Is a Remote Dog Training Collar a substitue for a leash?

I had an interesting call the other day from an Animal Control officer wanting to know my take on whether or not a remote dog training collar should be considered the same as a leash. Apparently the idea was proposed that city ordinances be altered to include e-collars as an acceptable substitute for a physical leash.

Those of you that have been following this blog for a while are probably pretty aware that you won’t find a much bigger advocate for remote collar dog training than myself so do you want to guess my response?

remote dog training collar
Who’s walking who?

It was, without hesitation, an unequivocal, NO.

There is no way I would want a city ordinance to say that an electronic or remote dog training collar is considered as a substitute for a leash.

Blasphemy, coming from me you say?…well, let me explain.

It just isn’t that simple. If municipalities go that route of thinking it is too easy for someone to go out to the pet store, purchase a remote dog training collar, strap it on their dog and go on their merry way believing they are abiding by the law.

Government entities are concerned with dog’s being under control so that their constituents feel at ease with dog’s being in public. An electronic collar strapped to the dog’s neck doesn’t mean the dog is under control of the owner. Or course neither does a leash, a head halter, a prong collar or a bag full of treats. These are all just tools created to assist a dog owner in gaining control through training. How would we know if the person took time to learn how to use these things successfully?

A dog running a-muck, barking, lunging or dragging someone down the street puts a black eye on all of us. It is a problem. (oh yeah, and the pooping on the street and not picking it up, shame on the guilty dog owners for that one)

The remote dog training collar isn’t magic. None of the tools are really all that mystical (although I did have a lovely elderly client once who called her Dogtra remote her Magic Wand which was very cute)  🙂

In the world I envision the laws will allow for dog’s to be off leash in public if owners prove themselves capable of maintaining control despite distractions. A simple test administered by the ACO or other official and the dog/owner team earns a permit for off leash access to the city that year. It would be good for dog training, good as a revenue source for the city, good for dogs and good for helping owners learn more about how to develop that kind of relationship with their beloved pet. A big win all around.

And get this…It is already actually being done! No need to reinvent the wheel if your looking to create this kind of legislation in your area.

It isn’t about the tool. I urge you to remember it about understanding dogs, people and training.

Now don’t get me wrong or I risk losing my Shock Collar reputation! (wink, wink) I still firmly believe a remote dog training collar can help the average dog lover achieve off leash reliability WAY faster than they would otherwise.


17 thoughts on “Is a Remote Dog Training Collar a substitue for a leash?

  1. Nan Jia says:

    If you are right, then the wireless fence should not being considered as a real fence for the matter of “pets are under control”.

    • Robin says:

      Hi Nan,

      I don’t know if I’m “right” but I am sharing an opinion based on a significant amount of personal experience.

      I’m not a huge fan of wireless fencing and have a preference for solid, ideally, non-see through fencing instead. That preference is based on my experience that too many people simply don’t understand their dog’s natural instinct to become territorial. Rather than using fencing as an extra layer of security when they are out in the yard with the dog (ie. supervising) they let the dog outside with little to no over-sight. This causes problems for many dogs that begin to guard and find success running a fence line (regardless of what type of fence). The frustration escalates and often in households with more than 1 dog, that frustration can spark into redirected aggression toward one another.
      Again, this can happen regardless of the type of fencing…but, the greater the visual of approaching strangers is, the more likely it seems to happen. From the perspective of the person on the other side of the fence…it is daunting to feel secure if there is not a physical barrier.
      Invisible fence doesn’t provide any sense of security for the passer-by. (unless the home owner leaves the signs or flags in place) Additionally, a physical barrier does a better job of stopping people and other animals from entering the yard thus helping the resident dog feel a bit more at ease as well.
      I get why invisible fencing has gotten so popular. Communities wanted to create a sense of more open space and prevent home owners from haphazardly constructing any variety of materials to contain the dog. That said, I do believe developers creating new subdivisions would be better served to consult with a knowledgable dog person to come up with solutions that can meet both the need for security and visual appeal.
      warm regards,

  2. Nicole says:

    I think everyone should be responsible enough about this. If you know your dog is not aggressive and well trained with the e-collar, then by all means take him out without a leash. If you know your dog is aggressive sometimes even with the e-collar, then please have him on a leash. It’s simple. If I see a dog off leash I expect them to be friendly because no owner should be stupid enough to have an aggressive dog off leash.

    • Robin says:

      Common sense isn’t always common! LOL.

      I am all for dog owners being able to earn off leash privileges by putting in the effort and passing a training certification that proofs ability. That said, even if the dog is friendly it is best practice to put on a physical leash when you encounter others during an outing.

