“Shock” collars have been used and debated for years. Essentially, a collar with a “shock” device is put around your dog’s neck, and that device is synchronized with a remote control that the owner possesses. These collars are usually used for training purposes, or to negate barking, but some owners opt to keep their dog’s wearing a shock collar throughout their life.
Are shock collars still a viable training option? Or is this highly speculated method outdated and morally questionable?
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What are the benefits?
Shock collars gained popularity for a reason; they work. Or they work for some dogs and dog owners. In theory, when your dog misbehaves, you can press the remote button, triggering an electrical response (vibration) from the collar, letting your dog know that what they’re doing is not acceptable. Your dog starts associating the activation of the shock collar with the bad behavior, thus learning not to do whatever they’re doing. While it will always be speculated, shock collars can be an effective training method, especially for stubborn younger dogs who are hard to control at times.
Dogs with hearing problems can also benefit from a shock collar training method. The reality is some dogs are born with or develop hearing issues. If your dog can’t hear your commands, training becomes nearly impossible. So, with something like a shock collar, you now have a way of non-verbally communicating with your dog. This is also helpful with those dogs who seem to have “selective hearing”, tending to ignore or not acknowledge you when they are misbehaving. If verbal commands aren’t working, the vibration from the collar might.
What are the drawbacks?
Some dog owners just aren’t comfortable “shocking” their dog. Over the years, the “shock” has become more a light vibration (but can be made stronger if you choose to). Still, for a majority, the thought of potentially harming your dog doesn’t seem like a rational trade-off for good behavior. While the shock isn’t necessarily hurting your dog, they don’t exactly like it either. Picture wearing one of these things as a human. It may not hurt, but you would certainly grow annoyed with the constant jolts and vibrations. The same thing can happen with dogs. While some dogs will respond well to the shock collar training method, many others will become agitated and even resentful. This can lead to worsening behavior problems.
Shock collars can also damage the relationship between dog and owner. Some dogs are very sensitive and if they are subjected to something like a shock collar, they may develop a fear toward you. This may get you what you want as far as training and behavior, but it can negatively impact the way your dog acts. We want a well-behaved dog, yes, but we also want a fun-loving pet who isn’t constantly “walking on eggshells”, afraid to make a mistake and be potentially reprimanded.
Another situation a dog owner can find themselves in, is once you remove the shock collar (some choose to remove it when training is complete/dog is older), your dog may appear to forget or not listen to the commands they were originally taught. If you had been pairing the shock collar with a list of verbal commands (“NO, DOWN!”), your dog will start associating bad behavior with the command AND the vibration felt in the collar. In some dogs, when you take that physical vibration (“shock”) away, they now won’t realize they’re doing something wrong, which can lead to misbehavior and retraining.
Safety: Are shock collars a thing of the past?
Shock collars are deemed safe for dogs of all ages, but we would suggest using caution with very young puppies. Puppies are going to misbehave, that’s what they do. There may be no need to resort to a shock collar when your dog is still under 6 months old.
Shock collars will be a highly debated topic for as long as they’re around. Some people see them as a perfectly reasonable training option, some couldn’t imagine doing that to their dog. Dog owners tend to fall on either side of this fence ….and not so much “on” it. Whichever side you may fall on, there are positives and negatives from each perspective. It is a personal choice that can be very effective for some dogs and owners. It can also negatively affect dogs and make them nervous and uncomfortable. At the end of the day, some of the points we discussed are on the list of things to weigh out when buying or considering a shock collar. Only then should you make your decision!