Remember when you could count on products made in China to be of the highest quality as well as a great value? Neither do we. That's one of the many reasons why we no longer represent some of the manufacturers that we did for so many years. In some cases their products were always made in China. In another they began as American-designed and -manufactured, but then were bought out and production was moved to China. Their extremely prolific and catchy advertising notwithstanding, we found that, more often than not, these products did not live up to their claimed range, were antiquated in design and size, or had batteries that often didn't last even one year. Warranty service also often left a great deal to be desired. So, buy an e-collar that costs $150 and have to replace it every year and a half, or buy something that costs $50 to $100 more and have something that might last a decade or more (with an occasional battery change). The choice is yours, but we would prefer to offer our customers only those products that we think are the best quality and best value over time. Tri-Tronics is the oldest e-collar manufacturer and their products are made in the USA. Dogtra's are made in Korea. Either way, quality and features are as good as you'll get. Some of the DT Systems products are OK also, but since Tri-Tronics and Dogtra units don't seem to have any voids in their feature set, we've put handling DT on hold.
So let's start as simply as possible with some quick recommendations.
If your dog is under 10 or 11 pounds, we don't have what you want and you should perhaps take a look at other dealers' sites for the Innotek SD-70 Lap Dog Trainer.
If your dog is about 20 pounds on up to as big as they come, and if you're on a budget, in a hurry, or don't want to study things to death, we're going to tell you right up front that better than 90% of pet owners are going to be completely satisfied with one of two remote training collars - the Tri-Tronics G3 Sport Basic, or the Dogtra 300M. Each of these collars has a small lightweight transmitter with a wide range of stimulation levels and an antenna-less waterproof collar receiver. With ranges from one half mile or better, and Altmoor selling prices from $190 to $259, these electronic collars should be considered "Best Buys" in anyone's rating system. We feel confident that the average dog owner need look no further than one of these models. A decade ago, professional trainers were paying over $500 for e-collars that didn't have nearly the features that can be found in these. The needs of gun dog owners are a little more complex, such as remotely controlled beeper, or not. For further discussion, read on or click on the Gun Dogs link above.
If you simply want a top notch remote training system and price is irrelevant, then we would suggest that you take a look at the features of the Tri-Tronics Pro 100 G3 EXP (or Pro 500 G3 EXP ). The Pro 100 G3 with accessory beeper is our personal favorite for hunting and training. Another plus for the Tri-Tronics models is their Smart Charging system. All of the collar receivers are powered by user-removable, rechargeable battery packs. The cradle chargers are included, and the "smart" charging system automatically reads battery capacity and reduces charging time as needed. A totally discharged unit will be fully recharged in two hours. For those who wish to buy additional collar receivers to turn their units into one- to three-dog systems (up to six dogs in some models) additional charging power supplies and cradles are available during checkout. The Pro and Field transmitters are also rechargeable, while the Sport G3 transmitters are powered by a common 9v battery that should last about a year between replacements.
We should also warn you that, with the exception of Tri-Tronics, which goes with a straight, no-nonsense two-year warranty, the other manufacturers have jumped on the "Limited Lifetime Warranty" bandwagon. The provisions of these LLW's can vary hugely depending on the brand, and even between models of the same brand. Some seem to be reasonable deals; others strike us as nothing more than a relatively expensive extra cost service plan. We try to post the current wording of each LLW on each brand's page on our site, but suggest that you do your research carefully, perhaps on the manufacturers' web sites, or by phone call to them, before making your final decision. In the experience of our customers, Tri-Tronics' warranty service is the best in the industry.
Finally, the text you'll see in our product descriptions is normally advertising copy/product information and trademarked phrases which have been provided by the manufacturer and thought up by their marketing folks. Be careful not to accept everything at face value. An example is "positive vibration" - we personally have yet to encounter a dog who thinks vibration is positive. On the other hand, just because a unit has a feature we personally don't think you should use doesn't mean you shouldn't purchase that unit; you simply don't need to use that feature. A couple good examples here would the Tri-Tronics Sport Basic G3 with its "aversive buzz" tone and the Dogtra 1700 NCP with the "P" standing for Page (vibration) - both terrific units, but there's no good reason to use these features in our judgment. As with most products in all walks of life, sometimes the folks in the marketing department have a great deal to say about the feature sets of a product, but their area of expertise is, more often than not, in marketing, not actual use of the product.
