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4 Reasons why professional dog trainers use shock collars

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Home » Blog » 4 Reasons why professional dog trainers use shock collars
  1. Precision in behavior correction for immediate feedback.
  2. High compliance in critical training scenarios.
  3. Adjustable intensity settings for safety and comfort.
  4. Versatility across different training environments.

Behavior Correction

Immediate Correction

Shock collars allow the dog to be corrected immediately when the shock is needed. Written down, it does not seem like such an important characteristic, especially as dogs teach to perform some other actions that are not connected to correction conducts. However, in the case of behaviors that need to be quickly learned, the ability to correct the dog immediately is crucial. For example, if the dog keeps hunting wildlife, the trainer can signal the collar at the very moment the behavior occurs. In this case, an extremely quick association between the behavior and the signal is created, which allows to learn much faster than in the case of other scenarios, where the correction comes too late.

Consistent Correction

The shock collar always applies the same correction for the same behavior. In general, the same thing can be achieved using vocal and manual correction; however, it is more difficult to do in practice. On the one hand, the commands presented are not always the same, which can lead to misunderstanding. On the other hand, human operators have difficulty always doing the same type of physical corrections. However, by using the collar, the task is easier as the same correction is applied electronically with the same power.


The trainer can teach the dog to do something when it is far away from the person. There is usually a hazard in that the distance is achieved not by voice commands, but by equipping the dog with a simulator. It is very helpful in a case like teaching a dog to respond if it is currently off the leash. For example, if the animal is about to run onto a road, the trainer can at almost any distance correct the animal and even transport it to themselves with the help of the device.

Intensity Control

Finally, the important characteristic is adjustable intensity, available in the majority of modern simulators. It is especially relevant in the case of training small dogs or extremely reactive animals.

Controllable Intensity

Shock collars used for training dogs come with different levels of intensity, which can be adjusted to each dog’s size, personality, and level of misbehavior. Ideally, every dog should receive the minimum strength of shock necessary to correct the problem or obtain the necessary training results. The advantage behind such an adjustable option is to prevent causing unnecessary stress for the dog, as well as achieving good training results. Usually, the strength of the shock starts with the lowest level, and only if the dog is not reacting or the behavior requires stronger correction, can the strength be increased. This option is particularly useful for sensitive and smaller dogs who would be overstimulated by the slightest correction. The exact strength necessary to get a Chihuahua’s attention will be significantly lower than that necessary for a big dog, like a German Shepherd on the average shock collar, the range can measure from 1 to approximately 100 or even from 0 to 100.

The reason why one must avoid the kind of shock that is more than a distraction is that avoiding the problems of an escalated level of shock means avoiding the expected negative results. While using strong shocks in training does not mean causing the dog pain or irreparable psychological damage, it can lead to the increased level of stress and fear in the dog. Potentially, the punishment can lead to the development of phobias, fear, or even a powerful aggression. This type of training is not only seen as overly aggressive towards an animal but also limiting the effectiveness of the training. In case a client owns a dog that will not stop digging in the garden, the shock collar should only be adjusted to the level that is enough to distract the dog from the behavior in question. The effect of the collar should not be higher and the stress caused by the shock should be minimum. The goal of the training should be forming an association between an unpleasant but safe shock and an unwanted behavior. Training systems always rely on defining the exact strength and limits of punishment necessary to form a specific association and remove the behavior in question.


Alternative Stimuli

Versatile Approach

Shock collars that can be set to beep or provide vibration give the trainer a versatile set of tools to modify behavior without resorting to shocks 100% of the time. This is critical in allowing the training to adjust to the dog’s sensitivity and the specific training context. Indeed, the trainer may sometimes use the beep only as a warning or the vibration as a softer impact before proceeding with the shock notification. Such a method allows the dog being trained to learn to respond to a lighter stimulus, reducing the need for shocks in the training scenario.

Layered Stimuli Approach

Altering the stimuli that require the correct response allows the trainer to use a layered approach to behavior modification. For example, he or she may set the collar to beep every time that the dog exhibits an undesirable behavior, like rushing for the guest at the door. If the behavior continues, the next step would be activating the vibration. Such an escalation typically provides the incentive to train the dog to respond to the initial cue, as a study found that 85% of dogs would do, resulting in an effective reduction in the use of shocks by approximately 70%.

Lowering the Use of Negative Reinforcement

Such an approach grants trainers the tools to scale back their use of negative reinforcement, making the training scenario more enjoyable and less stressful for the dog. This is particularly relevant, seeing as modern best-practice training philosophy emphasizes the use of positive reinforcement, as well as discomfort-inflicting training methods. The trained dogs using the latter approach are more compliant and show far less anxiety and fear than those trained traditionally.

Individualized Regulation

The availability of alternative stimuli allows the trainer to set the approach according to what is most effective for the dog in question. Most fundamentally, some dogs may service better from sound, while others mainly receive the point from vibration. The ability to use specific stimuli as appropriate ensures that the dog will respond in the best way to the training.

Training Philosophy

Many professional dog trainers use a behaviorist model to adopt the principles of operant conditioning in the process of training. This model is based on the idea that behavior could be modified by its consequences. Shock collars designed to provide shocks or vibrations when inappropriate behavior is observed were initially banned for use due to inhumane treatment. However, according to Luescher and Cameron, “the use of shock collars judiciously provides consistent and measurable consequences”. Trainers may argue that these devices deliver corrections or rewards with “the excruciating precision of an atomic clock”. The use of such tools provides high compliance rates under limited high-stakes options, such as training guard dogs or service dogs.

Instant Reinforcement

Shock collars allow for immediate reinforcement of behaviors, which is key to effective dog training. The timing of positive or negative reactions has a critical impact on the overall learning outcome. If a dog that is trained is not within the reach, “not all behaviors are ones that should be trained with positive reinforcement”. However, using a shock collar could allow for communication of immediate and timely feedback outlining whether a given action is permissible or not, clearly showing the association between the behavior and the shock or vibration.

High Compliance in High-Stakes Situations

Any situation that requires high compliance rates and where the nature of training activities is high-stake, such as those involving guard or service dogs, shock collar training might be critical. Orders need to be immediate and reliable, and this feature is provided by the fixes of shock collars. Luescher and Cameron report that trainers in the fields of training guard or service dogs that incorporated shock collars reported more successful results in obtaining reliable behaviors under distracting conditions.

Flexibility in Different Training Environments

Dog training might involve a number of different environments, and reaching consistent training cues is not a feasible option in some of these environments. These tools provide training in contexts that are not naturally training friendly, for example, parks, fields, forests, and even cities. Providing opportunities for regular rather than context-based training allows for consistent training message.

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