Dog Shock Collar – The Good and The Bad

The shock collar, remote training collar, or electronic dog collar is most commonly used in four areas –

  1. Keep dogs inside our property. Our dog is corrected every time he nears the fence-line. This is also known as an invisible fence or underground fence.
  2. Stop dogs from barking. The collar automatically delivers a correction whenever our dog starts to bark. If he continues to bark, the force, duration, and frequency of the shocks may be automatically increased.
  3. Train dogs and stop problem dog behaviors. Shock collars are most commonly used for off-leash training. However, some dog trainers and pet owners also use it for behavioral issues such as food aggression, and dog aggression.
  4. Teach dogs to stay away from dangerous animals and objects. A common use is in rattlesnake aversion training. A dog is shocked hard, but a very small number of times, when he nears a caged rattlesnake. This teaches him not to approach rattlesnakes in the future.

The use of shock collars on dogs is a very emotional topic. Discussions will often degrade into personal attacks, accusations of dog cruelty, and other types of name calling.

In this article, I will try to stick to the facts, and consider whether it is something I would use on my dogs. Note however, that facts are not always convenient, and facts are not always balanced between the two sides.

If you have already made up your mind about using electronic collars and are looking for validation, this article is not for you.

Electronic Collars vs. Shock Collars

Not all electronic collars are used as shock collars. There are three main modes – 1. Beep mode, 2. Vibrate mode, and 3. Shock mode.

All electronic collars have the shock functionality, but the beep or vibrate functions are optional.

1. Beep mode

In this mode, a beep is emitted whenever the collar controller is pressed. This beep can be used as a marker, in the same way that clickers are used in clicker training.

For the beep to be an effective marker, a dog needs prior training for associating the sound with a positive or negative consequence. For example, if the beep always precedes a sought after reward, then our dog may stop and wait, because he knows that something good is coming. Similarly, a dog may freeze or submit when he hears a beep, because he knows that failure to comply, will be followed by a painful shock.

The beep can also cause a startle response, similarly to blowing a whistle. This can be used to get our dog’s attention or to interrupt his current action. However, for this to work, we must only use the interrupt signal on very rare occasions. If applied too frequently, our dog will become accustomed to it, and just ignore it.

2. Vibrate mode

In this mode, the collar vibrates, similar to how our pager or phone vibrates to get our attention. Like the beep mode, this vibration can be used as a marker or as an interrupt.

Both the beep and vibrate modes do not deliver an electric shock to the dog.

3. Shock mode.

In shock mode, the electronic collar will deliver an electric current to the dog through two contact points at the dog’s neck.

This electric current will cause pain and physical discomfort to the dog, otherwise it would not be effective in conditioning him.

The amount of pain delivered to the dog will depend on three key factors –

  • The power/voltage of the electric current,
  • The duration of the current, and
  • The frequency of the current.

The amount of pain that the dog actually feels, will also depend on the physical characteristics of the dog (e.g. size, skin, and fur), as well as the temperament of the dog. Some dogs are more sensitive to pain than others.

Sometimes, words like stimulation are used to describe shock collars. I even saw them described as gentle training collars.

Beware of these sales gimmicks. Accept an electronic collar for what it is. If you choose to use it, make an informed decision that is based on the actual pros and cons of the system, which I will discuss below. Note that the subsequent discussion is solely based on the shock functionality of remote training collars (not on the beep and vibrate modes).

The Good

1. Allows us to control the amount of pain delivered to our dog, and administer that pain from a distance.

One of the great challenges of implementing pain based aversive techniques such as leash jerks, muzzle slaps, and finger pokes, is in controlling the amount of force delivered to the dog.

  • Too much force and our dog may break down, and become extremely stressed or fearful.
  • Too little force and our dog will get habituated to the corrections, and just ignore them.

Master aversive trainers are able to deliver just the right amount of force, so that the dog will not repeat a bad behavior, but at the same time, he will also not become unbalanced and fearful.

Unlike other aversive methods, remote training collars allows us to easily adjust the amount of pain delivered to a dog, and to keep that level of pain consistent in subsequent corrections. We can also administer the pain from a distance.

However, it should also be mentioned that the amount of pain actually ‘felt’ by the dog as well as the resulting response, depends on many different factors, not just the level of shock applied.

Although these devices are presented as a highly controllable method of modifying behaviour, via the controlled administering of pain/discomfort (the collars are designed to allow operator to set the duration and intensity of shock), an individual animal’s experience when a shock is applied will be influenced by numerous factors. In addition to individual temperament, the experience will be affected by the dog’s previous experiences, frequency of application, location of shock, thickness of hair and level of moisture on skin (Lindsay, 2005). Given that many of these factors are not easily determinable by the operator, this makes the device far less precise than suggested.

2. Can automatically deliver a shock correction to the dog, even when we are not there.

Another challenge of implementing proper aversive corrections, is using the right timing. We want to correct our dog as soon as he performs an unacceptable behavior, and stop correcting him as soon as he stops that behavior.

Electronic collars can be tied to a particular trigger event, such as barking or proximity to our fence-line. In this way, a shock is automatically and consistently delivered to the dog, as soon as he starts to bark or tries to escape. In fact, the invisible fence or shock anti-bark systems are convenient, because we do not even have to be there to deliver the corrections.

Shock collars such as these may sound tempting and easy to use, but unfortunately, consistent and automatic timing does not necessarily mean correct timing.

Studies show that automatic collars are risky, because tying a shock correction to a single trigger event, such as barking or proximity, is too simplistic and will frequently result in bad timing. This can subsequently lead to aggression and other dog behavioral issues.

