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All dogs need collars. Collars keep our furry companions safe by providing a convenient place to attach identification tags, city licenses, and vaccination records. But some people use collars as a way to try to control bad behavior such as barking and jumping. One common type of collar used in an attempt to correct a dog’s bad behavior is the shock collar. A shock collar works by sending an electric current through metal contact points within the collar. When a dog engages in an undesirable behavior, those metal contact points send an electric shock into the dog’s neck to discourage him from engaging in that behavior again.

Proponents of shock collars claim that they are effective training tools and do not hurt.  However, many studies have shown that shock collars are unnecessary and have the potential to be very dangerous.

Suppressing Behaviors Instead of Addressing Underlying Causes

People generally use shock collars to get their dog to stop engaging in certain behaviors, such as excessive barking. The problem with a shock collar is that it only suppresses the behavior – it does not actually address the underlying reasons for the bad behavior.

So while the electric shock may stop your dog from barking in that moment, the problem itself has not been dealt with. Dogs can’t explain what they’re feeling to us, so they use behaviors such as barking and jumping to communicate. By barking excessively, your dog may be trying to tell you something important. Perhaps he has been alone for too long and is bored, or perhaps he is feeling anxious. By merely shocking him into silence, you have ignored those underlying issues.

Behavioral Issues

Shock collars are supposed to correct behavioral issues. In reality, they tend to cause more problems than they solve. Various studies have revealed that the use of shock collars can cause extreme stress, fear, and anxiety in dogs. Aggression is also a concern, as many breeds react to being painfully shocked by lashing out at those around them. Confusion is another common reaction to shock collars, as many dogs do not understand why they are being shocked.

Finally, there is a very real risk that a dog may begin to associate being shocked with the presence of his owner, who is usually the person controlling the shock collar. This negative association can have a damaging effect on your relationship with your dog.

Malfunction and Injury

Shock collars are not regulated, and have the potential to cause serious injury to your dog. Studies of shock collars show that they hurt!

Dogs have been observed reacting to being shocked by yelping, struggling, hiding, cowering, trembling, urinating, and defecating. There have been multiple cases of shock collars malfunctioning and causing repeated shocks, skin irritation, and even serious electrical burns to dogs’ necks. One country, Wales, outlawed shock collars due to the high potential for misuse and injury.

A Better Way

Shock collars have been shown to cause serious behavioral problems in dogs, from anxiety to aggression, and can actually result in physical injury. Worse, they are usually used to stop behaviors that your dog may be using to try to communicate with you.

Many respected veterinarians and dog organizations have denounced the use of shock collars, calling them inhumane and unnecessary. With alternatives such as positive reinforcement training available, there is simply no excuse for using pain to discipline or train your dog.

Instead of silencing your dog through shocks, use positive reinforcement to address any underlying issues and teach him the correct behaviors. You’ll change his behavior for the better without jeopardizing his health, welfare, or your relationship.

Image source: Franklin/Wikimedia Commons

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7 comments on “There’s Nothing Shocking About Why Shock Collars Can Be Harmful for Dogs”

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Cindy Ludwig
10 Months Ago

Thank you for this. Unfortunately, there are some people who choose ignorance over evidence. There is absolutely no excuse whatsoever for using these cruel devices on dogs to train them. There is plenty of literature, as well as anecdotal evidence to prove this. I would like to see a show of hands of how many people who refuse to properly train their dogs using best practices would like to be trained this way themselves.

Mark Bell
3 Years Ago

Sorry folks, you got this one wrong. First off, \'shock collars\' or e-collars as they are now called, have come a long way since they were first introduced in the 70\'s. The idea behind them is not to shock but to communicate. The level I use on my dog could not even be felt by most humans. E-collars are far more humane than other training methods such as prong collars or the snap and release of regular collars. There is only one other method I would consider using and that is the \'clicker\'. But that will have little effect on your reactive dog when he sees that squirrel and wants to give chase. My dog has the Advanced AKC Canine Good Citizenship certificate. He is a happy dog who loves to put on his e-collar because he knows something good is going to happen. I learned about the e-collar through Sit Means Sit dog training which is where I took my friend to correct his habit of chasing cars. It took one day. You tell me any other method that could accomplish that.

Cori Beth
3 Years Ago

I had to listen to someone laughing about hurting their dog with one of these the other day while I was in a waiting room and then the woman he was talking to said she had one for her cat!

Kathy Ruyssers
3 Years Ago

We have two dogs that used to chase every rabbit they saw. This was dangerous for them, as rabbits do cross roads. We use the shock collars now and walking the dogs has never been so relaxing, for them and for us. You can adjust the level so you can adapt to each individual dog. It feels just like a little prick to the dog, just enough to alert them. When chasing rabbits, they did not hear us call them or whistle, while usually they are very well behaved. We only had to shock each dog once or twice. Now when they even hear us turn on the collars (it makes a sound) they are very eager for us to put them on, because they know it means we are going for a long walk in the Woods and fields and they can run free. It all depends on the user, I guess...

Danielle Quinn
3 Years Ago

I have 3 dogs and just over 5 acres of land with nothing but trees on it I would have had to cut down almost 100 trees to to build a fence so I got the electric fence I turn the shock down and I did shock myself a few times til it wasn't that bad but my dogs don't even let it get that far if they hear the beep which comes before the shock they turn around it's worked so we'll for us they don't even wear their collars anymore they just know they have to stay in the yard

Paula Dambrink-van Aalst
3 Years Ago

I give you one for cristmas to do around your own neck, looks lovely

Zumba Helen
3 Years Ago

I'd just ask those people to put a chock collar on for a day before they are allow to put it on their animal.

Juan Ferrari
3 Years Ago

Sandra Flores

Shirley Furgoch
3 Years Ago

Never understood why ANYONE would subject a member of their family to such a degrading collar...it's just simply common sense


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