32 Myths about Ecollars

Those who are opposed to Ecollar use, often come up with many reasons as to why they don’t want to use them. For the most part, those reasons are as a result of poor use of them by trainers who either use them in the same way that they use a leash, or are locked into the way they were used long ago. They may have heard some horror stories or even seen the tool misused. Sometimes such myths start out as urban legends that grow to become believed.  There's a  saying that's widely attributed to Winston Churchill, "The lie gets halfway around the world before the truth can get its pants on." Here’s a collection of such myths I've gathered over the years.

 

1. MYTH: You must have perfect timing, be an "expert trainer" or a “professional” to use an Ecollar.

FACT: No one, not the best of trainers, has perfect timing all the time. Even the best trainer can only work for so long, usually a matter of minutes, before his concentration falls off and his “perfect timing” becomes merely “very good timing.”

If you have perfect timing, training progresses VERY quickly. If you have good timing, training takes a little longer. If you have so–so timing, training takes longer still. If you have HORRIBLE timing, either no training occurs, or the wrong training effect occurs. Just about anyone who can train a dog with a leash and collar can use an Ecollar effectively. Even many who aren't coordinated enough to give a correction, can learn to use an Ecollar effectively. If you have HORRIBLE timing, sell your dog and get a goldfish. Timing isn't important with them.

 

2. MYTH: Ecollars are cruel and FRY the dog with electricity.

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FACT: Most adults in modern countries have experience with electricity on some level. As a child you may have put a utensil into an electrical socket, and gotten knocked across the room. As an adult you may have let your fingers slide down onto the base of a light bulb that you were changing, and gotten a shock. In more urban areas you may have bumped into an electrical fence (also called a “charged fence.”) You've probably gotten a shock of static electricity after dragging your feet across a carpet, and reaching for a door knob. Even if you haven’t had these experiences yourself, you've read in the paper or heard on the news about someone that’s been killed or seriously injured by an electric shock.

All of these experiences and stories, have given you the idea that electricity in most forms is EXTREMELY painful and dangerous. Nothing has prepared you for the electrical stimulation that comes from a modern Ecollar.

Many people will have been to physical therapy and received some kind of Estim, "TENS" is an example, as a part of their rehabilitation. That is a good example of how an Ecollar works. Like an Ecollar, the Estim during therapy can be turned up so high that it’s very painful. It can also be turned down to the appropriate level, so it’s merely uncomfortable, or it can be turned so low that it’s a pleasant feeling.

In my classes I demonstrate the stimulation to the participants. Each one of them, unless they've felt a low level stim before, feels it. These days most people at the seminars will have felt it before coming to the class. For those who have not felt a stim, I have them place the Ecollar on their hand, while I dial up the stimulation level until they can just feel it. Sometimes they jump when they first feel it. But they’re embarrassed because it wasn't as bad as they thought it was going to be. The most common comment is, “Is that all it is?” The level at which the dog first feels it, is where I do most of my training, and is what this website is about. Almost universally they describe the feeling as a “buzz,” a "tap," or a “tingle.”  When children feel it, they giggle!

This adjustability allows a trainer to use low levels that are only uncomfortable (rather than painful) to the dog. This allows the trainer to help the dog become reliable, even under distracting conditions, with minimal discomfort.

Electricity is a bit like fire. It can burn your house to the ground, or it can cook your food. It all depends on how it’s used.

 

3. MYTH: Ecollars scramble the dog’s brain and do nerve damage.

FACT: There have been many studies done on Ecollars since the late 1960’s when they were invented. No evidence of any such damage has ever been found. Most of these studies have been done by people who oppose their use and not one of them has shown any physical or psychological damage.

 

4. MYTH: Ecollars have a bad image.

FACT: In reality what has the worst image, are methods of dog training which employ visible forms of force such as leashes and collars. The sight of dogs getting jerked around training fields has driven millions of dog owners to train with cookies and treats, using so called "kinder, gentler methods." Yet, most trainers believe that highly driven dogs will not be reliable under very distracting conditions, if an aversive has never been applied for ignoring a command. They agree that training that uses a balance of correction and reward is best.