If you're not in a hurry and you would like to thoroughly examine the pros and cons of the various features, keep reading. (We would ask that you read this before calling us for advice.) Perhaps you'll be entering your dog in obedience competition, trials/tests, are a K-9 handler, or a hunter, or for some other reason have special needs. We'll try to share our views on various features with you in the following sections.
Should You Use an E-Collar?
There is probably no training device more controversial than the e-collar, remote trainer, electronic trainer, shock collar, or whatever you want to call it. There are still a few dog enthusiasts out there who are vehemently opposed to the use of e-collars. (There are also some animal rights folks who haven’t yet gotten the fact that these things routinely save dogs' lives.) Some base their opposition on the fact that e-collars have wrecked many a dog. Others feel that such training is so unnatural (and effective) that it can mask what the dog is really like, and thus successfully hide what should be known traits if breeding is a consideration. There is some merit to both arguments, but, not enough to sway us to those points of view. From our perspective, not using a high quality e-collar (properly) is about the same as refusing to use a touch-tone phone or the remote for your TV.
There is no question that e-collars can be and have been misused, especially years ago when they first hit the market and had limited features. Of course, their detractors often tend to overlook the fact that there were other training methods in the pre-collar days that also wrecked dogs - trying to sting the dog with a shotgun blast at just the proper distance and shaking the dog by its ears are two that immediately come to mind.
Today, e-collars are very sophisticated instruments, and punishment training constitutes only a small fraction of their usefulness. When used by a handler who has taken the time to learn the modern basics, we think they're very useful and very humane tools. We use them on a daily basis. Open a kennel door, and our dogs will sort of stick their neck out, looking forward to the e-collar being put on, because that means we're going to go out and have fun. They're certainly not an absolute necessity, but they can make your training time a whole lot more pleasurable and productive. And, the added control they provide gives the handler tremendous confidence in any off-lead session, making the entire dog ownership experience more enjoyable.
At Altmoor, our emphasis is on customer service, and we will spend any necessary amount of time with you trying to help walk you through the pros and cons of which collar is right for your situation. We've often had customers apologize for taking so much of our time in helping with their decision making. You shouldn't feel that way. We're not a giant corporation with operators that are anxious to get you off the line and move on to the next customer. When you email or call, you'll be speaking with Roger or Nancy, professional trainers with decades of experience who want to be certain that the unit you select best meets your needs in the most cost-effective manner. We've prepared this section of the site in an effort to help you become a well-educated consumer. It's very long, but we hope you'll find it worthwhile. We hope it earns us your customer loyalty.
In terms of availability, we try to stock all the most popular Tri-Tronics and Dogtra models. We also try to make it clear which models we do not normally stock and instead have drop-shipped directly from the manufacturer. Because of the current economy, these days we normally inventory only the less expensive models. It should not be a concern if we happen to be out of a particular unit - we'll have it drop-shipped directly from the manufacturer and you'll probably have your unit in the same amount of time as you would if we shipped it. The only difference between buying direct from the manufacturer and buying from us will be that you'll pay much less by getting it through us. (Be sure to check our discount coupon offers.)
All Tri-Tronics Sport units come with their "Basic Training" DVD, an owner's manual, and a training manual. Many of the Tri-Tronics full-size units are coming through without the DVD, it being Tri-Tronics' opinion that folks buying these models already know what they're doing. Dogtra units typically come with just an instruction manual on the unit's operation. Please don’t ask us which do and which don’t include what because manufacturers change this stuff on a daily basis, and they don't inform dealers. We include a brief primer on e-collar training with all of our remote trainers. While concise, if you've trained dogs before with traditional methods it covers what you need to know.
This is as good a place as any to point out that correcting aggression is not an appropriate use of an e-collar in the hands of an amateur. Please, hire a professional behaviorist to work with you - don't buy an e-collar.