There are some anti-bark collars that use sound aversion to stop dog barking, for example the Ultrasonic Anti-bark Collar. However, customer reviews have been poor because the sound stimulus is often insufficient to prevent the barking behavior.

3. The source of the aversive stimulus is less clear.

When we use other pain-based aversive techniques, it is usually obvious that the pain comes from us. This may teach our dogs to associate people with physical distress, which can also lead to fear. If this happens, we may lose some of our dog’s trust, and jeopardize our bond with him.

For example, when we apply a leash correction, it is apparent that the pain originates from the leash, and sometimes (if not redirected), from us. Therefore, the dog may decide to fight with the leash, or worse, with us.

This is less of a problem with electronic collars because the source of the pain is obscured, and there is no leash to fight with. However, because the pain comes from seemingly nowhere, our dog may mistakenly associate it with something he sees in the environment (e.g. another dog), the environment itself, or to multiple unrelated objects and events. This may cause misplaced stress, fear, and aggression, toward those objects.

Automatic shock collars also have a high risk of over-correcting a dog.

The Bad

1. May increase aggression in dogs.

According to Polsky’s study, dogs kept in shock containment systems (i.e. invisible fence or underground fence), can show extreme aggression towards humans, over and beyond their normal behavior.

Polsky’s results show that a big danger with electronic collars, especially automatic e-collars, is that they may cause dogs to make the wrong associations, and learn the wrong things.

Dogs may associate the pain from the shock with the environment or with objects in the environment (including humans , dogs, or cats), rather than with their escaping or barking behaviors. This may lead to anxiety or negative associations with those objects, which can ultimately result in aggression.

Some dogs that have been conditioned in this manner, may not want to set foot in the yard, for worry of pain. They may also start to attack humans and other animals, that wander too close to the fence perimeter.

Some dogs may get habituated to the shocks, and learn that if they can tolerate the pain close to the fence-line, they can escape. Once they escape, they are rewarded with no more shocks. In this way, the dog learns that escaping is a good thing, whereas staying in the backyard is not.

2. May increase stress in dogs and reduce their quality of life.

Schalke et al. conducted an electronic collar training study on fourteen laboratory-bred Beagles. Shock collar training was conducted over 7 days, for 1.5 hours per day. Then the dogs were released to freely hunt for 5 days, and to hunt on leash for another 5 days. Schalke’s study showed that the dogs who

… were able to clearly associate the electric stimulus with their action, i.e. touching the prey, and consequently were able to predict and control the stressor, did not show considerable or persistent stress indicators.

~~[ Excerpt from ]

However, the two other groups of dogs that were not able to so clearly predict and control the delivery of the shocks, showed elevated stress levels, with the highest levels present in the dogs that were arbitrarily shocked.

Most importantly, the group of dogs that received a shock for not abiding by a recall (Here) command, were also significantly elevated.

Even more distressing, is that the results remained the same when the dogs were reintroduced to the testing area after four weeks. Their stress levels remained high, even though they did not receive any shocks during this reintroduction period.

The results from Schalke’s study indicate that electronic collars are extremely risky to use even for the short term. Stress levels of the dogs were high after just 7 days, and were elevated as soon as they returned to the shock treatment environment. This is consistent with Polsky’s study, which show that dogs may associate the shock and stress they receive, with the environment itself.

This study provides strong evidence that shock collars are inappropriate for most kinds of dog training, as even common recall training will result in elevated stress levels, and a lower quality of life.

3. May weaken our bond with our dog.

Polsky and Schalke’s studies show that dogs often associate the pain from electronic collars with their environment, as well as with people, animals, and other objects in that environment. Even after shocks are no longer administered, the dogs still attach the environment to something stressful and negative.

Therefore, using a remote training collar on our dog may cause him to associate our home or backyard, with stress and pain. Or worse yet, it may cause him to associate the stress with other dogs, other people, or with us.

Remember that Schalke’s results show this negative attachment forming in a matter of 7 days.

Alternative to Shock Corrections

When I first got my Shiba Inu, I had a lot of problems with him. At the time, I was under the false impression that reward methods would not work on my dominant, stubborn, and aggressive Shiba Inu. Therefore, I was using aversive training and briefly considered the use of electronic collars, because the other aversive-based methods were not working well.

However, after doing a lot of reading, I decided to give reward dog training a chance.

Reward training is not a miracle cure, and it will still take a lot of work, consistency, and patience, to train our dog. However, reward techniques can work on dominant, stubborn, and aggressive dogs. It has worked well for training my Shiba. In fact, he stopped showing aggression toward me and others, after I stopped using pain-based methods.

Common Justifications for Shock Collars

1. Save a dog’s life.

Proponents of electronic collars sometimes argue that they are used to save a dog’s life, by preventing him from running into traffic.

It is important to note that off-leash recall is never 100% reliable, whatever equipment or training methods we may choose to use.

This is why there are leash laws in most neighborhoods. This is also why off-leash parks require dogs to be on-leash when they are in the parking lot area, or in areas that are close to roads and traffic.

I use a no-slip collar and secure leash to walk my dogs in the neighborhood. I also regularly check the collar and leash to ensure that they in good working order. Off-leash exercise can be had in fully enclosed spaces or large parks, where we are far enough away from traffic that a failed recall, will not result in an accident. Do not play Russian Roulette with our dog’s life.

2. Do not cause much pain, just a tingle.

Some people try remote training collars on themselves, and report that it only causes a tingle, so it really does not apply much pain to our dog.