Ecollars have earned a bad name through the improper use of the tool, not from the tool itself.People who have been training dogs for a long time, may remember the Ecollars of thirty years ago. They only had one very high setting. So those people may indeed have a negative image in mind. However, today’s equipment has many very low settings. Often, dog-owning members of the public become intrigued when they see the happy and well-behaved dogs trained with Ecollars. Used properly, an Ecollar can help a dog achieve reliability with only a very small amount of discomfort.

 

5. MYTH: Ecollars can accidentally “go off” even if you haven’t touched the transmitter.

FACT: Some of the Ecollars from many years ago actually did react to interference from radio signals. Since that time, all electronic equipment has been improved and refined. Modern Ecollars offer up to 50,000 random codes and do not suffer from accidental discharge.

 

6. MYTH: In a training group situation, it will be confusing for trainers to have some students' dogs on Ecollars, and others not.

FACT: Ecollar policies vary. In a group situation, it may be best if all newer handlers in the beginning class are on the same page, using similar equipment approved by the club. This may help the instructor understand the reactions and needs of each dog, and assist those handlers.

However, knowledgeable advanced level trainers can use an Ecollar in class without causing any confusion at all for instructors. In all likelihood, the class instructor may simply note that in the right hands, an Ecollar dog is corrected less forcefully than a dog on a choke or pinch collar. The key is that the handler should be knowledgeable about his dog and equipment.

 

7. MYTH: Based upon seeing an Ecollar on your dog and the fast results, beginners may rush out to buy collars and use them improperly.

FACT: Like any other piece of training equipment, an Ecollar can be misused. In fact, there is no such thing as a tool that can't be misused or abused. Abuse isn't something that's inherent in the tool. It's in the user. Used properly, an Ecollar can yield a happy dog, that will be reliable under distracting conditions.

Some recommend that beginners take lessons from trainers who are familiar with modern use of the Ecollar. Many people have used the articles which are on this website for that purpose, or have learned from one of the videos recommended for this purpose. 

 

8. MYTH: The Ecollar will hurt or scare my dog.

FACT: With the modern methods of introducing the dog to the Ecollar this doesn't happen. There may be a few moments of uncertainty, but they will pass quickly as the dog figures out what is expected of him. The feeling of the stim is completely foreign to a dog, so you may see a few moments of confusion. You may want to observe someone who uses Ecollars with modern methods, so that you can judge for yourself what it is like.

You should not see anything forceful, harsh, painful, or scary for the dog. In fact, most of the time, the demonstrating trainer will have to inform you when they are pressing the button, because even a trained eye will not notice. Many trainers will use a "noisemaker," a device that makes a noise when they press the button on the Ecollar, so that their students can tell when a stimulation is applied. When the Ecollar is used properly it’s difficult, if not impossible, to tell when a trainer is applying a stimulation to the dog.

 

9. MYTH: Ecollars are for aversion training only.

FACT: Years ago when collars only had one setting, and trainers used them only to stop behaviors such as chasing game, digging holes, getting into the garbage, or fighting. Today’s collars have many settings, some so low that they can't even be felt. They can be adjusted so that they feel like a "tingle."
Ecollars can be used to teach new behaviors with, and this site has many articles that show you how to do that!

 

10. MYTH: Using electricity on a dog is just creepy. It reminds me of the electric chair.

FACT: Ecollar settings used by trainers today, are even less irritating than a static cling shock you might get separating laundry from the dryer. They're less annoying than the shock you get after dragging your feet across the carpet, and then reaching for a doorknob. Introduced correctly, the dog learns that the stimulation indicates a “wrong” behavior, and he learns to “turn off” the Ecollar by substituting “correct” behavior. The dogs learn VERY quickly, usually in a few days, that it’s THEIR behavior that brings the discomfort.

Any reasonable Ecollar trainer will show you that the Ecollar will not hurt your dog. They can show you by applying the Ecollar to their own arm and yours, that pain is not involved. Modern “proper” Ecollar use takes place at the discomfort level, not the pain level.

 

11. MYTH: If you use an Ecollar to train my dog, I'll have to use it all the time.

FACT: In this regard the Ecollar is no different than any other type of training device. If you want perfect performance all the time with leash training, then you’d better keep the leash on all the time. If you want perfect performance with an Ecollar, then you’d better keep it on all the time. But most people are perfectly happy with performance that’s only 99% perfect. After your dog is responding reliably to the Ecollar, you can take it off until you notice a decline in performance. Then you'll have to do some refresher training, to bring the performance back up. But this is no different than with any other type of training. There's an article on this site that discusses “weaning” the dog off the Ecollar and maintaining reliability.