As to our prices, we try our best to meet or beat the competition. Should you find a lower advertised price anywhere, please let us know. Maybe we'll want to beat it, but at least we'll know that maybe we need to make an adjustment. Even if, in the rare case, ours isn't the lowest price around, we hope you'll feel that our level of personal advice and service should earn us your patronage anyway. All of our remote trainer systems ship for free. Also be sure to check out our coupon discounts which are applicable to the total dollar amount of your order, regardless of manufacturer. For some things, such as parts and accessories, our prices are about the same as if you purchased the item directly from the manufacturer. Should you want to purchase multiple e-collars at the same time, again be sure to check our coupon discounts - we can often save you a surprising amount of money.
Also, it may be that a remote trainer is not really what you need. If barking is the problem, check out our bark collars. If you just want to train your dog to stay in the yard, maybe you should check out containment systems (which we no longer carry).
Some dogs cannot be trained to respond to a remote trainer. Occasionally even a properly trained dog will disobey a command. Sometimes a remote trainer will stop working properly without warning. For those reasons and others, a user should not solely rely on an e-collar, especially if the dog may be a danger to other people or other dogs, may harm itself, or if it would react adversely when receiving stimulations from a remote trainer.
Users should also be alert for growling, snarling, biting, or other aggressive behavior as possible reactions to use of a remote trainer. While extremely rare, if such reactions are observed, stop using the unit immediately and contact the manufacturer.
If your dog is near another person, or dog, or other animal, and you apply stimulation, your dog may react with aggression to that other person, dog or animal. In other words, get your dog under control before it gets near others. And, if you find you waited too long, forget about using an e-collar and just go to your dog and physically control it or remove it.
If you're purchasing a beeper collar (electronic bell) or remote trainer with a remotely controlled beeper, keep in mind that these gadgets are very loud. Carefully and gradually condition the dog to them, being just as careful as you were with gunfire conditioning.
Price and Basic Features
You can purchase some form of e-collar from us for about $170. For a one dog unit, you can go right up to about $500. We find it increasingly difficult to categorize electronic collars according to price. We used to say, "Generally speaking, those less than $300 are primarily intended for correcting problem behavior at short ranges, while those over that amount are usually suitable for both correcting such behavior and for basic to advanced obedience training." New models are making that generalization false - you can now buy one heck of a remote trainer from us for as little as $229. But, it remains true that, as features and range increase, so does price, usually. With the newer models, price no longer determines how precisely you can train your dog, but instead seems more related to durability, features, and type of warranty.
All of the Tri-Tronics models normally exceed advertised range, sometimes by huge amounts. One of our customers tested his Tri-Tronics Sport Basic (claimed range of 880 yards) and discontinued his test when it was still working at 1,500 yards. We've tested our personal Tri-Tronics Pro 100's and had them still work out to 1.3 miles, even with some intervening trees and giant old farmhouses. Likewise, Dogtra units usually go as far as they claim. This is not at all the case with other brands that we used to carry. Very often one model would go as far as claimed, while two others wouldn't even make one-third the claimed range. What we found most frustrating is that we would point out such discrepancies to these companies and they'd say, "Oh yes, we know that and it should be corrected in about a month." One year later we'd take another unit out of a shipment to test it - and get the same deficient range. We'd complain again, be assured, and then another year would pass with the same results. Equally frustrating was that some of the retailers with whom we compete would rave about the range of these models. You should also be aware that you can significantly increase range by holding the unit as high as possible. In one test a couple years ago of a unit with a claimed range of up to 250 yards, we found that, when held at waist level, it became unreliable at 30 yards. By holding it as high as possible, we were able to get about 90 yards out of it. So, we think that except for Dogtra and Tri-Tronics, you should take manufacturers' stated ranges with a grain of salt. On the other hand, we also think you should hold the manufacturer responsible for what they say. So, if they say the range is 300 yards and you can't get even 150 in wide open spaces out of yours, give them a call within the first 30 days. Finally, never do range tests with the collar on your dog - instead, have another person walk it out and watch the indicator light.
With that said, we think that many people are overly concerned with range - remember that you should not be pushing buttons if you can't see the dog. The dog might be doing exactly what it's supposed to be doing. And, once you have a remote trainer, you'll be in a much better position to prevent the dog from getting out of range in the first place.