However, to closely experience shock collar conditioning from my dog’s perspective, I would have to put the collar on my neck and surrender the controller to a handler. I will not know why, when, or where the shocks will be administered.

As I carry on with my day, I may feel the need for a smoke. I reach for it, and feel a tingle on my neck. It is just a tingle, so I continue.

At this point, the tingle not only persists, but increases in intensity. I am strong willed though, so I keep going. After all, that is exactly why I needed the shock collar in the first place.

The intensity keeps increasing until finally, I drop the bad object. My hand shakes. The experience was unpleasant, and now I want relief more than ever. Unfortunately, I do not even have a patch, all I have is this locked-on collar that I cannot remove. My eyes stray and my hands start to reach again …

Electronic collars are NOT harmless, nor are they just a little tingly. If they were so, they would not work. Their use is illegal for children and non-consenting adults. Here is another case in Utah. Trying the collar on ourselves, and doing a single, short, expected shock, at low intensity, is *not* how the collar will be used on our dogs. It is merely a gimmick to convince us that the collars are innocuous. If they were truly so harmless –

  • Why is their use banned for children and non-consenting adults.
  • Why is there so much scientific data showing how risky they can be.
  • Why are they on the “do not use” list of so many well-respected dog advocate organizations.
  • Why would they “work” on our stubborn dog, when other pain based aversive collars such as prong collars or choke collars have stopped working.

Logic tells us that this is a false claim.

3. Everybody else is biased and dishonest.

Another common argument, is that those who point out the risks of remote training collars are biased and dishonest. Personal attacks or ad hominem arguments such as these are not only pointless, but they also discourage rational discourse and the exchange of ideas. More on bias.

In this article, I describe what attracted me to look into electronic collars as a possible training tool for my Shiba Inu, as well as some of the risks that were of concern. Based on the studies and articles that I found, I also include counter-arguments (if present) for each of those points. In general, I found very little scientific evidence to recommend its use, while at the same time, there are many studies that show the risks involved.

After reading the results of Polsky and Schalke, it is difficult for me to come up with cases where the shock collar would be appropriate in dog training. Perhaps the only case would be in animal aversion training, such as teaching our dogs to fear and stay-away from rattlesnakes.

If you know of supporting scientific studies or substantiated data which highlight the good of remote training collars, it would certainly contribute much to the discussion, so please share them with us.

However, based on current reliable data, shock collars are not something I would use on my own dogs or generally recommend to others. It is also worth noting that the ASPCA, AVSAB, RSPCA, Kennel Club, and Blue Cross, are all against the use of shock collars for companion dogs.

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  1. titli says

    I have a lhasa apso puppy. She’s a total sweetheart and most of the time she just likes to laze around the house. But then sometimes she get’s really hyper and excited. She then starts biting. Im pretty sure its playbiting but it gets really hard. I dont think she understands it hurts us. I have tried many methods but they usually dont work. Can u give me some tips on how i can stop this playbiting? She also has a tendency of biting and chewing peoples feet.

  2. margaret hooker says

    i need advice i have a year old bouvier she is a lovely dog and good most of the time i have spend many hours with her training her the only thing is she will chase cars she will jump out at cars when walking on lead i take her to my local field it is fenced in but has a opening at opening each end she heard a lorry and chased it a long the fence on my 3 shout she turned and came to me this has happened twice i have taken her near traffic for hours and hours then when i stop doing it as much she starts jumping out at cars again she needs the excise as she has put on a little weight and she loves to run i have thought about an electric collar

  3. Minpin Mommy says

    I use the beep, vibrate, shock collar on by minpin. I live surrounded by woods (no fence) in the country. Beeping her usually works but if she doesn’t listen I move up to vibrate. I never shock her unless she tries to run in the woods which is very seldom unless she sees a rabbit.
    Last night, I was calling my dogs in and they came running. I had my hands full of items and was following my husband in the house. I did not realize I had changed the setting on the collar remote to SHOCK and I was pushing the button and shocking her. My husband said, what’s wrong with her, she’s flipping all over the place. I was beside myself with grief when I realized I was shocking her. She doesn’t seem herself now but getting better. Could I have really hurt her badly, her heart or nervous system? Someone please help. I love my dogs so much and would never hurt them, they are my babies.

    • Elizabeth Chrissian says

      I sm so sorry this mistake happened. I would say first thing take the collar & disable it. Put it on your dog already along with a collar & leash & take her to the place she was shocked. Bring rewards. Put her through her paces for all the commands she knows while on leash. And reward her profusely for all her behaviour. Take the shock collar off & drop it on the ground. Let her sniff it or not. Once again run her through sit down what ever commands she knows then walk away from that collar with her in tow. She’ll be all right. Dont feel guilty you didnt mean to cause pain.

    • Jason says

      If they are your babies get rid of the collar! Would you put one on an actual baby?….. And what do you mean “could I have hurt her?” Dogs don’t flop around on the floor then not act like themselves. Sounds to me like you already hurt her. Poor baby

  4. Jeanette says

    i have a rescued cocker spaniel mix with pretty extreme food aggression (people/stolen food) as well as other resources (has growled and bitten when getting corralled after getting out free, and when being told to leave my kids room or get off the couch) and cats. It’s really bad with food though. I had one trainer recommend he probably could not be rehabilitated and the second one – after trying positive techniques and provoking him to see the magnitude of the issue (gave him much wanted food and tried to take it away with a fake hand) suggested the shock collar. I was willing to try, despite misgivings, because i can’t safely keep him unless i fix this (he bit my daughter last weekend when she reached past him and didn’t realize he had found leftover pizza crust from a sleepover. I’m willing to do it as a last resort, but still have misgivings. He had severe separation anxiety at first and i can tell a difference in his personality since starting yesterday. Yet – he’s finally not growling and lunching and attacking the cat, which is more progress than i’ve made in a year and a half (I haven’t done too much work with food yet). I do not want to lose this dog, but i can’t continue without being sure to eliminate his dangerous behaviors. I also just got laid off and can’t really afford more expensive trainers. Do you have any suggestions?