 

12. MYTH: I want my dog to perform because he wants to, not because he's afraid of getting a shock.

FACT: With modern use of an Ecollar, the dogs aren't afraid of getting a shock, because the stimulation levels used are so low that they aren't painful, they’re merely uncomfortable. They’re on the same level of discomfort of a fleabite. Dogs aren't afraid of a fleabite, it just makes them scratch.

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All dogs are subject to distractions. Squirrels, birds, new odors and other dogs are some examples. When something comes along that is a bigger distraction to him than his training level, he'll do what HE wants to do. “Dogs wanna do what dogs wanna do!” If the distraction is big enough, something to eat, chasing some animal, or playing with another dog, you may not be able to call him away from that distraction. If you've seen a dog that’s working out of fear of getting a shock, you haven’t seen modern or “proper” Ecollar training.

 

13. MYTH: You can ruin a good dog with an Ecollar.

FACT: You can ruin a good dog with any tool that's available for training dogs. A good trainer with an Ecollar can fix just about any damage that you do with an Ecollar, or any other tool for that matter.

 

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14. MYTH: Ecollar training will make my dog robotic.

FACT: Ecollar training will make your training go faster, and will give results that last longer. Modern methods of Ecollar training will keep your dog happy as he works. As with any new training method (remember how your dog behaved the first couple of times you gave him a correction with a leash or clicked your clicker?) you will introduce a little bit of confusion. That will disappear in a few days as the dog learns how to shut off the stimulation.

 





15. MYTH: The Ecollar will cause a relationship of fear between the handler and the K9.

FACT: The Ecollar won’t do this anymore than proper use of a leash and collar will create a relationship of fear. In fact, leashes are famous for establishing a relationship of conflict between dogs and handlers since, when you give your dog a correction with a leash, he knows where this discomfort came from. Dogs have been known to “climb the leash” to bite the handler, after getting corrections that are too harsh. In Ecollar training the leash is present just to gently guide the dog into position, while the Ecollar applies the pressure. There is no conflict between the K9 and the handler with proper Ecollar use.

 

16. MYTH: Ecollars should not be used on “soft” or “aggressive” dogs.

FACT: With proper Ecollar training “soft” or “aggressive” dogs become more confident, because they become responsible for their actions. Most “aggressive” dogs are really “defensive.” They’re afraid of being attacked and so they attack first. When their confidence increases, they come to realize that they don’t have to bite first. For a success story about the rehabilitation of a biting dog, refer to the article on this site entitled "Success Stories - Simon." CLICK HERE to go to that article. Use you back button to return here.

 

17. MYTH: Ecollars should not be used on “fearful” dogs.

FACT: With proper Ecollar training “fearful” dogs become much more confident. They become responsible for their actions through the training. They're taught to recall and to sit, and they learn that if they hold their position as the Ecollar trains them to do, that nothing bad happens to them, even though they're in the same fearful situation that used to make them run away. They’re not permitted to go into “fight or flight,” and so they learn that by holding their position they can survive, and eventually assume a normal life. For a success story of how such a dog was rehabilitated. CLICK HERE. Use your back button to return here.

 

18. MYTH: Ecollars can break and will give your dog stimulation until the batteries wear out, or until you can catch the dog and remove the Ecollar.

FACT: Modern Ecollars and even those that are quite old, have a timer in them that shuts off the stimulation after 8–12 seconds.

 

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19. MYTH: Using an Ecollar along with a choke chain, a pinch collar, or any other kind of metal collar can electrocute the dog.

FACT: Using any kind of metal collar in conjunction with an Ecollar won’t do anything to the dog. It can’t magnify the level of the electricity that the Ecollar puts out. If the Ecollar is put on properly it's just about impossible for any metal collar to interfere with the stim. It's so snug that the metal collar can't get underneath it to touch the metal contact points. But even if this were to happen it would only prevent the stim from reaching the dog. Instead of traveling from one contact point, through the dog's skin, to the other contact point, it would travel through the metal collar and would never reach the dog at all.

It is recommended that you remove any metal collar worn by the dog while using a bark collar. They can rub against the bark collar and simulate the vibration from the dog's vocal cords, causing it to activate.