      The physical leash provides visual reassurance to the passing party.
      It is my opinion that NO dog should approach another person or dog unless it is requested and agreed upon by all parties in the encounter. Any contact that is uninvited or unwanted it rude on the part of the “friendly dogs” owner.
      Unwanted approach can create a problem or traumatic event for a person afraid of dogs or dogs that are poorly socialized.

  3. David says:

    It’s very said, that America has become a country becoming afraid of itself. Long gone are the days of true Freedom! I do believe in being responsible. Maybe the youth have it more correct by remaining at home and pretending to living life on their play stations. A Country Gone Insane!

  4. Adam says:

    This is a hard issue for me because of my libertarian streak, but I prefer standard leash laws in residential areas and am opposed to exemptions to them. You might convince me if the owner was as required to agree to be out to death if their off leash dog attacked and killed somebody. And no, that is not a joke. People say that they trust their dog, but I want to make sure they are so sure and in control that they are willing to put their own life on the line before they put the life of other people on the line. I know how to interact with most dogs, and have even worked in enclosures with other canines in an animal park, but one of my children has absolutely no natural ability to interact with animals and there is already enough in this world to have to be hyper vigilant about without adding more dogs off of leash to the mix.
    All that being said, I really love it when there are dog parks in the community for that allow for off leash time. Outside of that environment, feel free to buy lots of land if you want the right to work with your dog in an open area without a leash.

  5. Marilyn says:

    I totally agree with you. I was recently walking with my son’s American Eskimo mini on a trail in my town where there is a sign at the beginning of the trail that states that dogs must be on a leash. During our walk, an older couple with 2 large German Shepards off leash were walking towards us. I stopped and had my dog sit so that he would stay calm (something we’re working on). One of the dogs started to come towards us but kept laying down. The other, bigger one, all of a sudden started to run towards us barking in an agressive manner, which set off the other shepard. Thankfully, their owners managed to get them under control before any harm came to my dog. When I mentioned the leash law, she held up a remoter device and told me they were on an electronic leash. Obviously, she didn’t use it correctly or else the situation wouldn’t have gotten out of hand. I work very hard to make sure my dog doesn’t disturb other dogs and expect the same consideration from other owners.

  6. Viatecio says:

    I too was a bit “shocked” by your response, but in reading the WHYs about it as well as other comments, I understand completely and agree 100%! The notion that all one needs is a certain tool to suddenly be exempt from a physical attachment (one that actually might be beneficial at times instead of a substitute for control) is a bit concerning, especially in light of the Instant Gratification mindset that permeates society today.

    I’m also intrigued because I did most of my dog’s training with the pinch collar, and not a lot with the e-collar, because she absolutely freezes when she feels the weight of the box on her neck (and she’s 40 lbs, so it’s not like it drags her down–she just doesn’t like it for some reason!). So I actually needed the leash a bit more than had I been working with my e-collar, which, I think, helped me realize the value of using one and why the laws were created. With that said, I did have her working off-leash in about 6 months from when we got her, but it took a little while longer to actually get her to where I felt comfortable not needing a leash at all, even though it doesn’t exclude me from using it out in public. Here’s a video I did to show off a little bit of what I expect when I train (ignore the commentary and the “challenge”, this is directed toward people who think that training collars are cruel and break a dog’s spirit…kind of like your video…if the dog was trained with such an ‘inhumane’ device, why is she still so happy?).

  7. Rachel Chan says:

    Fascinating to hear the various ordinaces about off-leash dogs. (Maybe I need to move to one of those places!) Yes, various equipment tools never equal control. And I’ve met a lot of dogs that are very equipment conscious- they know when the collar or leash is on and are “good” and they know when it’s not on… Maybe it’s the idealist in me, but even the ordinances that would allow one to have their dog off leash with an e-collar (while still better than leash-only laws) still does not quite capture training in excellence. I think equipment tools are good, but are only tools to be discarded. I very much agreee that there should be a way to license your dog to be legally off-leash! Just the other day I had an ACO warn me about Alameda, CA leash laws. My dog, however, was just waiting on his mark. I wonder if I would have gotten the $400 fine if he was running about playing? But I can’t see how anyone could judge a dog playing off leash who stays and outs on first-time command. But she did make a point that other people see us doing this off-leash play in non-designated areas and think it’s okay for them too. I understand the validity in that, but those of us who work hard to achieve this kind of relationship with our dogs should not be penalized! That’s part of the enjoyment of having done the work!
    Thanks so much for the post!
    I am new to this internet stuff, but wow- I love how these topics can be aired and made visible!