    • Elizabeth Chrissian says

      Your dog needs to learn oww! When this puppy does something painful the reaction from the victim should be a loud high pitched ‘oww’ believe me the pup will immediately stop which is when you reward him for stopping with a reward ‘treat’. Also teach your dog that when he interacts with ppl he should be sitting & get his attention with a treat & reward him while he sits.

  5. Alexis says

    I have a 4 month old Siberian Husky and she has a really bad problem with playing agressively with the little kids in the house where it’s almost impossible to have her out around them because she bites them and scratches them a lot. Also when i try to take her for walks she jumps and pulls a lot on the leash and its really hard to get her on the leash so a lot of the time I let her run in the yard to make sure she gets her excersize. I have tried so many different ways to get her to stop biting and stop her bad behaviors but nothing seems to work, she is really stuborn. What can I do? Would a shock collar be a good option?

    • Brittany says

      Hey I know this was written a while back, as someone with a husky mix that was trouble for quite a while, I just want to say, you can get through this without a shock collar!

      I didn’t even have access to a backyard to let her run around so yeah lemme tell you it was difficult.

      First I want to say, you dog is a puppy and will remain a puppy until 2 years old. After that two year benchmark, you will see a notable difference in behavior provided you treat your puppy positively. I know, they kinda stop looking like a puppy around 5 months old and it is really hard to see them as anything but a dog after one year old. It gets difficult. And you do have the added challenge of little kids.

      If you could, I would have the puppy long line long enough not to trip the kids when they are playing outside. That way you can grab the line and get a more guaranteed recall because I am going to assume that that hasn’t developed or has gone away in that teen fluffy pup brain of hers. If your pup has a good recall, then recall every time she is too rough with the kids and give him a treat.

      Walking on a leash? Well there are a few great things you could do! Personally what I found helpful was teaching heel first! I know seems totally backwards to how they teach it in class. But teaching heel first actually provides the structure for your puppy to “get it” for later when you want loose lead walking which really is a less structured form of heel and will in time will become rewarding because of all the heeling you will be doing.

      So to do heel, you start with teaching your puppy a few things. You can look these up on youtube no problem I am sure. “Touch” where the puppy touches your hand with it’s nose, super helpful later to give her a clue to guide her into the heel position without any physical force. No video will show you this, but it should come naturally to you as it did to me. “Watch me” where you teach your dog to look at you. This is super important for improving your puppy’s focus. Focus is important for teaching a dog to heel and walk nice on a leash. “Sit” I personally like it when my dog sits next to me when we stop moving. So optional though I am sure your pup knows this.

      First step to learning heel is to teach the position. Simply reward your dog for finding the position. You could use the touch command at first to get your puppy to find your left side, and reward in the position. Don’t say the position name “heel” until you know your puppy will go to your left side or go to your left side and sit if you are like me. Through food away from the position over and over to get them out of position and then get them to come back into position over and over until you feel you have it down. Should take 1 or 2 days? If it takes you longer don’t worry!

      Second. Take a step in any direction and have your puppy find the heel. Do this in different rooms of the house. This shouldn’t take as long as the first step. If the dog follows you into the heel position, you want that. that is step 3.

      Third. Take a step and have the dog just follow you into the heel position. If your dog already did this in step two without convincing GREAT if not just find some way of convincing your dog to follow you. So far, I have been doing this without a leash, if it takes a leash at first for your dog to get that it should follow you at this step, I get it, but make sure you practice without a leash too. very important that they learn the leash is inconsequential.

      Fourth. One step, two step three step 4 step. Make sure you are rewarding you’re one step in position. two step in position. three step in position. You are building up to those 4 steps. If you are stuck on 2 steps and then rewards, or three steps and then rewards, that is fine for now. But the important part to take notice in- your dog is heeling. So cool!

      Fifth! Walk around the house in the heel position and then reward your dog. Add the leash walk around the house in the heel position and it should be the same, reward. If it is not, start from the earliest successful step with the leash.

      Sixth! Do all the steps in the yard! Now that you are outside, outside is completely different and it is time to teach your dog that it doesn’t matter if they are outside or inside, outside is important!

      Seventh! Start with your home street with step 4 only with a leash. Do not move on from step 4 until you are moving smoothly from step 4 to 5.

      And your final 8th step! Move on to other streets and conquer the neighborhood with your amazing heeling husky! Now relax your rules from a heel to a loose lead walk (just ask they not pull, don’t move if they do pull and ask she come back and sit next to you if she does, and move forward at that point) My dog hardly pulls me at all. When she does, we are usually someplace new and exciting like a new trail we just need to establish new rules on.

  6. steve says

    Our outside dog has recently started killing ducks. He knows its bad behavior and only does it when we aren’t home to stop him. Does anybody sell an aversion training product that we can affix to the animals he is killing that will activate a shock collar if he gets too close? Ideally something that could be affixed to a leg band. We have exhausted other training techniques, when we aren’t home he “forgets”.

    • Anonymous says

      Put the ducks behind electro net mesh … The dog will get one zap from the fence and never go back! Keeps coyotes away too and is easy to move.