 

20. MYTH: If I use an Ecollar I'll never be able to get the dog to behave unless it’s on him.

FACT: This phenomenon is called making the dog “collar wise,” and can happen with any training tool if it’s used improperly. People often attribute a dog becoming “collar wise” to the Ecollar more than other tools. But it’s not inherent in the tool; it’s something that the trainer inadvertently teaches. Usually the problem is because trainers put the collar on, go training and then take it off as soon as training is done. Another way it can occur, is when during training, a problem arises and is getting worse. The trainer brings out the Ecollar, “cures” the problem and takes it off. The dog quickly learns that he has to behave only when the Ecollar is on. You can get a “collar wise” dog by doing this with any training tool, or even something as benign as a bandanna.

I recommend that if you’re going to be home, that you put the Ecollar on the dog when you get up in the morning, and take it off when you go to bed. Move it around every 3-4 hours to avoid causing friction sores. If you’re not going to be home, put it on when you do come home, and then take if off when you go to bed.

You can get a "collar wise" dog if you do something with your transmitter that many of us do with other types of transmitters. If you extend your arm towards your dog as you give the command and press the button, he'll soon make the association between that motion and/or that "thing in your hand" and the stim. After he does, he'll behave when you have it, but might not if you don't. The same thing can be said for the arm motion alone.

Do you ever extend your arm towards the TV to change channels with the remote? Ever extend your arm and point your car alarm remote at the car to set the alarm? Many of us do this unconsciously. You can also make the dog "transmitter smart" (or "transmitter wise") if you raise your hand up, and then lower it as you press the button. I'm not sure why people do that, but I've seen it occasionally.

To prevent this DON'T EXTEND YOUR ARM AND POINT THE TRANSMITTER AT THE DOG as you press the button. I suggest that you don't do anything out of the ordinary with the hand that has the transmitter in it. To avoid doing this, hold your hand with the transmitter in it at your side while pressing the button. Change hands once in awhile. Sometimes have you hands in your pocket, holding the transmitter. Sometimes fold your arms across your chest. Sometimes hold them in front of you, and sometimes behind you. If you mix up what you do as you press the button, the dog won't pick up on one specific thing to make the association with.

There will always be a need for management with your dog. It makes no difference how well the dog is trained or what tool you used to achieve that training, at some point the dog will want do, what he wants to do rather than what you want. If you don’t have some method of reinforcing your command, you'll need to backtrack quite a bit to get the reliability that you desire.

If you do need to remove the Ecollar for some reason, perhaps you compete in a venue where they're not allowed, then take a look at this article. CLICK HERE to go to that article. Use your back button to return here.

 

21. MYTH: An Ecollar can cause seizures, even in dogs that don’t suffer from epilepsy.

FACT: This is one of those “scare” myths that are spread by anti-Ecollar people. It’s a complete fabrication. As mentioned earlier, Ecollars have been studied, almost since their invention. None of those studies have ever shown this myth to be true.

An electric shock that passes through the dog’s brain CAN bring on a seizure, but stimulations from a modern  Ecollar don’t pass through the brain. The electricity, for all practical purposes, only moves through the dog's skin between the contact points on the receiving unit. They’re only about 1 1/4 " apart.

 

22. MYTH: A bark collar can be set off by a car's backfire or another's dog barking.

FACT: This was a problem with very early versions of these tools, but modern versions of them don't have this problem. They have a sensor that sits against the dog's neck, and are activated by the vibration from the dog's vocal cords when he barks. Another dog's bark, or some other noise can not activate them.

 

23. MYTH: Ecollars put out thousands of volts of electricity. They will burn my dog’s neck.

FACT: If you put an Ecollar on an oscilloscope, you'll find that it puts out thousands of volts. That’s what’s called a “no load” voltage, and measures the voltage that’s produced without any resistance. That never occurs during use of the tool. It’s on the dog’s neck, and so whatever resistance the skin puts into the system must be taken into account when measuring the voltage that’s applied to the dog. That resistance is commonly considered to be 100 ohms. When you plug these figures into the equations that deal with electricity, you'll discover that the actual voltage output from an Ecollar is from three to twenty-five volts. With the small amount of amperage that available, it’s physically impossible for an Ecollar to cause burns or any other injury that’s due to the electricity that they discharge.

