“Tails From The Field” is a series of true stories from Chad Culp’s experience in the field of professional dog training. Some details, such as names and breeds, may have been changed for privacy protection. 


Our story begins with an email I received from a woman who read my article E-collars: History, Evolution and Controversy and felt very strongly that there was no need for the use of e-collars. I wasn’t shocked (pun intended) that someone would have that opinion but there was something about this particular email exchange that I found interesting and even a little perplexing, so I was compelled to write an article about it. I hope you will find it interesting as well. 

The Email (copied and pasted, exactly as it was written)


Subject: Article on E-collar RIGHT-ON!

I’m so against this type training.

I argued with trainers … if you have patience, and know what you’re doing, there’s no need.

You’re lazy.

Will print and show to a few trainers.




Well, there you have it, short, to the point and just the sort of thing that’s perfect for starting a battle between keyboard warriors on social media! 

Seriously though, before I share my reaction, I’d like to invite you to take a minute and think about yours. What do you think about that email? Does it “trigger” you? Does it make sense to you? Do you think it’s accurate? Please write down your immediate thoughts and then see if your opinion changes after you read the rest of the article, you might be surprised.

Ok, now for my thoughts.  

My Confusion

At first, I found the brief, shorthandish writing style of the email a little hard to decipher, starting with the fact that I didn’t even know which article it referred to. I read it several times before responding because I wasn’t sure if she was insulting me or complimenting me. After replying a couple of times, and receiving very brief responses, I learned which article it was and concluded that she actually was complimenting my article. Apparently, she had reached out to several trainers in her area and they all wanted to use e-collars, which she felt was lazy. I still wonder if maybe she misread my article because it is definitely not anti e-collar, so I’m still a little confused. Hopefully she appreciated that the article had a balanced perspective on the matter of e-collars but, regardless, I’m very happy to report that the conversation ended positively as she said, in the same shorthand style, “So glad read article.” 

My Brief Analysis  

Before I elaborate on my personal opinion of the email, let me just say, with respect, that I believe everyone deserves the right to “like, share and subscribe” to whatever opinions they choose. I also believe the opinions in this email mirror the opinions of millions of other well-meaning dog lovers all over the world. I also believe that most people tend to develop strong opinions based on their emotional reactions to a subject rather than a thorough understanding of the subject. I believe this holds true for virtually any topic under the sun and e-collars are certainly no exception. This little flaw in human psychology is perfectly natural and normal but it’s also why I felt the blanket statements expressed in this email were worthy of a deeper discussion. 

My personal opinion, as you may have guessed, is that the statement in this email is not entirely accurate. However, even though I am an e-collar user, you may be surprised to hear me say that I believe it’s very close to being accurate. My brief reply to this person was that I thought it would be a lot more accurate if it was modified to say something like this: 

“IF you have patience and IF you know what you are doing, MOST dogs can be trained, to a level that MOST people will be satisfied with, without the use of an e-collar.” 

She did not comment on my modified version but she also didn’t argue with it and replied that she looked forward to reading more of my “great articles”, so I assume she must have agreed with it. Again, I was glad to end the exchange on a high note but the question is, what do you think? 

Were you paying close attention to the words in all caps? Doesn’t it seem like a more complete, fair, realistic and less judgemental statement than the original email? It does to me but, of course, I’m biased to my own opinion. It’s ok if you don’t agree, you are entitled to your opinion, but, if you don’t mind reading a little further, you might begin to see things differently. 

Let’s take a quick look at the words IF and MOST in my modified version of the statement: 

IF you have patience…IF you know what you are doing. Those are both really big IFs. How big, you ask? Hold on, let me whip out my thesaurus: Those are giant, huge, monumental, king-size, immense, monstrous, mammoth, gargantuan, humongous, astronomical, ginormous IFs.

MOST people do not have a ton of patience. I’m sorry but they don’t. This is just the reality of the situation. If there’s a faster way to get something done, most people will at least be open to investigating it. Which, to be fair, doesn’t necessarily mean they are impatient, it often means they simply don’t have a ton of extra time to spend training their dogs. So, is it fair to call them lazy for seeking more efficient solutions? Maybe but aren’t we all guilty of being lazy sometimes? 