  7. Michelle says

    My dog has been acting aggressively lately for no reason, what were some books or websites you read to help with your situation? I’d really like to try every other thing before even really considering a shock collar.

  8. blake says

    Is there evidence that a proximity system that uses a warning vibration or sound before shocking the dog is less stressful? Or that the size of the area enclosed by the perimeter is correlated with the anxiety responses? I would think that the more a dog can see the places he got shocked, the more fearful of moving he would be, and that adding predictability would greatly reduce the stress response during normal play, but that’s purely conjecture.

    • shibashake says

      As I understand it, the source of stress is from not knowing why the pain is occurring, and more importantly, not knowing how to stop the shocks. For example, in Schalke’s study, the group of dogs that …

      … were able to clearly associate the electric stimulus with their action, i.e. touching the prey, and consequently were able to predict and control the stressor, did not show considerable or persistent stress indicators.

      The risk from shock collars, also comes from the dog mis-associating the pain with the environment, or other surrounding stimuli. For example, dogs usually breach the fence line when they take off chasing after something. As a result, the dog may start to associate the shocks to other animals or even people, as was shown by Polsky’s study.

      An invisible fence is especially high risk because there is no human supervision in administering the shocks, which makes mis-association and unintended responses even more likely. If there are problems, they may not be detected until later on, when a dog has already developed other behavioral issues. In addition, such fences may not always work and do not keep the dog safe from other animals.
      Here is a comment from Tom who uses a shock collar for his lab, but not for his Husky.
      Here is another comment from jacki warren.

      If a dog is getting shocked without the warning beep, I imagine that may further increase stress. However, having a warning beep does not negate the stress caused by unpredictability of the shocks (from the dog’s point of view) or from the great risks of mis-association.

      In this comment from Glenn, his dog has developed a strong fear response to all sounds resembling the collar beep.

      Automatic shock collars such as the invisible or proximity fence, is very high risk, much more so than the supervised use of shock collars. In addition, its effectiveness at keeping a dog within its boundaries is uncertain. Given all this, it is not something that I would use or recommend to others.

  9. Krista says


    We have a 2 year old Hungarian Vizsla who is very well socialised with dogs and people. He about a year ago (and now more and more) started to run and bark full speed at random people walking through the park or on a walking trail. We thought he’d grow out of it but he’s been doing it more now. He doesn’t do it to everyone. Sometimes loads of people can pass and he’ll pay no attention and then suddenly he will bolt towards them sometimes old people and children. He gets a bout 3 feet from them and stops to either bark some more or have a sniff before he either lets them pet him or return to us as we’re of course calling him. Though he normally calms down when he reaches them I fear that as he gets older and/or if provoked he could do something. We want to teach him to come to us if something makes him anxious or just to come to us no matter what distraction there may be. We have borrowed an E-collar from a friend and are doing research on how to go about using it for our issue.

    Do you have any advice? How should we go about training him as normally he is great at recall and we really have no other problems with his training?

    • shibashake says

      I help my dog be more calm around people and other dogs by doing desensitization exercises. Successful and calm experiences will help my dog to build confidence, trust, and positive associations. Similarly, negative experiences and punishment will undermine that confidence, introduce more anxiety, and worsen his behavior.

      This article from the ASPCA has a good list of recall training techniques, including using a long-line. If I issue a recall command and my dog does not come, I need an effective way to get him to come along, e.g. a long line. Otherwise, he will learn that recall means come when I am ready, come whenever, or come if I feel like it.

      I first need to do recall training in a low stimulus environment, and then I slowly increase the environmental challenge. When there are a lot more distractions, getting my dog to come when called will naturally be a lot more difficult. Therefore, I set my dog up for success by starting small, and then slowly increasing the level of distractions, at a pace that he can handle.

      Don’t call her if she’s sniffing the ground, saying hello to another dog or playing. If you call when she’s distracted and she doesn’t come, you’re teaching her to ignore your call. Instead, call her when she’s highly likely to come so that you can establish a strong habit. And remember to be generous with your rewards!

      Once your dog is reliable at coming when you call while wearing her long line, start to test her when she’s more distracted. If she doesn’t come right away, turn and run a few steps away from her while calling. She’ll either decide to chase you or she’ll be dragged by the long line. Either way, praise her for coming and encourage her to catch up to you. Be genuine with your praise and generous with your rewards when she does.

      If my dog is anxious of certain types of people or dogs, then I do desensitization training in a structured environment to help him build confidence and be more calm. However, I also need to manage his environment, set him up for success, and not expose him to situations where he will fail. The more reactive events there are, the more likely he will repeat that behavior in the future and in a wider variety of contexts.

      Studies show that shock collars increase stress in dogs, and have a high risk of causing the dog to make the wrong associations. Both of these can lead to more behavioral issues down the road, including aggression. The article above has links to some of these scientific studies and related articles on the risks of shock collars.

      Suppose my dog is slightly anxious of certain types of people – maybe senior people who move differently, children who are more hyper, fearful people, etc. When he sees such people, he may start to vocalize because of uncertainty. If he gets shocked every time this occurs, he may associate the pain from the shocks with those people. This may worsen his uncertainty, cause greater stress, and lead to even more reactive behaviors. Even in the best case scenario, the shock collar will only suppress symptoms in the short term, and will not address the underlying cause of the dog’s behavior.