We offer a 30 day satisfaction guarantee on all Dogtra remote trainers with regard to your satisfaction with the features of the unit. If you don't like the features, and want to return it for a refund or a credit toward a different e-collar, simply email us for a Return Authorization number within the first 30 days, and return it within ten days of our sending you an RMA number, with a brief note as to the reason for the return. We'll replace it, give you a credit toward another e-collar, or a refund - whatever you want.
Tri-Tronics products are no longer covered by a 30-day satisfaction guarantee.
However, if your product does not seem to be working properly when you receive it, call the manufacturer. Perhaps the instructions could be better, or maybe there's something wrong with yours. We feel the costs associated with replacing defective units should be borne by the manufacturer, not the dealer.
We should also note here that some of our competitors offer 60 and 90 day satisfaction guarantees. You should be aware that none of the manufacturers we represent offer more than a 30 day satisfaction guarantee, so in our judgment you might reasonably question the integrity of these other merchants' statements.
Tones, Warning and others
First we'll discuss warning tones, and we should say right up front that we don't like to use them. The average person would probably think that a warning tone is a great idea - teach the dog that a tone always precedes stimulation and soon the dog will respond to the tone alone, and that will be less severe on the dog. Unfortunately, that theory doesn't usually hold true in actual practice. If the remote trainer has sometimes been used with the warning tone and at very high stimulation levels, in our experience most dogs learn to associate the warning tone with the highest level of stimulation they have ever received - they don't perceive it as a low level warning that something else might happen if they don't obey. In other words, with experience the warning tone becomes more psychologically harsh than a straight application of a low level of stimulation would be. To put it another way, and a little more harshly, in our view warning tones are just a “feel good” option for the owner, at the dog’s expense. For this reason, professional trainers who use a warning tone are very much in the minority. And, a vibration or "page" feature is no different from a warning tone.
Another type of tone is the neutral or praise tone (somewhat like the dial tone on your phone - neither inherently pleasant nor unpleasant). Using systems with such a tone, like the Tri-Tronics full-sized units, the dog can be taught that such a tone is either praise or a command. If using it as a praise tone you simply teach your dog that it means the same as saying "Good dog." Used this way it can instill confidence in the dog, or be a way of remotely signaling to the dog that what it's doing is correct. Perhaps the best example of the use of such a tone would be giving a retriever a directional command at long range - if the dog does respond and starts going in the correct direction you'd use the praise tone and the dog would know that he's responding correctly. (We think that a "Good Dog" by voice is sufficient.)
This sort of neutral tone can also be trained to mean a specific command. It's easy to envision, for example, a police K-9 handler training his dog to recall on hearing the tone - during a building search the handler can "call" his dog without giving away his own position.
Keep in mind that, without prior training, a tone by itself means nothing to the dog. Only with training does the dog learn what the tone means. We occasionally, when training a dog to the very highest levels, will make use of a neutral tone as a praise tone. But, this is very rare and we personally would not let whether or not a model has tone or vibration influence our selection.
Vibration / Pager
Most Dogtra models provide a vibration option. Dogtra calls it a "pager" feature, and models which have it have a "P" in their model designation. Some trainers use this the same as they would use a warning tone. You've already read what we think of warning tones, so we'll just add that we have equally little use for this feature in normal dog training. Of course, we have no problem with using vibration as a command/signal, as opposed to a warning. And for the significant percentage of dogs which are deaf, we're pleased to offer models which allow the dog to feel a command signal.
Many models have an antenna on the transmitter. It can vary in length from 1 1/2 " to 6 1/2". Years ago, many electronic collars featured an external antenna on the dog’s collar receiver. No model we now sell features such an antenna.
All current Tri-Tronics units have a waterproof transmitter. With Dogtra, waterproof transmitters begin with the 1600 NCP and on up. Regardless, we would personally avoid dunking a transmitter.
Buttons, Keypads, Dials, Rocker Switches and Toggle Switches
First and most importantly, in our opinion, none of the models we carry are very susceptible to accidental activation; something which couldn't be said of the electronic training systems made even just a few years ago, as well as those still being made by some other manufacturers.
Basic stimulation levels are set and activated by a variety of means. The most out-of-date means is by changing variable intensity contact points on the dog's collar - a feature no longer used by any manufacturer.