  8. Cynthia Eliason says:

    Our “dog control law” in New Hampshire doesn’t mention leashes. Dogs may not roam “at large” but there’s no requirement that they be on a leash. No testing or special permission is needed. Some of the cities do have their own leash laws but most of the state is under the dog control law. For the most part it seems that New Hampshire dog owners are smart enough to know when they need a leash and when they don’t.

  9. Sarah says:

    Well said. It’s important to remember that the tool itself isn’t the cure, it’s the consistent application in a training context. I’ve found over the last few weeks that’s it’s a heck of a lot easier to navigate narrow, slippery, snowy residential sidewalks here without having to hold two leashes in my hand. Our compromise (since there is most definitely a leash law here), is that the dogs are wearing their leashes, but I’m actually controlling them with their e-collars while the leashes are dragging. They can have up to 3 feet in front of me or so (what their leashes would allow), while the handles of the leashes drag at my feet and I’m just using their e-collars to remind them when they start to get too far ahead or are lagging behind and need to catch up. Of course, if another dog and person comes along, leashes get picked up and dogs are completely under leash control as well. It’s worked great here this winter and made our walks safer for all of us.

  10. Greg Lyon says:

    We actually have a provision in the city leash law where I live, Lawrence, KS, that allows dogs to be off-leash – providing: “The animal has an operating electronic collar and is under the charge, care or control, of its owner or keeper who is operating an electronic pet containment system or electronic training system for the animal.”
    I am also a dog trainer and do remote collar training, and I couldn’t agree with you more! I have seen the evidence, first-hand, of the expectation that an electronic collar will create a “remote control dog”!
    Great post Robin, Thanks! WOOF!!

  11. Judy Lange says:

    At first I was ‘shocked’ by your response to the question of “Is a Remote Dog Training Collar a substitute for a leash?” After reading further I fully understand.

    I think it would be great if the cities and towns would conduct e-collar testing to allow those dogs and owners who pass to dispense of the leash.

    CJ & I are working hard on being well-trained, good citizens. She can move a lot faster than I which allows for extra exercise and stimulation. And I know I have control with the remote collar. A leash isn’t as much fun!

    Thanks for the article. I hope officials listen.

    • Sandra Pickering says:

      I say a very loud “no” to shock collars substituting for a leash. I was walking my well-mannered Greyhound this evening around my local public park where there are two signs stating “dogs must be on leash at all times”. A woman with two Stafordshire terriers (pit bulls) was allowing her dogs to run through the park. The minute they saw my dog they came for the kill. I screamed and she came running. I carry a dog citrus spray and I sprayed them both in the face and they attacked my dog anyway. She managed to pull them off my dog before they tore him to pieces and claimed they were well trained and had shock collars. Well they obviously didn’t work! I just want to walk my dog in peace and not be attacked by other peoples well trained dogs. Please, if you want your dog to run loose, take them to an enclosed dog park.

    • Greg says:

      No one cares if you “aren’t having as much fun”. No one cares if your dog gets “extra exercise and stimulation”. People only care that your dog is attached to a physical leash and in your control at ALL times. I have a big scar on my face and nearly lost my left eye because of ignorant people like you who care more about your dumb dog than you do about the people around you.

      • Robin says:

        Thank you for writing Greg. I’m terribly sorry for your misfortune. You are right that people need to have full control of their dogs. Unfortunately a physical leash is not a guarantee of that either. Dog owners must take full responsibility for training and managing their dog. I have seen individuals who have absolutely beautiful relationships with their dogs and full control whether on a leash or off. And on the flip side, I’ve seen those with physical leashes and a variety of training tools who still have no clue and no control. I’ve seen dogs who have broken out of their collars, slipped from control and some who have drug their owners down…in all these instances it is never about the piece of equipment as much as it is about having a human who actively takes a part in understanding the animal they are responsible for and establishing a level of training that keeps themselves, their dog and those around them safe.

        • Bruce says:

          It is very convenient to say that some owners have control of their dogs even off leash, and some cannot control their dogs on a leash. However, it is impossible to tell if a dog without a physical restraint is well behaved or not, thus it poses a potential risk to the public around it. If laws are passed that allow pet owners to take dogs into public places without physical restraint, they will only be enforced or challenged after, let me repeat,”AFTER” there is an attack or injury. Not only will someone have to suffer a physical injury, but an emotional scare will be inflicted as well. Let’s not be swayed by those who wish to avoid an “inconvenience” like using a leash, we have demanded through the years that dogs be restrained in public as a safety measure for the public. Do not endanger someone else because of your own stupidity or laziness.

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