Dogs make great companions, but not always well-behaved ones -- especially in their growing years. Modern collars are quite a bit more effective and humane than earlier versions, but keep in mind that any method of training works best when you build a real relationship with your dog.
Electronic training collars generally come in two varieties -- those that control barking and those that act as a remote leash. Bark-control collars curb excessive barking automatically, when they sense the barking. Training collars, also called remote trainers, come with a handheld remote control that allows the trainer to deliver a tone or electrical pulse as a corrective measure. Usually, trainers use this to keep dogs from wandering when unleashed, but they're also highly effective for teaching basic obedience.
Electronic "fences," such as invisible Fence or DogWatch, combine a collar and in-ground transmitters that form a perimeter around the yard or property where the dog is supposed to stay. These setups effectively exchange a physical barrier such as a fence or wall for a system that delivers electronic charges or ultrasonic sounds through the collar whenever the dog gets too close. Some trainers use smaller, indoor electronic fence setups to keep their dogs out of specific rooms or areas of the house.
Though the electronic pulses or shocks of modern collars or electronic fences are designed to be effective without being overly painful, it's essential to consult a veterinarian when setting the level of electronic emissions a collar or fence delivers. A jolt that would cause a large mastiff to flinch, for example, could be far too strong for a smaller dog, such as a greyhound. Also, a proper-fitting collar is key, as a too-large collar could be a strangulation hazard. Some collars, such as PetSafe, vibrate rather than emit electronic pulses.
Opponents of electronic training devices worry that, despite manufacturer's claims, jolts of electricity still hurt dogs. And some opponents may be all right with the collars or fences themselves, but fear that overuse -- particularly of handheld remote training collars -- is a real danger in an overzealous trainer's hands. Animal rights advocacy group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals warns that malfunctioning collars run the risk of emitting non-stop shocks and that the pain caused by these pulses can cause confusion, stress and agitation in dogs.