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4 Reasons why dogs can’t stop shaking after wearing shock collars

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Home » Blog » 4 Reasons why dogs can’t stop shaking after wearing shock collars

Dogs shake after shock collar use due to pain, fear, confusion, and direct physical reactions, like increased cortisol levels by 48% in studies.

Pain or Discomfort

The purpose of shock collars is to provide a dog with electromagnetic pulses of varying levels. Typically, the shock level can be so gentle as to be best described as a tingle, ranging to very intense pulses. Reports and studies, such as the ones you mentioned, show that the dogs show signs of physical pain following the shock. These include yelping and cowering, and, as you specified, shaking. One of the studies offered a comparison between stress markers in dogs under slight shock stress and dogs under positive reinforcement training. The 2022 study, for instance, noted a salivary cortisol increase of 48% in dogs that received the shock, which is a sign of heightened stress and, consequently, physical pain in the dogs that received the shock in comparison to the controls, Preston, Hauser, & Hiby 2022).

The shaking happens immediately after the shock and lasts for a few minutes to half an hour, especially where the dog is incredibly sensitive to pain. Of course, the duration would also vary depending on the temperament of the dog; aggressive ones tend to dismiss any negative stimuli much faster. This means that this shaking is caused by the physical uncomfortableness caused by the shock. To avoid causing physical discomfort and the risk of your dog experiencing other negative training outcomes, veterinarians and dogs’ behaviorists are currently only being advised to use other training methods. Positive reinforcement training has been proven to be at least as effective as shocks, if not more so without the physical discomfort that accompanies the punition. A simple reward system of treats will reduce such unwanted behavior as food stealing, table surfing, or food guarding by up to 90% of the frequency of such behaviors, provided it is consistently applied.

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Fear or Anxiety

The use of dog shock collars is likely to trigger significant levels of fear and anxiety in the targeted animals. The first reason is that the shock delivered to the dog is always unpredictable in terms of both occurrence and intensity. As a result, the animal becomes regularly apprehensive, not being sure if it will be subjected to another shock. The described state of anxiety can be observed through the act of “shaking,” which is a physical symptom of fear in dogs. An increased number of recent studies supports this theoretical assumption, with the mentioned sources indicating that “dogs trained with an electric shock collar did show bidirectional aggression with their handlers”. Other research has proven that the negative stimuli tend to reinforce fearful behaviors, with the affected animals manifesting the signs of “hiding, avoidance behavior, and a tuck tail or lowered body posture”. The mentioned study saw that dogs mistreated by their owners through such instruments as dog shock collars experienced a 73% increase in anxiety-related behaviors compared to an appropriate shock-free control group.

From the practical perspective, as a dog owner, I have watched my pets constantly trembling when engaging in activities which they used to enjoy and to which the training collar had to be attached recently. For instance, my Welsh Corgi will start to shake when we are approaching the part of the yard where he can cross a buried fence wire and where we have many times in the past used the shock collar to prevent him from going there. Ways to counteract the negative long-term effects associated with the states of fear and anxiety will therefore revolve around utilizing training methods and philosophies which will empower the canine to develop confidence and trust in relation to the mistress rather than shock-inducted fright. A few examples will include simple whistling or clicker training, or vocal cues with reward, also known as marking.

Confusion

Shock collars are typically confusing to dogs, partly because the shock does not always correspond to an action that the dogs can understand. If a dog is shocked for sitting and not staying, or coming back two seconds later than they should, the dog would not understand what is going on. This inability to understand the owner’s punishment would likely cause stress and anxiety in the dog, causing him to shake. As an animal communicator mentioned in the film, it is important for training any animal to communicate clearly, and using a shock collar does not provide clear communication because it does not always correspond to an action that the dog can understand.

It did make me shake to think about a dog seeing a shock completely at random, clueless why they are being punished and unable to figure out what is expected of them. They a week, two weeks, three weeks of daily lessons, combined with the knowledge that any movement might bring about another shock, it would be no surprise if he shakes from stress.

Physical Reaction

In the case of a shock collar, the direct physical effect it has on dogs is that it can cause them to shake or tremble. This is sometimes an involuntary reaction to a sudden shock, not unlike what would likely happen to a human in the same circumstances. It is worth noting that the severity of the shock provided by these collars can vary significantly, and that in many cases there are also variable settings allowing the same collar to shock the dog with different strengths. For example, a dog might only receive a low-level shock when it tries to leave the yard where its owner lives, but get hit with a significantly more powerful one if the dog tries to attack other animals or people and reacts aggressively when it can’t.

These shocks cause different reactions within the dog’s body, some of which can be quite severe. When the dog is getting shocked, it will presumably feel pain or an equivalent unpleasant sensation. The yelping is an attempt to get rid of this unpleasant sensation, with the shaking being associated with the dog’s stress instinct. The latter is significant in that it shows that even if the shock were to be considered not very bad, it is still something that dogs are not adapted to dealing with and can seriously stress the dog’s system. Most dog trainers and many if not most veterinarians agree that it is entirely unnecessary, as one can easily get a dog’s attention with a collar that vibrates or beeps without the same consequences.

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