The next most annoying way of doing it is by flipping micro rocker switches inside the battery compartment - again not a means used by our manufacturers.
A common means of changing stimulation level is by means of a dial. Sometimes there are two or more buttons associated with the setting on the dial. For example, a Tri-Tronics Pro 100, which uses three stimulation buttons, allocates one button for Momentary and two for Continuous - press one for Low, press the other for Medium, or press both simultaneously for High within any given Level.
Tri-Tronics dials use discrete position settings, which somewhat facilitate changes by feel,and definitely facilitates precise repeatability.
Most Dogtra models (except for their 1800 series, which has 8 discrete position settings) feature a rheostat-type dial. Although they show stimulation level markings on the transmitter, they are usually in increments of ten or twenty, and if some in-between level is usually most appropriate for your dog, it can be difficult to return to precisely the same level. However, some of their models now feature an LCD display which allows you to easily and precisely select and return to any stimulation level. Be aware that LCD displays by manufacturers we no longer represent can be a real challenge for the over-forty set, and are sometimes just plain unreadable by anyone of any age. We don't think a magnifying glass should need to be part of any dog trainer's equipment.
Transmitter Size and Weight
There's a huge range of differences in transmitter sizes, with one of the manufacturers we do not represent offering one model which is 13 ounces and 15 " overall. In contrast the Tri-Tronics Pro/Field transmitter weighs less than 9 ounces with antenna, is 6" tall and has a 2 1/2 " antenna. (A Tri-Tronics 4-Way holster is a good investment if you're getting one of these.) These full-size Tri-Tronics models are very sturdy and surprisingly ergonomic - they are some of the easiest to operate simply by feel, without looking.
Significantly different in size is the Tri-Tronics Sport G3 series. A Sport transmitter with antenna weighs about 6.4 ounces, is about 1 1/4 " thick, 3.75" tall, and 2 " wide. The fixed antenna adds 1 3/4" to the height.
Dogtra's 300M transmitter weights about 4 ounces, is about 1 1/8" thick, 3 1/2" tall, and just under 1 3/4" wide. The higher end models are larger: for example one of their newer models, the 1900 NCP, falls in between at 4.8 ounces (including antenna) and 1 1/4" thick, 4 1/4" tall, and 1 3/4" wide, with a 2" antenna, for an overall height of 5 7/8". The 2300 NCP is similar in size. The 3500 NCP transmittter is 5.8 ounces, 1 1/4" thick, 5" tall, and 1 3/4" wide, with a 3" antenna, for an overall height of 7 3/4". All Dogtra transmitters come with lanyards; the 1900 includes an accessory swivel clip, and the 2300 and 3500 have sturdy metal belt clips
Collar Receiver Size and Weight
This is an area where some buyers are often overly concerned, in our opinion. If your dog is over about 20 lbs., anything we sell is useable. Keep in mind that reductions in size are not without penalty. With Tri-Tronics, all collar receivers other than the Sport Junior are the same size and are useable in dogs down to about 11 pounds, but we'd probably be more comfortable around 18 pounds and up. The same comment would apply to the Dogtra 300M. With the higher end Dogtra units the collar receiver size sometime increases, and 25-30 pounds on up might be more reasonable.
In regard to the products of manufacturers we no longer represent, in our experience, the smaller the collar receiver, the less room there is for built-in antenna (range is reduced) and the smaller the battery - which can affect range, charge duration, and reliable repetition of stimulation. For comparison purposes, we'll look at a few. And here, we'll be including a few units from manufacturers we no longer represent. Weights do not include collar strap - they are for the receiver only.
The SportDOG SD-1800 SportHunter and SD-2400 ProHunter are perhaps the largest collar receivers on the market. They weigh 6.2 ounces, and are 3" long and 1 1/2" wide. The SD-1800 is 1 5/8" thick; the SD-2400 is 1 3/8" thick. The distance between contact points is 1 1/4".
With the introduction of their G3 models, Tri-Tronics has gotten the size down to where they are really competitive - 4.0 ounces, 1 1/4" thick, 1 1/2" wide, and 3" long. Their Sport Junior collar receiver weighs just 2.2 oz., and is 1 1/4" thick, 1 3/8" wide, and 1 3/4" long.
