Dog shock collars oppose two very extreme camps: one constantly praises these training devices while others, never stop condemning them.
Frequently described as ineffective and cruel methods of dog training by animal welfare activists and partisans of positive reinforcement, these training collars are used and loved by many dog lovers who use them professionally such as dog trainers and hunters, especially with spaniels and retrievers.
Useful for various purposes, you can contain your dog in a safe area thanks to wireless (or wired) dog fences, avoid nuisance barking with anti-bark collars or training your dog for obedience with the remotely trained collars.
So, what does science say? Well, several reports have been released over the last decades but they are all contradictory: one depicts how painful it can be, another says it is only unpleasant like a tap on the bum, and some scientists have come to the conclusion that dog shock collars are harmless for dogs.
Pros of Shock Collars for Dogs
To defend e-collars, many from the advocacy side say…
- both the design and engineering of e-collars have greatly improved over the last decade, giving an updated product with a greater range of electrical shocks and distance, a vibrating-only and tone-only modes
- the wider range of stimulation levels enables pet owners to find the “right” settings for each dog—the level that the dog will respect, yet one that is humane and not fear-inducing
- many well-known professional dog trainers have been using it for years on very stable and harmless dogs
- dog shock devices are only used few hours a month at most for training purposes and never to abuse the dog
- these devices get the dog’s attention very quickly and get the desired results fast
- stubborn and aggressive dogs wouldn’t take “no” as an answer, remote collars are an additional incentive to stop unwanted behaviours
- improves the off-leash recall and training and is much safer for the dog
- companies manufacturing these remote electric collars now use safety devices to stop the correction after few seconds
Cons of Dog Shock Collars
On the other side of the pitch, detractors also have their elements to bring on the table…
- some studies have shown that electrical shock stimulations tend to cause a stress response in dogs, as per their cortisol levels as well as heart rate
- concerns have been raised over the way dog handlers and owners unintentionally use the dog shock collars, sometimes incorrectly, including:
- the level or strength of the correction
- the timing of the correction
- the context of use
- other concerns were about the behaviours these remote collars were being used for and worry that they would intensify these feelings:
- malfunctions of training collars could allegedly be deadly
- pain tolerance is different in each dog, the threshold varies from one dog to another
- use of e-collars on puppies
It is more about people’s beliefs and ideology than about facts. I’m sure you all got a slap once in a blue moon when you were younger and did foolish things, dog shock collars are pretty much the same to dogs. It is obviously not painful when used correctly, but it is indeed unpleasant or for the gentle ones, simply annoying, like with spray collars and dog silencers.
A great study by Schalke & Al. did show that reasonable handlers who used e-collars smartly kept their dog free from long or short-term noticeable stress.
From this the researchers concluded that the dogs who could clearly associate the shock with their action (i.e. touching the prey) and as a result were able to predict and control whether they received a shock, did not show considerable or persistent stress.Source: Schalke, E., Stichnoth, J., Ott, S., Jones-Baade, R., 2007, Applied Animal Behaviour Science 105, pp. 369-380
What causes the abusive scenarios with these collars is the person having the remote in hands: if you gained 5kg, don’t blame the spoon, blame yourself. Here too, dog handlers need to learn how to use them and the best way is to start with the lowest stimulation level and slowly increase…
To sum this up, these are simple tools to eradicate undesired behaviors but dog shock collars should be used and handled with care and attention:
- never use one with a scared, fearful or aggressive dog
- never use one with a young puppy
- always use the same warning signal so the dog can stop the unwanted behavior before the actual static shock
- always make the reason why the dog is punished clear so your dog can learn much more efficiently