10 Pros and Cons of Shock Collars
Shock Collars - What's in a Name
There are very few training tools on the market that are more controversial than Shock Collars.
‘Shock Collar’ – with a name like that is it any wonder that people worry!
Shock Collars are also called E-Collars, Electric Collars, Stimulation Collars, Remote Training Devices, Remote Training Collars and several other names!
If you have ever wondered, “What does a Shock Collar do to a dog?”, Shock Collars are collars with at least two metal prongs – usually rounded on the ends. When a stimulation button is hit on the corresponding handheld remote, the collar emits an electrical charge into the prongs, causing the dog to feel the electric sensation on their neck.
The type of electric pulse and the level of stimulation depends on the collar model and the stimulation level that the collar is set to. The levels can range from undetectable to intolerable, with a whole lot in between. Some collars even use pulses that cause muscles to contract, but do not create the type of electrical current that travels all the way through a dog’s body.
10 Pros and Cons of Shock Collars
When I got my Retriever, River, I was exposed to the world of Duck Hunting for the first time – I got my first up-close experience with Shock Collars there. Before that experience, I was strongly against Shock Collars.
After feeling the collar for myself, and since, having learned a lot about them, I have learned that they are not as black and white as I once thought.
Perhaps you are asking a million questions about Shock Collars, trying to decide if this tool is right for you and your dog. You may be wondering:
“Are Shock Collars for dogs inhumane?”
“Do Shock Collars hurt your dog?”
In this in-depth, expert guide we’ll answer many of your questions so that you can decide for yourself if this tool is for you. In this expert guide we will cover:
- 10 Pros of Shock Collars
- 10 Cons of Shock Collars
10 Pros of Shock Collars
There is a reason that Shock Collars are popular with many people. They have their benefits and their uses. Their Pros include:
- Less painful than some tools
- Adjustable levels
- Additional features
- Can be used by people with limited mobility or strength
- Effective when used properly
- Improved consistency
- Effective for distance commands
- Effective for stopping barking – for some dogs
- One of the only tools that can stop livestock chasing
- Effective for training around high distractions
Pro 1: Less Painful than Alternatives?
This pro is probably raising a few eyebrows. Gentle and Shock Collar are not two things that most people would think to put together, but it can be true.
Shock Collars can have anywhere from three to two-hundred levels. In a high-quality Shock Collar, there will be at least forty different levels. This wide range of levels lets you use the lowest level of stimulation that your dog can feel and will respond to.
The lowest level that your dog indicates that they feel is called your dog’s ‘Working Level.’ Not all trainers will train a dog on their Working Level, but for most training, a good trainer will.
A dog’s Working Level is very subjective. Each dog will have a different level of sensitivity. The point is to find the level that your dog will respond to so that the level is not too high for your dog. Some dogs will work on a level so low that you cannot feel it when you test the collar on your hand. Other dogs have high pain tolerances and will not respond until the stimulation level is high.
Pro 2: Adjustable Intensity
The intensity of a Shock Collar is adjustable because of the different levels of stimulation; this lets you give your dog the most effective correction or interruption without overdoing it. Giving the right about of stimulation takes skill though.
If you are wondering, “What’s the best Shock Collar for dogs?” or “What’s the best dog training collar?” then look for a Shock Collar with at least forty-levels of correction. The wide range of levels lets you find the level that is right for your dog, without skipping over the best level for them.
Like Goldilocks, you want the stimulation to be neither “too hot nor too cold — but just right.”
The following brands make higher quality Shock Collars, some of their models have at least forty-levels:
- E-Collar Technologies
Pro 3: Additional Features
Does vibration sound a lot better than a shock to you?
Many high-quality Shock Collars include additional features, like vibration, tone and light. Some dogs can be trained to respond to just vibration or tone. You can give a vibration or tone warning before you give a shock correction – teaching many dogs to respond to the vibration or tone without needing the shock afterward.
A light can be helpful for locating your dog in the dark at night.
Pro 4: Usable for People with Limited Mobility or Strength
Many tools require dexterity, strength or mobility to use properly. Shock Collars can be used by anyone who understands how to use them properly, has good timing and can press a button.