The Dogtra iQ collar receiver weighs 2.2 ounces without its strap, and 3.9 oz. with the collar strap. The high-end Dogtra models have receivers that shake out as follows:
The 1900 is 4.6 oz., 1 1/2" thick, 1 7/8" wide and 3 1/4" long. The 2300 and 3500 are 4 oz., 1 1/2" thick, 1 3/4" wdie, and 3" long.
All current Tri-Tronics and Dogtra models control intensity levels from the transmitter. Contact points (also often called probes) are used just for making proper contact with the dog's skin. All current full-size Tri-Tronics e-collars, as well as their Bark Limiter, come with both short and long contact points. Dogtra models come with one length contact point - fairly short on the lower-priced units - if you're ordering a Dogtra and have a thick-coated dog (Shepherd, Husky, etc.) we'd suggest you purchase extra cost longer probes at the same time.
One Dog, or Two, or Three, or up to Six
We are sometimes asked if, with a multi-dog unit, if you push one button will all the dogs receive stimulation. The answer is a firm NO. In all cases each dog is individually controlled - pushing one button will not apply stimulation to the others.
Dogtra's 1800 can be purchased as a one, two, three or four dog unit. With that exception, all other Dogtra units must be purchased as either a one or two dog system to being with and are not expandable as to number of dogs.
Tri-Tronics offers just two one-dog only systems - the Sport Junior and the Classic 70 G3. All other Tri-Tronics e-collars (Sport G3's and the full-size G3 EXP's are now user-expandable as to the number of dogs that can be controlled by one transmitter. Their Trashbreaker (two-mile range) and Classic 70 (one-mile range) can control up to six dogs. All of their other systems can control up to three dogs. You should also be aware that a Sport Junior receiver can be matched with any of their other transmitters.
This seems as good a place as any to point out some details about Tri-Tronics' expandable e-collars. The base one-dog system comes with charging components for a one-dog system. When you purchase an additional collar receiver, that's all you get - no strap, no power supply, no charging cradle. While we personally like to keep all components on charge simultaneously so that we're always ready to go, this method does involve extra costs. To charge extra receivers simultaneously, you'll need a receiver (RX) charging cradle for each additional collar ($20), as well as another power supply to get current to the cradle ($20). When you buy extra receivers for dogs 2 and 3, be sure to also purchase a strap for each receiver - either red or blue. (If you're doing dogs 4 though 6 on a six-dog unit, you'll need the 3-collar strap pack.)
Escape Training & Stimulation Levels and Types
In these comparisons, you may encounter the phrase "escape training". In a nutshell, this involves using a very low level of continuous stimulation from the time you give the command until the dog has complied. For example, as you say Sit, press and hold the button until the dog has complied, and then let up. As the dog starts responding more quickly, you can let up on the button as the dog begins to comply. Ultimately, the dog learns to "escape" the stimulation entirely by responding quickly. For this type of training, you must be able to match the stimulation level to the dog and the environment (distraction level) around the dog - the right level in your backyard will be different from what you need in the park where there are other dogs and people around. You'll also find that the correct level when the dog is dry becomes too high when the dog is wet and conductivity is improved. For escape training, the stimulation level must be just barely noticeable to the dog - less reaction than a flea bite. In a no-distraction situation, this level is referred to as the "base recognition level". Obviously, if the dog is significantly distracted by the degree of stimulation, it will have difficulty concentrating on complying with the command AND the dog is likely to be cowered by the training. This type of training is very different from correction/punishment training, where quite noticeable levels of stimulation are given after the dog has failed to comply with the command or has otherwise done something undesirable. Our discussions and recommendations reflect our personal bias toward those electronic collars which are most likely to lend themselves to escape training. Using Tri-Tronics as an example, we would always prefer a Pro 100 (18 levels of continuous, 6 of momentary) over a Pro 200 (18 levels of momentary, 6 of continuous) and we could certainly never live with a Flyway, Upland, Pro 200, Classic 70 , or Field 90 for this purpose. In the category of "there's more than one way to skin a cat", we should point out that the gentleman who popularized escape training was at that time associated with Tri-Tronics, but the DVD's coming through with many Tri-Tronics units as this is written concentrate on the use of momentary stimulation with a Pro 200. Oh well. For those who cannot make up their minds, or want to be prepared for all contingencies, there is always the Pro 500, with 18 levels of each. Any of the Tri-Tronics G3 Sport models can be used for escape training. Also excellent for escape training are the one- and two-dog versions of the Dogtra 280, 1700, 2500, and 3500, each of which feature an LCD display showing precise levels of either continuous or momentary stimulation available; this allows you to easily and precisely select or return to any level. Generally, in our judgment, the lower-end Dogtra e-collars do not allow you to be adequately precise, and returning to the exact same level can be very difficult. This does not mean that they are not suitable for many trainers, especially those who use mostly momentary, where the differences from one level to the next are less noticeable to the dog. We should also point out here that, in our opinion, there's no inherent advantage to a unit which claims 127 levels over one that claims 20 or 18 - these numbers don't mean much in and of themselves, and how high and low they go is probably nearly identical. That said, the 10-level Tri-Tronics Sport Basic G3 is going to have plenty of levels for the average dog owner, but the same might not be said of units from other manufacturers which have just seven or fewer choices.
