The shocking truth about shock collars

One of the many quick fix products to modify a dog’s behavior is the electronic shock collar. Rather than seeking the cause of an unwanted behavior, this cruel solution induces painful electronic shocks to your dog to correct his actions.

While almost all training schools have shifted towards reward-based training and positive reinforcement techniques, some trainers and dog owners still promote shock collars for obedience training and as an effective method for dealing with behavioral problems.

Banned in several countries

The dog training shock collar is even banned in several countries and its usage protested by many animal activist groups. Sold under other names, such as e-collar and remote collar, manufacturers now try to avoid using the word “shock” because of its negative connotations.

Misleading marketing

Shock collars are often marketed as the most effective dog training products. Although this is not all that far from the truth — as, in most cases, they will indeed eliminate unwanted behavior — this does not mean that using a dog training shock collar is a safe or recommend training method. Shock collars can be very effective when used by individuals who have had proper training and want to modify the behavior of particularly stubborn dogs. This however does not mean that they are suitable for all dogs and the shock collars should most definitely not be considered as the only way to train difficult dogs.

Slight discomfort or shocking pain?

One of the most common lies told by retailers and advocates of the shock collar is that it does not cause pain, but rather induces a slight discomfort and not a painful shock. While the force of a shock collar is often compared to exercise equipment, electric fences, and other electrical items, the truth of the matter is that it does cause pain, if only for a brief second.


Dog shock collars pose a risk when used by anyone, even experienced trainers, as it is impossible to know how much pain the dog is experiencing. Untrained individuals using shock collars, especially when testing one on a dog for the first time, are at risk of inflicting a significant amount of pain on their pet. Setting the collar too high can cause the dog to yelp, panic, or cower in fear, and, in the case of a bark correction collar, this only results in another shock.

Side effects

Simply wearing the collar can cause discomfort when it is used for long periods of time, and not only when the recommended usage time is exceeded. A common side effect is friction sores caused by the metal probes rubbing away to the skin. If these sores become infected, they can spread across the entire neck.

Another concern about using the collars is that if shocks are mistimed, the dog will not understand what behavior he is being punished for and may thus associate the pain with something else, hereby becoming fearful of a feature in his environment, of a person nearby, or even of the location where he is being trained. He may not relate the shock to anything at all, simply believing it to be a random occurrence, which can result in stress, confusion, and generalized anxiety.

Shock collars pose an even great health risk with young puppies, toy breeds, or rescue dogs, as these dogs are particularly likely to experience physical and psychological trauma.

Safe electronic dog collars

There are safe electronic dog collars available however which have a vibration or tone feature that warns the dog that an electronic impulse will follow if she does not correct her behavior. This type of remote barking collar can even disable the shock feature of the collar, so that the harmful shocks are eliminated.