you are working with.
Even on those low settings, if you are hitting those sensitive muscle groups the stimulation your dog feels can be too much of a distraction to learn properly. They will be way more focused on figuring out what caused that surprising sensation and not at all on what you are saying or trying to get them to do.
Creating unnecessary distractions can leave you spinning your wheels when trying to train your dog – whether you are teaching basic commands or just introducing an e collar to an already trained dog.
Making sure that your collar is properly placed and will not move while your dog jumps and bounds around will save you a ton of headaches with trying to regain their focus and attention.
Electronic collars are awesome tools for training dogs – just keep in mind that it does matter where you place them. There are a ton of other things to know when it comes to shock collars – including all of the myths and lies told about them.
If you are having issues with introducing or training with an e collar, I recommend you find a trainer in your area familiar and skilled in the use of them.
Make Sure The Shock Collar Won’t Move Around By Itself
How tight should your e collar be? Tighter than you think it should be. No, seriously. Almost everyone puts the collar on too loose. It’s understandable: You feel like your dog will be uncomfortable or won’t be able to breathe if it is any tighter. But remember: We don’t want to hit a sensitive muscle group. That means the collar should never be able to shift on it’s own.
A shock collar needs to be tight enough that BOTH of those contact points make it through your dog’s fur and contact skin. That’s the only way they work. For most dogs and collars, that means you can slip one or possibly two fingers under the strap.
You should also be able to rotate the collar around their neck, BUT it should be moderately difficult to do so. Again: you do not want the collar to turn freely, even if your dog is running, jumping, rolling or otherwise being extremely active.
Once you have it properly tight, don’t start second guessing or stressing about it. Millions of dogs wear an e collar just as tight as I describe every single day. I promise you: They can breathe and are doing just fine. Just like wearing a watch, it becomes second nature to them.
Take It Off Every Night
A question I almost always get after describing proper fit of a shock collar is “should or should my dog wear it all of the time?” NO! There are a number of issues that can arise from extensive wearing of a tightened e collar – hair loss wear it is worn, mats under the strap, and the worst – hot spots or sores from the contact points’ continuous pressure for days, weeks, or months!
Please do not do this! This is where the misinformation about “burns” or “holes in the neck” come from. Pictures you might have seen online purporting a “shock” from the collar caused the wounds.
You should be removing the collar every night and putting it back on in the morning – again kind of like wearing a watch. This makes sure that your dog barely even registers wearing it – it’s second nature. Never have them wearing it more than 14 hours per day.
That’s why I listed both ideal “pockets” to place a shock collar in and didn’t just tell you a ONE SIDED answer. Having the collar at a proper placement and tightness and taking it off every night still carries a possibility of creating “hot spots” or sores where the contact points touch the skin.
You should be switching the collar from side to side during the day – every 4 or 5 hours. Doing this will eliminate the risk of developing those hot spot issues.
How To Make The Proper Fit Easier
Making sure to get your collar properly placed and tightened every morning – and then switch every 4 hours – can turn into quite the hassle.
The main culprit for the struggle is that factory strap that almost certainly came with your collar. It is a sometimes lengthy process to unbuckle it, shift it, and re-buckle it at the proper tightness. You can always mark the proper hole with some nail polish or a permanent marker to take the counting or guesswork out of it.
However, what I’ve found to be the best solution is to purchase a quick release strap with an integrated bungee. You only have to find the proper fit once. From then on you fasten and remove the collar using the quick release buckle, while the bungee makes sure the tightness is always there preventing that movement we are looking to avoid.
This would work for most medium and large dogs, but is probably too large for small breeds. In that case I would recommend this version that has an adjustable amount of bungee cord as the strap.