In our view, if training almost exclusively with momentary, there's not quite as much need for a large range of choices in level - since momentary is so quick (often around 1/30th of a second), the differences from one level to the next don't seem as great as they do with continuous stimulation. We should also mention here that with some dogs which are particularly susceptible to electrical stimulation, or have a very soft temperament to begin with, momentary can be the best way to go.
We feel that most models with four to eight fixed levels of stimulation or a rheostat-only (no LCD) method of changing stimulation are, for most dogs, best used for simple problem-solving - correcting inappropriate behavior. Examples of some units we'd include in this category are the Tri-Tronics Classic 70, Field 90, and Trashbreaker, and the Dogtra 300M and 1800NC. When a customer says something to us like, "I don't spend any time training, I just want additional off-lead control", or, "My dog won't stop digging in the flower bed and jumping up on the kitchen counter, or chasing deer...", these are the some of the units we recommend. Of course, any of the more sophisticated units work equally well for these basic uses. And again, understand that we have our personal druthers - many pros are quite happy with the some of the models we've mentioned here, because of their low price or simplicity.
In-Between E-Collars - low cost
If you can live with a product that you throw in the trash when the non-replaceable rechargeable battery wears out in three to five years, the Innotek ADV units might suit you, and the ADV-1000P in particular will allow you to do a very nice job of training; but you'll have to look elsewhere for these made-in-China units, along with the other SportDog units which we no longer carry. For a slightly higher cost than the 1000P, the Tri-Tronics G3 Sport series will provide incredible durability and longevity, with the Basic model being all that most owners need. And, the G3 Sport series can be increased to two or three dog systems just by purchasing additional collar receivers and straps. The Sport Junior G3 is another lower-cost choice from Tri-Tonics, which offers both continuous and momentary stimulation.
Low to Mid-Range Cost E-Collars
In the next cost category we take a more serious look at the Tri-Tonics Sport G3 Series. These units have 10 levels of stimulation, in half-step increments of ½ through 5. The inclusion of the ½ level gives these models a better chance of being useful for escape training with many dogs, if half-mile range and Tri-Tronics Level 5 are enough (we've never used a Level 6 on any of our dogs). These Sport units do not feature the Level 6 that the full-size Tri-Tronics units have, so if you have a real hard-head that is tough and has to REALLY be stopped from certain behaviors, like attacking skunks or porcupines, a Tri-Tronics unit with Level 6 may be what you need. Likewise the higher-end Dogtra units can stop almost any behavior.
Complete Remote Trainers
This next category of electronic collars really deserves the classification of "remote trainer". These units will let you quickly and easily change stimulation level, and often, stimulation type. Usually they offer at least between 10 and 18 levels of stimulation (or much more) and should allow you to match the level with your dog's body chemistry, temperament, the task, and the distractions around you. If you enjoy training your dog, and want to maximize the chance of doing so without being too harsh, these units will usually fit your needs. Examples from Tri-Tronics include all of the Pro models (which Pro model depends on your preferred training method). From Dogtra, any unit with an LCD is a good choice.
