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Are shock collars harmful to dogs

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Studies and surveys indicate that shock collars can lead to increased stress, anxiety, and aggression in dogs, with many experiencing skin irritation and a decrease in trust towards their owners.

Understanding Shock Collars and Their Use

Shock collars, or electronic collars or e-collars, first appeared in the beginning of the 1960s as a tool to train hunting dogs, teaching them to stay within certain bounds. As the name suggests, the technique implies delivering an electric stimulation remotely to correct unwanted behavior without having to be in close physical proximity. Back in the day, such a device was a basic, essentially primitive tool that allowed only the minimum adjustment – either turning down in the duration of the shock or lowering the intensity. Thus, the history of shock collars can be observed as an evolution from their clumsy beginnings to the sophisticated devices known today.

Evolution of Shock Collars

As Lindell stated , the first notable attempt to improve shock collars appeared in the 1970s and 1980s, as manufacturers started producing them with more than one level of stimulation. This innovation allowed users to adjust the intensity of the correction based on the dog’s breed, and level of sensitivity. Subsequently, in the 1990s, the introduction of microprocessor technology revolutionized the existing electromagnetic technology breaking into two key categories – electric and non-electric. Electric collars nowadays come with plenty of alternatives to the electric stimulation, such as variable frequencies, or emitting a tone or vibration. In addition, modern shock collars frequently come with GPS, so pet owners can always be aware of their pet’s location.

Varieties and Features of Modern E-Collars

The modern market of e-collars is full of items of various shapes and sizes, including tiny devices to correct unrestrained barking and longer-haired dogs or powerful corrections effective at several miles’ distances. Modern devices have custom intensity levels, and some of the items Lindell reviewed had more than one hundred levels. Many modern e-collars come with an option of rechargeable batteries, waterproof in most cases, with the long-range remote control. Finally, modern e-collars are usually equipped with positive-reinforcement stimuli, including tone and vibration modes, which is a clear shift to more humane methods of training.

In conclusion, shock collars remain a popular communicational item between a dog and its owner and are used more and more frequently. The modern market is diverse and complex, offering a wide array of e-collars to meet practically any need – from stopping excessive barking to giving paw-signal obedience at a long range. All devices come with an adjustable intensity level, encompassing in many models more than a hundred increments. In addition, modern e-collars come with rechargeable batteries, waterproof designs, and long-range remote control. As a humane containment alternative based on the adjustable stimulation, modern e-collars with tone and vibration modes are believed to become more precise and effective.

shock collars

shock collars

The Psychological Effects of Shock Collars on Dogs

The use of e-collars for training is one of the most controversial issues for the owners of pets as it has a negative impact on the psychological state of the dogs. The effect of an electric shock on the animal is confusion and anxiety, and the dogs are often unable to attribute the pain to their actions fast . The deterioration of the trust relationship between the animal and the owner has a potential influence on the well-being of a dog. Veterinarians and psychologists have found that using such collars has led to increased stress and fear displayed in canines . The symptoms of the consequences of the use of e-collars are such responses as excessive panting, hair trembling, and avoidance of places and people.

The Role of Fear in the Use of E-Collars

Training of animals using fear and pain have a great impact on animals’ psychological state. Moreover, following the Pavlov’s theory, some scientists regard the influence of e-collars as a means of conditioning and in case an e-stimulation is applied, it is sensed by the dog as a kind of fear . However, the effect of e-stimulation often does not teach dogs the actions, which are necessary, but rather to be frightened and dread some areas or people. Moreover, the conditioning through fear and pain used when it comes to e-collars often risks amplifying initial problems without eliminating unwanted behavior . The use of shocks to force the animal to behave obediently has a bad effect on the volunteers as they risk losing the ability to learn completely and exhibit acute stress signs.

Short-term and Long-term Consequences

The use of e-collars might have short-term effects on the behavior of the dogs and long-term responses causing numerous problems. In the short-term perspective, the negative impact includes acute signs of stress and fear and a decline in the ability to learn the conditioned response . In the long term period, the negative impact of shock collar control results in the onset of different phobias, aggression towards owners or other animals, and animals’ general decline of gregariousness. It is possible to add that dogs trained with the use of e-collars display more signs of stress/fear compared to animals participating in positive reinforcement training. Providing the above negative impacts, professionals recommend using alternatives to e-collars to guarantee positive long-term outcomes. Some of the most effective alternatives are clicker training based on the pairing of a click sound with a treat for a desired action, and obedience training aimed at rewarding the dog’s good behavior. The e-collar stimulation is replaced by a treat for understanding the positive rewards allowing canines to learn to obey rather than to avoid something .