 

24. MYTH: Ecollars are perfect tools.

FACT: Ecollars have quite a few drawbacks. First and foremost, they're expensive. The cost will keep many people away from them. Another, is that they're operated (most of them) by rechargeable batteries. You have to remember to keep them charged up. (Of course, with those that make use of user-replaceable batteries, you have to remember to keep spares on hand). Another is that you have to remember to turn them on. This seems obvious, but you'd be surprised how often people forget this. (I've forgotten this many times when teaching seminars. It's probably because I'm distracted by questions. Yeah, that's it. LOL). Another problem is that if you have more than one, you have to bring the proper transmitter to go with the collar you're using. This won't be a problem for those with only one Ecollar.

 

25. MYTH: An Ecollar caused an EDD (Explosive Detector Dog) who had swallowed some C4 (a military explosive) to blow up.

FACT: During a conversation about Ecollars on an email discussion list, an anti-Ecollar person made a statement about an incident that she'd heard about, that had occurred in California in February or March of 2005. The author of the post wrote that an EDD K-9 (Explosives Detection Dog) was being worked while wearing an Ecollar. He had ingested some C4. She wrote that the handler kept stimming the dog who wouldn't recall. She ended her post with "I leave it to your imagination as to what happened next!" hinting that the dog had exploded because the Ecollar had detonated the C4.

This is ludicrous on several levels. First C4 is an extremely stable explosive. You can shoot it with a gun, hit it with a hammer and even pass the current from an Ecollar through it, without fear of detonating it! Second, it takes a much higher current than any Ecollar is capable of, to set it off. It will burn if you ignite it with a match or lighter, but it won't explode. In fact, GI's have been known to pinch off a small bit of it, to build a fire with, to heat up their food! Finally, the thought that the current from an Ecollar could travel through the dog's body, to his stomach is absurd. That myth was dispelled earlier. I immediately wrote to this poster, asking if this is what she was insinuating. She evaded my question for three days, before she finally admitted that she never meant to give the impression that the dog had exploded! By then the Internet was awash with the myth! Several trainers that I know in California had received phone calls from out-of-state, asking if this incident had actually happened.

 

26. MYTH: An Ecollar can lower your dog's resistance to disease by affecting his immune system.

FACT: This one popped up on a list for people who were just gettting started in dog training. It was an obvious case of spam by a list member who was promoting his own dog training site. When asked for scientific studies supporting this absurd statement he failed to respond. If such studies existed, those who oppose Ecollars would be presenting them with great regularity.

 

27. MYTH: Ecollar trainers must have the tool to train a dog. They don't know how to use any other tools or methods.

FACT: Of course this may be the case with some trainers who use Ecollars just as it can be the case with other tools. But it's rare that Ecollar trainers don't know how to use, or don't use, other tools and methods. Usually they've explored many other ways to train a dog before coming to the Ecollar. Most use many tools and methods, whichever one is suitable for the behavior being taught, and for the dog being trained.

 

28. MYTH: The Ecollar can't be used with SAR dogs because it interferes with the signal of the GPS (Global Positioning System) units that they use.

FACT: GPS works by receiving signals from 24 satellites in orbit around the Earth. Under ideal conditions 12 of them are "in sight" at any given time. You can purchase GPS receivers that get these signals, interpret them and give your location with great accuracy, within milimeters (with the most precise units) of your actual location. They make units compact enough to be attached to a SAR dog's harness, so that information can later be downloaded into a computer to tell the exact path that he travelled. MANY SAR dogs who wear GPS units, also wear Ecollars.

The collar worn by the dog is a receiver. While the transmitter, the part the handler carries, might possibly cause some interference, it's only switched on for seconds at a time, so any interference would be momentary.

GPS signals and Ecollars operate on completely different frequencies, and they don't interfere with each other to any measurable degree, if at all.

 

29. MYTH: If you use the Ecollar to train a recall you must use it for all the dog's training. The Ecollar is not compatible with other training methods.

FACT: Usually the source for this myth is people who do not like the Ecollar. They're trying to scare people, who may be considering the use of the tool for training their dog, away from it. Sometimes the source for this myth is Ecollar trainers who only know how to use the Ecollar. They just don't know how to integrate other methods and tools into their training. They may say this out of a lack of experience, because they lack knowledge about other tools and methods used in dog training, ignorance that it can be done, or even just a monetary interest! If they only know how to use the Ecollar and they don't care about your dog or what's best for you, they may try to steer you, sometimes using your fear of the training not working, into using them and the Ecollar for all your training.

