Whether you have a pup with a penchant for persistent barking or you’d like to train your dog to stay in the yard, you may have considered a shock collar (aka electronic collar, e-collar, or remote training collar). As with any method of behavior modification, there are pros and cons. Ultimately, it’s up to you to choose the method that works best for you and your pup, so we’ve laid out the facts to help you decide.
We suggest NOT using these collars until your dog understands basic commands like sit and stay. That way, you know that they comprehend what you are asking them to do, and they can draw the association between any negative behavior and the “shock.”
If you do decide that an e-collar is the right training device for your dog, we recommend the SportDOG FieldTrainer 425X for its 21 levels of correction, beep-only option, rechargeable battery, and 500-yard range.
It’s more expensive than some of the other electronic options out there, but it gives you more control and, therefore, a more positive training experience for your pup. It also allows you to train your dog with a much more mild tingle on 21 levels, rather than starting with an intense shock. This is among our top picks for the best dog training collar.
Best Budget Shock Collar: PetSpy M686 Premium Training Collar Review
If the SportDOG collar is out of your price range, the PetSpy M686 Premium Training Collar is another excellent option. It offers four training modes: vibration, sound, and momentary and continuous shock. And it gives you eight adjustable levels of vibration and shock, so you can fine-tune the correction level.
We also like that this collar’s contact points are made of conductive rubber to prevent skin irritation. It has a vast range (up to 1,000 feet), and the remote has a handy strap for easy portability. The adjustable collar fits most dogs (10-140 pounds), and the collar is waterproof (but not the remote).
Shock collars are a type of aversive training initially used in the 1960s to train hunting dogs. These days, people often use shock collars to curb a variety of stubborn and unwanted behaviors in family dogs, from excessive barking to food aggression. They’re also used to train pups to stay safely within a property line or to stick close by while off-leash.
A dog training shock collar should not be intended as a punishment but more as a deterrent to negative or unsafe behavior. The theory is that your dog will associate the unwanted behavior with a slightly uncomfortable jolt and stop doing it until he no longer requires the reminder.
The shock administered by an approved shock collar is safe, so while it is certainly enough to get your dog’s attention and deter certain behaviors, it won’t do any lasting physical harm.
With most shock collars, there are several types of enforcement and levels of stimulation, so you can set the level to reprimand the unwanted behavior accordingly. For example, many shock collars will administer a beep or vibration as a warning before an actual shock is delivered to your dog.
The beep also allows you to give a verbal command (“No!” or “Down!”) with the warning beep or vibration to further disrupt the unwanted behavior. Just keep in mind that you should approach shock collar training slowly, starting with the lowest level of enforcement and working your way up if needed.
With boundary training (often marketed as an electric or wireless fence), the shock collar is triggered by wires placed underground along the property line so the dog learns exactly how far they can go before they reach the boundary.
Once set to “shock” mode, there are usually varying levels of intensity delivered by a two-pronged device attached to a dog collar. If you’re using a shock collar as a barking deterrent, the collar responds to the vibration of your dog’s vocal cords. If you’re using the collar to deter behavioral issues like food aggression, jumping, or leash aggression, a remote control allows you to administer the shock in conjunction with the unwanted behavior.
Keep in mind, using a shock collar doesn’t make you a bad pet parent, and it doesn’t mean you are torturing your dog, especially when used on the lower non-shock levels. It is unlikely that an electronic training collar would destroy your relationship with your dog. In fact, shared training sessions could improve your bond with one another.
Here are four pros and four cons that we think everyone should consider before using or purchasing a shock collar for a dog. Please be sure to read these carefully, and feel free to ask us any questions you have about the pros and cons of using a shock collar.
Pros Of Shock Collars For Dogs
1. Adjustable Intensity
Most modern shock collars give you the flexibility of a warning beep or vibration mode and adjustable shock levels. This can be comforting to people who are on the fence about using a shock collar. Other collars, such as spray collars, which administer a harmless but foul-smelling blast up a dog’s snout, are usually not adjustable.