Practical Applications and Concerns of Shock Collars


Shock collars, or electronic collars, are used in pet training and management, but a range of concerns is attached to their use. Practical applications of this electrical device include both containment systems and bark control devices, each of which serves a specific purpose in assisting the work of pet owners and trainers. At the same time, the concerns associated with its use are real and justified, which creates a deep debate around the issue and its safety .

shock collars

shock collars

Specific Uses

One of the primary uses of shock collars is within containment systems, which act as virtual fences to stop pets from leaving certain areas. The collar is attached to a wire, which, when approached, triggers a warning sound followed by electric shock if approached further. Another type of application is bark control systems: the collar detects barks and delivers a correction stimulus. These specific uses of the mechanism serve a purpose of adjusting animal behavior, or punishing “bad” behavior, for dogs to stay in a confined area and stop wandering into danger and for them to stop excessive barking .

Question of Safety in Shock Collar Use

Since the use and misuse of training collars, and shock collars in particular have various degrees of safety concerns associated with them, the most widely discussed of them are the burning risks associated with the shock delivery and psychological stress and actual trigger of the undesired behavior the collar is intended to correct. According to Blanchard , many electric devices have been reported to be of more than questionable safety and efficiency , meaning that proper regulation and control of its use is important. Eisen also notes that the risks associated with placing an electrical device on an animal, including possible burns of the neck, danger of skin irritation, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and irritability are real. The sales boost, on the other hand, is supported by the notion that newest models of shock collars are “high-tech and full of safety features and humane strictures to keep the mostly misguided owners in line” .

Guidelines for the responsible use of shock collars have been issued by various organizations and experts that suggest:

  • Proper use and knowledge of the mechanism, the best settings, and operation

  • Evaluating the dog’s individual characteristics and seeking professional advice before proceeding

  • Behaviour monitoring

  • Battery change and reorganization, as required

Checking the contact area on the dog’s neck.


The various arguments make one wonder if collateral damage to the health of animals is worth whatever utility shock collars provide. The use of pet training tools and devises is selective, and guidelines have been provided by animal welfare organizations to ensure they are used in a balanced way. Safety guidelines and behavior monitoring should be made mandatory for using training collars of any kind.

Consumer Perspective: Availability and Choice

As far as the consumer’s perspective is concerned, the market for shock collars is indicative of the whole variety of options. Requirements, preferences, and budgets covering basic models for bark control and upscale systems for the containment and advanced training provide a basis for availability. Thus, for any particular needs, one will be able to find the product that corresponds to the needed parameters, whether they do not require any elaborations for the excessive barking or need the advanced tool for managing the pet’s open space movement . The development of online retail as the most optimal way for proliferating the products is indicative of this necessity. Products become available with a few mouse clicks –with all the features, with consumer reviews, and competitive pricing added.

YouTube video

Shock Collars in the Market: Trends and Popularity

The trends in the field of shock collars are indicative of gradual popularity, growing as the technological advancement and growing acceptance of any electronic training aids. According to the current trends, the technologies should be accurate, with prolonged battery life and the presence of non-approved features –such as sound or vibration warnings. Manufacturers are also aimed at developing products with humane orientation, where efficacy and concomitant effect of the appropriate level of awareness of the animal welfare problem would be achieved. The consumers’ reaction toward the products is supportive of the claims: the products ought to be effective, but it is specifically to be safe for the pets.

Consumer Reviews and Ratings: Insights and Feedback

As far as the consumers’ reviews and ratings are concerned, the primary lessons are concerned with the basic requirements concerning any shock collar. Specifically, ease of use is stressed as the primary factor with intuitive design, clear and obvious features the best appliances. The users also appreciate any reviews of the collar meter utility in changing the pet’s behavior as well as the overall construction’s ruggedness. Negative experiences are the sources freedom, related in particular to the shocking effect, collar sensitivity, or propensity for the skin irritation. Prospective buyers can use this information.

What Buyers Should Know

Whenever the buyer selects a shock collar, specific considerations ought to be present:

  • Knowledge of the concrete problem the pet is requiring, with the collar’s specific adaptation to the solution such as bark sensors or GPS features for the containment;
  • Information of the importance of the adjustment intensity of the stimulus, which should be adapted for the pet’s particular temperament and sensitivity;
  • Importance of the choice of the reputable manufacturer with common standards of the industry;
  • Knowledge of the value of comprehensive instructions, possibly some additional sources thanks to the toll-free phone calls, or online customer support options.

With this toolkit in hand, the buyer will be able to select the best collar for the training needs without detriment to the pet’s health and welfare.

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