Are Shock Collars Harmful?

Active Dog

April 25, 2018

Are Shock Collars Harmful?

If you have a new puppy, chances are you’ve considered or been approached about using a shock collar. These devices are typically used while training a dog to discontinue an unwanted behavior. This can include: leaving the yard, barking or jumping on people or furniture. Although shock collars have proven effective, there is controversy surrounding the method. People wonder, does it hurt my dog? Are shock collars harmful? I’ve asked these same questions, so I decided to look into it further.

Will it hurt them?

According to Off Leash K9 Training, old shock collars had very high settings and were inhumane. However, the ones that are produced now are completely different. They compare the electric feeling from the new electric shock collars to “stim” pads that are frequently used in physical therapist offices.

Benefits and drawbacks of using shock collars

In my research, both Off Leash K9 Training and Barkpostprovided a few benefits in using a shock collar for training.

  • The speed of training can increase rapidly – Anyone that has trained a puppy, knows that is a huge plus.
  • The method is inexpensive – there are a variety options and are much cheaper than one-on-one training with a licensed trainer.
  • The intensity of shock can be controlled – new shock collars provide options for the amount of shock a dog is given.
  • You don’t always have to be present for training – this allows more autonomy for you and your dog.

However, many others still do not believe in the use of shock collars.

  • Some believe the shock administered by the collar is inhumane – As of March 8, 2018, England has banned the use of these devices, calling them cruel and unnecessary.
  • Used only as a quick fix – Yahoo News states shock collars are used as a quick fix and do not lead to the long term training of an animal.
  • Harm the bond between pet and owner – The use of an electronic collar to train your dog is utilizing negative reinforcement to modify behavior.
  • Misunderstanding on punishment – a shock may confuse the dog into thinking they are being punished for the wrong behavior.
  • Anxiety and fear – Depending on the sensitivity of the dog, shock collars can add a level of anxiety.

yellow lab sitting in grass field

Training techniques

The dog trainers that I have worked with teach using positive reinforcement to encourage good behavior. This is amethod that focuses on telling your dog when they are correct, instead of only pointing out what is incorrect. Usually it is done by using something such as a clicker or verbal cue for correctness and timing, paired with a reward that creates reinforcing to the dog.

Positive Reinforcement training has yielded great results for my dog and me. My pup is 1.5-years-old and has grown and learned tremendously in the last year using this method. (Besides his barking of course).

Like every type of training, the use of shock collars may not be right for every dog. Inexperienced dog trainers should use caution, as misuse of the device can yield poor results. Many professional dog trainers may see good results, but it would not be a good method for an inexperienced dog trainer/owner.

Alternative methods

If you’re looking for a training tool that will have similar effects as a shock collar, there are other options.

  • Positive reinforcement training methods
  • Clicker training
  • Guided training classes