2. Fast Results
Some pet owners report that it only took a few shocks to correct an unwanted behavior in their dog, and, after that, the beep or vibration was warning enough (for us, we never even needed the shock at all). Shock collars can also be very effective at keeping your dog on your property, which will help keep them safe while giving them freedom. Of course, more stubborn dogs may take longer to train.
3. You Don’t Need To Be Present
When used to control chronic barking, shock collars work even while you’re away from home or inside the house. This can be especially helpful if you’ve had neighbors complain about your dog’s loud protests. The same goes for shock collars as boundary control, although they do require some hands-on training.
Personally, I would not leave my dog unattended with a shock collar as I would be scared of overcorrecting while I was not there to observe and adjust to the situation, but this is your choice. Also, we don’t recommend leaving your dog unattended outside for extended periods of time, with or without a shock collar.
A shock collar can be a cheaper alternative to a professional dog trainer or fence. Shock collars range in price from $30 to $250+, depending on features such as remote control, adjustable warning/shock levels, a range of distances (usually 30 to 400 yards), and the number of collars included.
Cons Of Shock Collars For Dogs
1. The Shock
Most pet owners can’t fathom causing pain to their pet. But even with the ability to control the intensity of the correction, you are still using aversive behavior modification. Many dog trainers choose positive reinforcement (reward) as a means of behavior modification over negative feedback.
2. The Fear
Fear in dogs can be dangerous, so you never want to train a dog with fear. With shock training, some dogs may learn to fear people, objects, or situations they associate with the collar. One pet owner we know installed a wireless fence and then their dog refused to go outside after training with it. Their dog even started urinating in the house.
Without you there to control when a shock is administered, automatic bark collars and electric fences may deliver shocks unintentionally or too often. This unnecessary shock could confuse your dog by “correcting” a problem that was not even there.
4. No Positive Reward
On their own, shock collars don’t reinforce good behavior with a positive reward such as your affection, verbal approval (“Good boy!”), or a tasty treat. So while a shock collar may effectively deter negative behaviors like jumping on visitors or running after the mail carrier, it doesn’t reward positive behavior such as sitting patiently or obeying a command to “Stay!”. As with any training, you should always reinforce positive behavior with a reward of affection, playtime, or a small treat.
You may be tempted to turn to an e-collar right away to curb your puppy’s negative behaviors. But as we said above, it’s wise to hold off using a shock collar until your pup has at least nailed down basic obedience commands. Puppies have short attention spans and need time to mature enough to understand instructions.
According to PetSpy and some other e-collar experts, dogs less than six months should not use e-collars. Why? Puppies under six months may not have the ability to receive training or to receive the various types of stimulation from an e-collar.
If you are seeking an alternative to the shock collar, try an ultrasonic bark control device. This one from PetSafe costs about $60 and looks like a birdhouse. It uses high-frequency ultrasonic sound to deter barking, which isn’t harmful to pets.
It’s weatherproof and for outside use. You can hang it on a tree, wall, or fence to stop your dog or your neighbor’s dog from obsessively barking. It’s effective up to 50 feet away.
Here is a summary of the pros and cons of shock collars for dogs.
Learn about training your dog using an e-collar with these helpful tips.
Training your dog takes time and patience. See our dog training advice to learn how to turn a disobedient dog into an obedient one. To train your dog yourself, you can sign up for an online dog training course. Or see our tips on finding the right dog trainer if you’d rather have a professional work with you and your dog.
No matter what training method or tools you decide to use, the intended purpose is to help your dog, whether it’s to stop him from barking unnecessarily or to keep him from harm’s way. This applies when using a shock collar or any training collar. Are you unsure of what size collar to get? Check out our handy guide to find the average neck sized based on dog breed.
Have you had success using a shock collar on your dog?