      With my dog, I always start by identifying the cause/source of his behavior (e.g. is it fear driven, excitement driven, etc.). Once I identify the source, then I would get a good trainer who can help me with desensitization training and recall training in higher distraction environments, or something else, depending on what is most appropriate. I would *not* use a shock collar, especially not for anxiety driven behaviors.

  10. Sheryl says

    Our dog 11 years Shihtzu-yorkie mix will constantly sniff and whine at our bedroom door after we go to bed. Which makes it impossible to sleep. He’s there all night. We’ve tried a pet gate in front of the bedroom door so he can’t reach his nose to the bottom of the door but he chews on the gate and pulls in down!
    Any ideas?

    • shibashake says

      Has he always shown this behavior? Is he alone at all during the day? What is his behavior like when alone during the day?

      What you describe sounds like anxiety.

      I let me dog sleep in the bedroom since puppyhood. It helps to make her feel safe, and it helps with bonding. As she matured and gained confidence, she chose to sleep downstairs where she has more freedom. However, I leave the bedroom door open so she can hear us and I can hear her. If she gets anxious because of unusual night noises, then I let her up if she wants. She feels safer, more assured, and calm, when she is with us.

      For separation anxiety, I start training my dog with very short periods of alone time (seconds), and slowly build up from there.
      ASPCA article on separation anxiety and desensitization training.
      More on dog anxiety.

      I would *not* use shock collars or any kind of aversive punishment for anxiety behaviors. Punishment will only introduce more stress into the situation, which may worsen the dog’s anxiety and his related symptoms.

  11. Anonymous says

    We afe currently looking into this for our deaf 2 year old pitt bull. She loves to bark at nothing, including the side of our neighbors house at 2am (she goes nuts over any kind of shadow) and attacks my other pitt (in a non agressive playful way) in an effort to gain our full attention when we get home. Nothing else has been successful. She’s a sweet girl, but such a handful. Any ideas?

  12. Peggy says

    Training with non-aversive methods will work for your problem dogs. If they have been allowed performing undesirable behavior for a while it may take longer but it can work. You can teach dogs not to bolt out of doors and to have rocket re-call. Wanting dogs to roam your property, respect boundary lines and not act like dogs by chasing a killing prey is ludicrous. A shock collar will only work if you are there to push the button and how does that work if they are roaming out of site or when you are not home. Electric fences may or may not restrict their boundaries and certainly will not keep them safe from others. These collars have been known to short circuit when they get wet causing severe injury and sometimes death. Dogs can become aggressive with electric fences and shock collars leading to a potential serious attack. Manage your dogs, build safe fences, exercise them and train, train, train using positive methods. If you cannot do it yourself contact a professional to help. If you cannot provide safe exercise and training for your dog then consider rehoming your dogs.

  13. Glenn says

    I’d really like to post this to a manufacturer’s web site, but maybe someone will pass this on. There needs to be a change to the beep that the collars make when they give the correction. We’ve found that a wide variety of electronic products also make the same beep. Our dog is now terrified of our coffee maker, our iron and our digital watches. Just be warned and please pass this on if you can.

  14. Veronica says

    I am only looking into shock collars because my coegi was recently hit by a truck because he likes to chase/race cars and we live in the country and he is out often or was and when i am not home i live with other people who even if i want to keep him in even if he is in my room Somehow he is let out. It is to where our driveway is just a straight shot so i was thinking of almost a post or pole that has a rage if he gets in it that it will administer a shock. I cannot keeps eyes on him and on who is coming in and out or even on the road, is there even such a thing as a range post?

  15. Shawnee says

    Hello. I have a lab mix and she is very energetic and playful, but she can run faster than me or my husband can ever dream of. We got a shock collar to train boundaries because she needs to run! I am quickly assoiciating the shock with the beep to use the beep as an aversion instead of the shock. We tried recall training and treats for staying within her boundaries but nothing worked because of something of more interest. We tried a longer leash but still she can’t run very much before it tugs her back. If we let her run, she is better behaved in the house because her energy is lower. I honestly think recall and positive reinforcement would have worked if she wasn’t so outgoing to other dogs and our dear neighbor who leaves scraps out for animals(one of the major reasons for boundary training, we don’t want her to get sick). IDK if it was for sure the right thing yet but we feel it was the only option short of tying her up outside with limited space on our 12 acres of land.

  16. Steve says

    This is a current discussion so I have hopes that my post will elicit some constructive advice. My new wife and I have 3 female dogs, she brought 2 Airedales to the marriage and I got my teacup Yorkie, my ex kept the Westie and The Golden. We have been together for 3 years now and purchased a home together and are working on blending our lives. My teacup is perfectly socialized and requires little or no discipline in all situations. The older Airedale at 10 is well socialized and other than being very fragile emotionally is well behaved. The younger Airedale is 7 and is extremely difficult to handle. She is a loving dog and seems eager to please but she has the most challenging behavior of a dog I have ever dealt with. She has assumed the alpha role and is only somewhat submissive to me. She regularly bullies the other dogs and at times causes problems, she will knock down the older terrier and aggressively “taunt in a semi playfull” way. It causes us concern as the older dog is experiencing hip issues and the vet has warned us to be careful with her as she can be seriously injured. We have to be extremely vigilant with the teacup as I have caught the younger terrier overtly using very rough play with her ( flipping her with her nose and pouncing with her front paws at the teacup). She could very easily hurt or cripple the little girl and she seems oblivious to this.
    The most frustrating behavior is the younger Airedales tendency to very sneakily time her opportunities to escape from our home, yard or leash and go on these neighborhood rampages where she stays just outside our reach and taunts us with this run and chase game. We have tried everything from ignoring her when she runs and just monitoring her until we can catch her which has almost gotten her run over a few times to enlisting half the neighborhood to corral her.
    She is now approaching 8 years old and isn’t showing any signs of maturing, I am a patient man and have owned and trained many dogs but am at my wits end here. My wife has arranged to give me one of my greatest wishes, another West Highland Terrier, I was so bonded to my last Westie, it broke my heart when my ex decided to keep him. I am looking forward to another Westie and the training experience but I am so afraid of what will happen with the younger Airedale. I have two months to try to work it out with the Airedale before the pup comes home and I am wondering if I should try shock collar training to try and reign in this terror, we have tried every other kind of training and have had little or no success. I veiw this as my failure not the dogs, I just haven’t fiqured out how to get through to her. Please any constructive advice is appreciated.