Shock Collars are also light-weight and they do not physically connect your dog to you, so your dog cannot pull you over while you are using one.
Pro 5: Effective If Used Properly
Shock Collars continue to be used because they are effective when used correctly on the right dog. If used correctly, with proper training, good communication and good-timing, Shock Collars can be an effective deterrent or a great motivator.
Many of the problems associated with Shock Collars are user error. A lot of people buy a Shock Collar, put it on their dog and start correcting the dog immediately, without teaching the dog anything beforehand. They do not determine what level the collar should be set at for their dog or learn about canine behavior and body language so that they can understand their dog’s response to the collar.
A Shock Collar is a tool; it will not train a dog for you. As a tool, it can be abused, but in the right hands they can also be very effective – often more effective than other tools on the market.
Pro 6: Consistency
One of the things that make Shock Collars effective is the level of consistency that you can achieve with them. If you tell your dog to ‘Come’ and they choose to ignore you and continue sniffing a bush, how do you enforce your command from a hundred feet away with good-timing?
Shock Collars let you enforce commands consistently – commands that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to enforce. The level of consistency you can achieve with them will always come back to your own level of consistency in training, but a Shock Collar will let you be as consistent as you choose to be in most cases.
Pro 7: Distance Commands
Remember the ‘Come’ example above?
Shock Collars are great tools for teaching distance commands. You can teach a regular ‘Come’ with a long leash and some treats, but once you get ready for off-leash work in high distraction areas, it’s hard to transition to those places safely without a Shock Collar to enforce your command from over a hundred feet away.
The collar will not do the training for you. A lot of repetition, rewards, good-timing and consistency are still needed, but it will help you achieve the consistency, motivation and timing that are needed to teach distance commands – because you can use this tool without being close to your dog.
Pro 8: Barking
Barking is an extremely common problem among pet parents.
When a dog barks, certain chemicals are released into their brains. These chemicals encourage your dog’s arousal and excitement – encouraging your dog to bark even more.
A Shock Collar can interrupt your dog’s barking long enough for your dog to become quiet. When your dog becomes quiet, you can reward the calm and quiet behavior – replacing the barking with quietness. This type of training makes Shock Collars very effective for stopping barking.
Another type of Shock Collar, ‘Bark Collars’ can be used for barking that happens when you are not home.
Using a Remote-Controlled Shock Collar to interrupt your dog’s barking, and treats to reward their quietness, before you start using a Bark Collar, can make a Bark Collar more effective. If you use a Remote-Controlled Shock Collar before you use a Bark Collar, because of your dog’s previous training, they will better understand why they are being corrected when they bark while alone – rather than associating the shock with whatever they are barking at.
Pro 9: Livestock Chasing
Many dogs are put down for livestock chasing and killing. Once a dog has started the behavior, it is extremely difficult to stop. Shock Collars are one of the only tools that can stop it.
For dogs with livestock chasing issues, the future for that dog typically looks like being re-homed, put to sleep or confined for the rest of their life. Shock collars have been effectively used by many to eradicate livestock chasing issues in a dog.
The training for breaking a dog of livestock chasing does involve higher levels of stimulation than how Shock Collars should be used for most general training. Many people would argue that a brief, painful sensation that saves a dog’s life or gives the dog more freedom is worth it. High levels of stimulation in Shock Collars is controversial though.
Pro 10: High Distractions
There is a reason that Shock Collars are commonly used for training hunting dogs. When a dog is extremely driven and focused on something – in this case the birds that they were bred to obsess over, it can be hard to get that dog to obey or focus on anything else.
Shock Collars combined with a lot of training practice, positive reinforcement and clear communication can be effective for teaching dogs to obey commands even with a lot of distractions around.
If you are wondering, “Are Shock Collars good for aggressive dogs?”, the answer is – sometimes.
A dog with aggression issues, particularly toward other dogs or strangers, needs to have a high level of obedience and to be managed extremely well to be safe. Because Shock Collars can be used to train a dog to respond effectively around lots of distractions, they can be good for aggressive dogs.