From our perspective, if you are really serious about training your dog and being able to have ready access to appropriately low levels of stimulation in a variety of circumstances as well as high stimulation for dangerous situations, the Tri-Tronics G3 Sport series and the Pro 100, along with any of the Dogtra models that have an LCD and go to "High", will do a great job with terrific durability and longevity. Each of these units has ten or more stimulation levels quickly available.
Gun Dog Systems
What are commonly lumped together as gun dogs come in many different permutations. While hounds are normally considered in a class by themselves, the term "gundogs" normally includes flushers, retrievers, pointers, and versatiles (which point, retrieve, and track). Regardless of the class or breed of dog, this section is intended to address the concerns of those who use their dogs for hunting. If your English Pointer, or whatever, is a pet only and isn't taken hunting, then you need not be concerned with this section.
Generally speaking, for hounds most owners are primarily interested in breaking dogs of running the wrong game, and this is one of the primary reasons why e-collars were originally invented. Hound owners don't need to care much about lots of levels of stimulation - they just need to reach out there and touch 'em; usually pretty harshly. (Doing so can ultimately be a life-saver for the dog.) Models which immediately come to mind when we think hounds are the Tri-Tronics Classic 70 and Trashbreaker. For beagles, which can be soft, we might also consider the Tri-Tronics Field 90. (We should also mention that very often, for beagles, even the Tri-Tronics Sport Basic will have enough range.) As we've mentioned before, the Classic 70 and Trashbreaker can be expanded to handle up to six dogs. Any of the Dogtra models with one mile range are also just fine, with the 1800NC being available in up to four-dog models.
For flushers and retrievers, a lot depends on personal preference as to how you're going to train. This is also the case with the versatiles. You either need to decide before you buy whether or not you'll be using escape training methods, or, get a model that's equally useful for training with both continuous and momentary stimulation. For escape training,the Dogtra LCD models are fine choices. If you really need to reach out there, there's the Tri-Tronics Pro 100 (or Pro 500), as well as the Dogtra 2300 and 3500. If you're sure you'll primarily only want to use momentary, there are the Tri-Tronics' Flyway, Field 90, or Pro 200 (or, of course, the Pro 500). Momentary is where all the Dogtra models are just fine, in our opinion - base your choice on range.
Pointers and versatiles are where things really get interesting. Here, you have to make two decisions right off the bat. You need to decide whether you'll use escape training (our favorite, which requires lots of precise low levels of continuous) or if you'll use mostly momentary. Next, and most importantly, will you want to use a remotely-controlled beeper (electronic bell) for keeping track of where your dog is? You can always use a bell or beeper on your dog, but the remotely controlled ones are really slick in that they allow you to hunt in peace and quiet and only turn the beeper on when necessary - thick cover or missing dog. We even use these remotely-controlled units in tall grass tidal waters waterfowl hunting. If you have no intention of ever wanting to use a remotely controlled beeper, then what we've said previously should have helped you narrow things down.
In the remotely controlled beeper models, the Tri-Tronics G3 Sport Upland will let you reach out to one-half mile, expand up to a total of three dogs should the need arise, and allow you to do escape training with a solid B rating in our judgment (in comparison to a solid A for the Pro 100). These days all Tri-Tronics Field/Pro systems (full-size models with a one-mile range) will let you remotely control a beeper, so if you like Momentary you can go with their Upland, or if you're into escape training, the Pro 100 will be your choice.If you can't decide, there's always the Pro 500. Dogtra makes just one remotely controlled beeper model, the 2500 T&B (Track & Beep). The 2500 is unique in that the beeper and collar receiver are one integral unit, which of course will hang under the dog's neck. This makes for a very small and compact unit, one we'd consider very seriously for a small Brit or Setter. In contrast, with Tri-Tronics the beeper is a separate component which need not be exposed to water work throughout the summer, for example. We've come to prefer the Tri-Tronics beeper system for the more rough and tumble breeds, but there are many pros who like the Dogtra.
Finally, you might be wondering what we use. While we own perhaps a dozen makes and models of e-collar, anymore we each reach for our own two-dog Tri-Tronics Pro 100 with Accessory Beepers.