    • shibashake says

      With my dogs, I set up clear dog-to-dog play rules, and I supervise them well during play-time to enforce those rules. I make sure that there is no bullying, and I manage their excitement level by throwing in many play-breaks. When they get over-excited, is when they usually start to play rough and when things start to escalate. Therefore, managing their excitement level is a very important part of keeping play-time controlled and successful.
      More on what I do with my dogs during play-time.

      I do not leave my dogs alone together until I am very sure that there will be no issues, and I exercise them well before any alone time. I also set up a very fixed routine for my dogs, a consistent set of house rules, and they work for all of the things that they want.

      What is the younger Airedale’s daily routine like? Has she always shown these behaviors or did they only develop recently? What types of activities does she enjoy?

      where she stays just outside our reach and taunts us with this run and chase game.

      Yeah, I think many dogs do this, not because of dominance but because it initiates a fun and interesting game. With my dogs, I do recall training exercises. In addition, I train them on door manners, so that they learn not to bolt out doors. I also try to set them up for success by providing a fixed routine and structured activities throughout the day (e.g. making them work for all of their food). In this way, they know exactly what to expect, and they have many structured outlets for their energy.

      More on how I deal with dog escapes.
      ASPCA article on recall training.
      More on dominance and bad dog behavior.

  17. Sandi says

    I have 2 dogs on which I use shock collars. A 60 lb Shiba mix and a 60 lb Husky/Malamute mix. It was my last resort. After major discussion with a farmer and his deer rifle as they chased his cows, watching the Shiba retrieve a fawn from the river and proceed to kill it, kill two of my neighbors cats, chasing and many times killing squirrels, birds, moles, gophers I was at wits end. They also chase coyotes all the way back to their den and I can only pray they are not pack attacked. I spent much $$s on training /behavior. The e-collar was the only salvation. I was not abusive, gave only quick bursts to break their focus and shock level only enough to turn them back. All after trying the beep first.

    • Anonymous says

      Did it work for your dogs? I too am at my wits end and would use it with quick corrections. My dogs almost were killed today when they wouldn’t come back and ran into a busy parking lot approaching a major street. Nothing else is working.

    • Anonymous says

      Why are your dogs off leash and running wild? Don’t allow that and you won’t have these issues to begin with.

    • Renee says

      HI Sandi, and anyone looking to get a shock collar. I to have those problems with my shep. he love to run after anything. Live In the mountains and was afraid of coyotes ,bobcats, hunters. so bought the shock collar worked great. Until this morning. shock collar malfunctioned and all most killed him. Kept going off and did not know what was going on because they are silent. he couldn’t walk very good. Removed the shock collar and he fell to ground. I did hymlik on him and slowly he started to come around. I thank God I was here. and he hadn’t run off with it on. we would of never found him and he wouldn’t be with us now. I hope this helps with anyone wanting to buy a shock collar. I did all kinds of research before I bought it and have not heard of this. So I felt I needed to inform everyone.

  18. Tony White says

    I am considering a shock collar for my dog. He is generally a great dog, and very obedient to recall, except when he sees sheep!

    Unfortunately this behavior has already resulted in the death of one sheep, hence he kenneled at night and on a long leash during the day, except for walk times when he is still on the leash but going for a walk with the family.

    I want him to be able to roam the property and not worry about mine or other people’s livestock being a threat, what are your thoughts?



    • shibashake says

      Based on Christiansen and Shalke’s studies, animal aversion training (e.g. training a dog to fear and avoid snakes or sheep) is one of the few cases where shock collars do not significantly increase stress levels in dogs, if done right. Here is the relevant excerpt –

      {Dogs who} were able to clearly associate the electric stimulus with their action, i.e. touching the prey, and consequently were able to predict and control the stressor, did not show considerable or persistent stress indicators.

      However, there are also warnings that the training has to be done in exactly the right way. In addition, pain will still be applied.

      Personally, I would consider other types of training first. These two articles have more on retraining prey chasing behavior-

  19. Jennifer Ganus says

    I have always felt positive reinforcement worked best. Say no to unwanted behavior, then promptly show the wanted behavior and reward for it. I prefer the gentle approach. Dogs want to please us and working together creates a great bond, And
    the dog does the wanted behavior to please you. I think with the shock/vvibration collars only deliver negative with no instruction on what to do instead. And less communication with you to learn how to please you.

  20. Katarina says

    Has anybody thought about further problems that might be associated with using any of these advices…….like triggering seizures ?! I guess we might never know, but I wouldn’t say 100% that it cannot. And that something we have been dealing recently……

  21. Jim R. says

    First off, thank you for your article…

    My dog trainer is suggesting using an e-collar (specifically the “e-collar” brand/model) as he does not respond to correction using the slip or prong collar. She first asked me to try the collar on myself so that I’m comfortable with it. My dog responded to the collar at a level 4. I could not even sense anything until over twice that level at level 10 (range is from 0-100). Even then I could not notice anything other than a faint “pulse”. No “shock”, no pain, etc.