A solid ‘Come’ or ‘Stay’ command is essential for an aggressive dog – who may slip out a door or get loose when a collar buckle breaks.; such dogs should never be intentionally trusted off-leash though.
Using a Shock Collar to simply punish a dog for their aggressive reaction, without teaching the dog what to do instead or how to calm themselves, can make some cases of aggression worse though because you are adding tension to an already tense situation; this especially applies to dogs that are fear-aggressive.
10 Cons of Shock Collars
Shock Collars are powerful tools. Unfortunately, there are true stories of Shock Collars being terribly misused – intentionally and unintentionally. There are reasons why not everyone should go out and buy a Shock Collar. Their cons include:
- Easy to misuse in inexperienced hands
- Require a lot of knowledge to use properly
- Can create new behavior problems if used improperly
- Can worsen current behavior issues if used improperly
- Cannot be used on young puppies
- Not the right tool for every dog
- Should not be used to address all behavior issues or training
- Cheap models can be dangerous
- Models with too few levels can be too harsh
- Certain models can rub sore spots
Con 1: Easy to Misuse
Remember the saying, “With great power comes great responsibility”? Well, Shock Collars are powerful. This powerful tool can be effective and fair, or it can be downright abusive and ineffective.
Shock Collars require good-timing, training knowledge, fitting and usage knowledge and an understanding of canine behavior and body language. In the right hands, they can work wonderfully, in the wrong hands they can be a disaster. Many pet parents don’t have the knowledge and timing to use them correctly, and the misuse of this tool can cause serious problems.
Positive Reinforcement based tools are sometimes not as effective as shock Collars by themselves, but if you use the tool wrong, there is usually little damage done other than the dog simply not learning what you are trying to teach.
Con 2: Require Know-How
Because Shock Collars are powerful and using them correctly is very important, you need to learn about dog training, and fitting and using a Shock Collar properly to use them right.
Learning everything that you need to know about Shock Collars and training can be time-consuming and sometimes confusing; this makes Shock Collars difficult for the average pet parent to use.
Con 3: New Behavior Problems
If used wrong, Shock Collars can create bad behaviors.
For example, if you shock your dog everytime that they get on the couch, but don’t teach them the ‘Off’ command first, you might accidently teach them to be afraid of the couch.
Con 4: Worsen Behavior Problems
A lot of people first consider using a Shock Collar when their dog develops a serious behavior problem. While Shock Collars can be used to change behavior for the better, if you use them wrong, they can make certain behavior problems even worse.
Aggression is a common example. Shock Collars can be used to manage aggressive dogs and to interrupt bad behavior so that you can use positive reinforcement to teach something new; however, if you simply shock your dog while they are in an aggressive state – without helping them understand why they are being shocked, your dog will likely think that whatever they are reacting toward is causing them the pain. Just shocking a dog while they are in an aggressive state can increase aggression even more – especially fear-based aggression.
Con 5: Not for Puppies
A Shock Collar is not a good tool for a young puppy.
For a Shock Collar to work correctly, your dog needs to understand what they are supposed to be doing, how to do it and generally how the world works. A puppy is still learning those things.
Most puppy training should be positive because dogs tend to learn basic obedience commands best through Positive Reinforcement. Shock Collars are best used for more advanced training, where you need to be able to enforce a known command consistently or deal with a behavior issue. Most puppies are not ready for advanced training and do not understand the rules of the house or world yet.
Obedience training, socialization and putting good habits into place should be your goals with puppy training. If you correct a puppy too strongly for something that they do not understand yet, you can create behavior issues, like avoidance and aggression.
Con 6: Not for Everyone
Shock Collars are not the right tool for every person or every dog.
Dogs and people have different personalities and histories. If your dog is highly sensitive to pain, reacts very strongly to the lowest level of a Shock Collar, becomes aggressive and tense or shuts down when you use a Shock Collar, a Shock Collar is probably not the right tool for your dog.
Your dog may handle a Shock Collar just fine, but if you are uncomfortable with one, have anger issues or a lack of self-control, or you do not know enough about training and Shock Collars to use one properly, they are probably not the right tool for you.