MOST people do not know what they are doing. Sorry, I mean no offense, but, deep down, I think we all know this, don’t we? Here’s evidence of my theory: In my town we have almost as many professional dog trainers as we do Starbucks. If most people knew what they were doing, would we need that many professional dog trainers? Probably not. 

MOST dogs are pretty darned easy to train. But, most doesn’t mean all, which means there are some dogs that are very difficult to train. Even people who have all the time and patience in the world and “know what they are doing” may still find an e-collar necessary to remedy some of these cases. Sometimes the e-collar is merely a time saver but sometimes it is literally a lifesaver. 

MOST people have a very low bar of expectation. In fact, I would say that most people have no idea how far they are falling short in this department. Here’s evidence of my theory: I have picked up new clients simply by putting my dog in a down-stay while buying something at a garage sale. Most people are utterly amazed by this! You would think I just performed some David Copperfield level magic trick or something. A garage sale down-stay should not be considered an astounding feat but it is, which shows how low most people’s dog training criteria is. 

MOST people have close to zero control over their dogs. A common statement regarding their dog’s obedience is something like, “He knows how to sit and will come, sometimes, if he knows I have a treat.” They don’t even realize what the possibilities are or how far short they are falling from fulfilling their dog’s potential. They have no idea what they are missing out on and how much safe off-leash freedom and adventure their dog could be enjoying with the control provided by properly conditioned e-collar training. 

Please note the emphasis on the words “safe” and “properly conditioned” in the previous sentence. 

So, IF this and IF that, MOST of the time, for MOST dogs and MOST people “there is no need” for e-collar training. Yep, that’s true but it’s also very misleading because people tend to gloss over words like “if” and “most” only to mistakenly conclude that, across the board, there’s “no need” and “you’re lazy” if you do it. 


I could go on about this for hours but, for now, I believe I have shown respect for the fact that the email I received was from a very nice woman with the best of intentions and that her statements have some limited validity with the caveat of some really big IFs. 

That being said, these anti e-collar statements are concerning because they imply that anyone who uses an e-collar is just being “lazy” and that, with time and know-how, any and all dog training needs can be met without the need of an e-collar. This, my friends, is simply not true. Sure, patience is a virtue and most of us could use more of it, but we also need to recognize when the narratives being offered are nothing more than virtue signaling. 

Virtue Signaling: 

An empty act done publicly with the intent of enhancing one’s own image. The act of expressing a viewpoint, often in a pretentious manner, with the intent of displaying morality and communicating good character. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, virtue signaling is “an attempt to show other people that you are a good person.”

Some methods being offered out there by “anti e-collar” trainers take so long that dogs literally don’t live long enough for them to work. And, even if you happen to have all the time, patience and know-how in the world, the fact remains that there are levels of training that can be achieved today that were impossible before the advent of the modern e-collar. There are also behavior problems that can be resolved with e-collars that would otherwise be deemed impossible. 

So, as you can see, sometimes there actually is a need for e-collar training. That is one truth. Another truth is that MOST people will never need to use an e-collar to achieve their particular dog training goals. 

It is also true that poor e-collar training causes more harm than good. However, I think we can all agree that the misuse of a tool is not a valid argument against its proper use

E-collars are a complex topic that cannot be summed up in a soundbite. The truth about e-collars, just like the truth about anything, lies in the details. We need to have nuanced conversations about this rather than pointing fingers and calling each other names. At the end of the day, that’s really all I am hoping for. 



PS: That was just a brief analysis but I believe I have given a balanced, nuanced and objective perspective on this subject. I am happy to extrapolate with part 2 of this story. Email chad@thrivingcanine.com with “Dog Geek” in the subject line to let me know if you’re interested in more details on this matter.  

Chad Culp – Certified Dog Trainer, Canine Behavior Consultant, Owner of Thriving Canine. 

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