    Is the “e-collar” that much different than a traditional “shock collar” or am I just missing something all together?

    Please help as I’m very confused and stumbled upon your article while trying to make an informed decision on how to proceed.


    • shibashake says

      Aversive collars such as choke collars, prong collars, and shock collars/electronic collars use pain to suppress behaviors. In particular, the aversive stimulus (e.g. pain) triggers an aversive response in the dog, which then causes him to stop his current behavior in order to avoid further unpleasantness.

      My first trainer was an aversive based trainer, so I started doing corrections using a regular collar. The first bunch of times I corrected my dog, I was able to suppress his undesirable behaviors. However, he quickly got used to it, and I had to make stronger and stronger corrections to trigger an aversive response. Finally, the trainer suggested that I use a prong, to make stronger corrections (i.e. apply more pain).

      When I started using the prong, it worked great at first, but then my dog got habituated to it again, and then I had to start making stronger corrections, until finally it didn’t work anymore. At this point, I did a lot of reading on dog behavior and decided to go with a different type of training, which has worked out well for my dogs.

      For aversive collars to “work”, we need to apply the right amount of pain. The level needed will change depending on the dog, past experiences, current environment, etc. In the beginning, my dog responded quickly to a “new” piece of equipment because it was something unexpected, then he responded because the pain applied was greater, then he simply got habituated to the pain and stopped responding.

      There are other risks associated with electronic collars that are not present with other collars because the source of the stimulus is unclear. This creates a higher risk for a dog to make the wrong associations. There is more discussion about this in the article above.

      Finally, aversive collars work by suppressing behaviors that are undesirable to us, but they do not address the source of the behavior. For example, my dog was vocalizing because of anxiety. I may suppress that behavior in the short term by using aversive collars, but in the long term, it would only make things worse because applying pain to my already anxious dog will only cause him to get more stressed. The pain may stop his barking behavior in the short term, but the underlying issue (his anxiety) is still there.

      Now, I try to understand where my dog’s behavior is coming from first. Once I understand that, I can help him overcome the issue at the source. In this way, I am not just suppressing the symptoms in the short term.

      More on how I deal with my dog’s bad behavior.
      More on how dogs learn.
      More on aversive training.

  22. Amy Fehnel says

    My husband and I have 2 pitbulls. They are both neutered males from the same litter. We got the first one at 8 weeks old and the 2nd one when the original owner couldn’t find him a home around 6 months. Once we got them acclimated things were fine. But eventually they started being aggressive towards each other regarding food, toys and us. Unfortunately, they got into a fight that lasted about 10 minutes and resulted in severe injuries to our first dog. We don’t want to give up on either dog, so after we got them medical treatment we had a dog trainer come. We use commands and separately they listen. We are now muzzling, and medicating (doggy prozac) and are now considering shock collars to deter the aggression. I would be interested to know your thoughts on our situation. Thank you.

    • shibashake says

      That sounds like resource guarding behavior.

      In serious cases of aggression, it is best to get help from a good professional trainer. However, the dog training field is not well regulated, so finding a good trainer can be challenging. What techniques did your trainer suggest? Did your trainer suggest using prozac and shock collars?

      Dogs develop food/object guarding behaviors because they associate another dog coming near their stuff with something negative. Personally, I would stay away from using shock collars. Injecting pain and more stress into an already volatile situation is highly risky, and may cause even more extreme and erratic behavior. In addition, it will create even more negative associations with other dogs.
      More on how I help my dogs get along.

      Given that the aggression is serious, it is best and safest to find a good trainer/behaviorist.

    • Daniel says

      Hi Amy
      No, I would highly discourage using any aversion therapy with your dogs at this point. Not that I am any authority, other than my own. But your dogs seems to lack emotional well being, and that is what I think is the source of their aggression.
      They seem to need a change of outlook in life, a more positive outlook. They need to feel more safe. They need oxytocin, more trust.
      Then they will relax more and be happier, and more allowing.

  23. megan says

    I have a 5 month old small bread pup. she attacked and killed a pet chicken at a friends house. she shows no interest in the chickens until she thinks i am out of site. i hid and watched her pace the cage through a window and she would not come when called. i think if i let her associate the negativity towards the chook run she mite stay away from it. i don’t like the idea of shock collars but if she attacks another one it will be requested she gets put down. is it justified to use one?

    • shibashake says

      I am not sure that I fully understand. Are the chickens at a friend’s house or your house? Can a fence be built around the chicken area? Is she an outside dog and therefore has to be around the chickens? What is her daily routine like?

      When I am trying to change my dog’s behavior, I look at the source of the behavior and I consider *all* the training techniques available to bring about that change. The question that I ask myself is which technique is going to be most effective in the long-run and which will result in the best long-term quality of life for my dog.

      As I described in the article above, shock collars can be used for animal aversion training, e.g. training a dog to stay away from snakes, sheep, or chickens. When properly applied, studies show that for this particular type of training, the shocks do not increase stress levels in dogs. However, proper timing and use is extremely important. Therefore, if I were to do animal aversion training with my dog, I would only do so under the direction of a good professional trainer.

      There are many training and management techniques available to address chasing prey type behaviors though, so my first step would be to look at all the available techniques, and start with those I think are safe, effective, and will lead to a good long-term quality of life for my dog.

      Here are two articles dealing with prey chasing behavior-

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