Con 7: Not for Everything
While Shock Collars can be used to teach a lot of different commands and address a lot of different behavior issues, they are not the right tool for every type of training.
For example, you cannot teach your dog to like people simply by correcting them with a Shock Collar. A lot of time, rewards and patience need to be given to help your dog warm up to people and become socialized.
Con 8: Dangerous Cheap Models
When it comes to Shock Collars, quality does matter. Unfortunately, there are many cheap, poorly made Shock Collars out there.
Have you ever asked, “Are Shock Collars dangerous for dogs?” or “Can a Shock Collar burn a dog?”. If you have, the answer is yes. They can be dangerous, and they can burn a dog, but those two issues are typically related to misuse and poorly made collars that malfunction and are not designed correctly.
Like any electronic, there are well-made Shock Collars and Shock Collars that break the minute you take them out of the box. The Shock Collars with the worst reputations are usually the ones sold online, shipped from somewhere on the other side of the globe, from a brand unheard of.
Look for brands that have good reputations. If the collar is popular among local dog trainers or hunting dog groups, the collar is probably decently well-made. You can also do some research and read reviews online.
Con 9: E-Collars without Enough Levels
Even a decently well-made Shock Collar can cause issues if the collar does not have enough stimulation levels. Most Shock Collar training should be done at the lowest level that your dog will respond to; before you ever begin training your dog, you must establish what that level is for your dog.
If your Shock Collar does not have a lot of levels, there will be a big jump in the amount of stimulation that a level produces between one level to the next. One level might be too low, but the next level could be too high.
A collar with a hundred levels has a very slight difference between each of its levels, which lets you pick the level that your dog can feel but is not too strong for them.
Con 10: Sore Spots
Certain brands of Shock Collars have prongs that can rub sore spots on your dog’s neck overtime. These sore spots are not burn-marks but are caused by the pressure and slight shifting of the collar back and forth all day, for days and weeks on end.
If your dog has sensitive skin, they are more likely to develop these spots.
These sore spots are something to keep in mind when you are choosing a Shock Collar and reading collar reviews online. You can do a couple of things to prevent these spots from developing though:
- Rotate where the prongs touch your dog’s neck – The prongs on Remote Controlled Shock Collars do not have to touch your dog’s vocal cords as Bark Collars do. They simply need to touch their skin.
- Purchase a Shock Collar that gets better reviews in this area – with few or no complaints about rubbing. The design of the prongs will impact how easily the Shock Collar rubs.
- Don’t leave the collar on your dog any more than you need to for training and getting your dog comfortable wearing the collar.
- Fit the collar properly. If the collar is too loose, it is more likely to move around and rub. If the collar is too tight, the prongs will be pressing into the skin too much instead of simply touching the skin. On the same note, put the collar on high on your dog’s neck, so that it cannot move up and down as much.
- Add additional prongs to distribute the pressure more evenly. Some Shock Collars can be modified to fit four prongs instead of two. Four prongs distribute the pressure more evenly, which helps with rubbing.
- Change out the prongs. Some Shock Collars have prongs that can be removed. Most of these prongs can be replaced with wider prongs that have more rounded ends, or with prongs made from a higher quality metal that is less likely to bother your dog if they have sensitive skin or an allergy to a certain metal.
To sum up this expert guide – 10 Pros and Cons of Shock Collars, Shock Collars have their benefits and their drawbacks. Knowing yourself, your dog and your situation, you can now decide if a Shock Collar is for you.
If you decide to purchase a Shock Collar, remember to do your due diligence and learn what you can about them. Learn how to fit Shock Collars, how to train with them and how to read your dog’s body language and responses – so that you can adjust your training when you need to.
Remember to only purchase a high-quality Shock Collar with at least forty-levels, and not to use one on a young puppy.
If you learn how to use Shock Collars correctly, they can be effective. In the wrong hands, they can be harmful.
This article contains affiliate links. If you purchase through an included link it simply means that the company will pay me a small percentage of the sale. Affiliate links help support the blog so I can continue writing for my readers. The only products you will ever see me recommend are ones that I personally like and recommend left and right anyway.