The Ecollar integrates very well with just about all other methods and tools used for training dogs. It's probably best to only use one of them at a time to avoid confusion, but they work very well together.

 

30. MYTH: The use of the words "stim" and "Ecollar" are attempts to hide the true nature of the tool.

FACT: The word "stim" is short for "stimulation." It's a euphemism for the word "shock." Throughout this website instructions are given as to when to stim the dog, and what level of stim to use. There's no secret that Ecollars use electricity, and that you're sending current every time that you press the button. I doubt that anyone makes it through the day without a few euphemisms. They're common, and they don't hide anything. Early Ecollars had only one button, basically an on–off switch. They were not adjustable, as virtually all of today's tools are. The stim they delivered was quite high; they gave a sensation that felt quite similar to an electric shock from your house current, and so calling them shock collars was appropriate.

But today's tools are adjustable, allowing the user to turn them down so low that the dog can't even feel them. Calling them "shock collars" is no longer descriptive. Almost universally, people who feel the stim at the level that they can first perceive it, describe it as a "buzz," a "tingle," or a "tap." When children feel it they giggle! Perhaps, if the intent is to be descriptive, we should start calling modern Ecollars "Buzz Collars, Tingle Collars, Tap Collars" or even "Giggle Collars." Perhaps we should start saying "Buzz the dog, Tingle or Tap the dog!" Maybe "Giggle the dog!" Nah, I'll stick with "stim the dog."

These accusations of "hiding," usually come from people who have never felt a stim from a modern Ecollar. Often they've never even SEEN modern Ecollar training; they just imagine what it's like. They want to call them "shock collars" to scare people away from using them, and they pretend that we're trying to hide something.


They are trainers who don't use Ecollars. They prefer the so-called "kinder, gentler methods." They lose ground (and clients) as Ecollars are used by more and more people. It's a sign of their desperation, a grasping at straws, that they promote this myth.

 

31. MYTH: The current from an Ecollar goes EVERYWHERE in a dog's body.

FACT: There have been many studies done on Ecollars since the late 1960’s when they were invented. Some of these studies were done by people who support the use of the tool, but most of them were done by people who oppose their use. No evidence to support this claim has ever been found. Theoretically, it's probably true based on the nature of electricity, but given that we're talking real world, it's not a matter of concern for anyone who's using an Ecollar for training their dog. For all practical purposes, it has absolutely no effect on anything.

This myth is probably a great topic for a high school philosophy class though, and ranks up there with such weighty topics as "How many angels can dance on the head of a pin? Do insects have souls? Can we ever truly understand the opposite sex? and How high is up?"

 

32. MYTH: A dog that is wearing an Ecollar is in danger from lightning!

FACT: This is another myth that comes from a dog training forum, from someone who does not like Ecollars. She wrote that that one of the dangers of using an Ecollar was "lightning!" I countered with the truth, that wearing an Ecollar does not place any dog in danger like this, but it didn't stop her rant. She next cited as evidence of the danger, the fact that that Invisible Fences (IF's) were sold with (or had available) surge protectors to protect them from lightning.

For those new to Ecollars, Invisible fences work by burying a wire around the perimeter of the yard (or someplace that you want to keep the dog from getting into, such as a flower bed). This wire is then hooked to a transmitter which is plugged into the house power. There are some models that are battery powered. The dog wears a collar and when he approaches the wire, which is marked with flags, so the dog learns where NOT to go, it triggers the collar the dog is wearing to make a noise. During training, the dog is taught that when he hears this noise, he should move away from the flags. If he does not, he'll get a stim from the collar he's wearing.


Anyone with a shred of common sense should realize that the buried wire and the transmitter that is attached to it, are the only parts of the system that are in danger from lightning. It's a bit like thinking that a laptop computer that's not being charged (that is not hooked up to the house electrical system) is in danger if lightning hits the house.

 

The anti-Ecollar zealots never let a lack of common sense bother them. If they can scare one person away from using an Ecollar, they're happy.


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To see how some of these myths are swallowed by an experienced trainer (and my responses to him) CLICK HERE. Use your back button to return to this page.