Shock Collars – Is There Appropriate Use?

by Mary Haight on June 1, 2013

shock collarShock collars became a topic of conversation on FB last night — I shared a post on a dog collar that was touted as a GPS system complete with an android app. It looked well-designed, even sleek (not pictured here). I shared it. Long story short, Hilary Lane also shared it, and got notified on her business page that the company had a shock application built into the collars for obedience and invisible fence use. That fact was not apparent in the third party review.

There was some consternation and commenting on the marketing practices of this company when a Vet friend of mine, Jackie Imai, made a case for the use of shock collars as long as they were handled in an appropriate way, and related her experience, having tested them on herself first. Oddly enough, this is what I did back in the 80s when I believed such devices were legitimate training tools. My response ended up being 300 words, so I decided not to publish it there, but bring it here to see what your thoughts are:

I never bank on appropriate use.

First consider I come from the perspective of someone who has seen permanent damage people do to animals from misuse/abuse of training tools, often out of impatience and sometimes out of belief in strict obedience, sometimes out of cruelty – and I agree with you regarding the dangers of improper use of choke collars.

People as a group are not all that into taking the time and effort to figure out what is and what is not appropriate use. Yes, a pretty broad statement, but not unfair. Impatience is a real issue when these devices are in use, and punishment can be meted out for the slightest infraction. Regretting it later does nothing to heal the break in the human-animal bond.

Victoria Stilwell wrote that these collars are unnecessary and cruel, and while I used to think they were not so bad years ago, having done just what you did — shocked myself before putting it on my dog — as we have learned more about dogs’ intelligence and psychology thanks to scientists like Dr. Brian Hare, trainers like Ian Dunbar and clinical psychologists like Dr. Rise VanFleet, my thinking has changed.

Being shocked – well, think of it – you’re noodling along and suddenly out of nowhere, bam, this electric surge hits you. That’s confusing, spooky, and while dogs eventually understand they can’t go beyond the invisible fence without paying the price of pain, or need to stop barking to stop the pain, they still dash through the electrical field or bark when particularly distressed. What are they really learning?

The larger issue to me is how do you want your dog to respond to you, through fear of pain remembered for not responding as expected or through the joy of a cooperative partnership? The more we understand about our dogs’ psychology and the level of cooperation that can be consistently reached through positive training that respects the intelligence of the animal, the less these types of devices will be used — that’s my hope.

And speaking of larger issues and psychology – how are we making our choices? Are we simply taking the easy road, continuing to use and do what we have always used and done? Are we making conscious and conscientious decisions for our dogs given all the new knowledge in the field of dog behavior and training?

I think people will usually choose a short-cut like shock collars over proper training, seen as a longer process. (It’s ironic given that the shock collars will create a need for further training.) One process respects the dog’s ability to learn and his emotional state, while the other is a quick fix that works while the collar is on the dog. Do you disagree?

Real learning or a trick of electronics, what do you think? Have you changed your mind about this type of training method? Have you ever used it? What did your dog’s body language tell you?

 

39 comments
KattyS
KattyS

I will never accept and aprove the use of these collars. I can not think about a dog different from how I think about a child. How to train my own child using a collar, being it a GPS, android, vibrating, shocking or any other electrical devices! No, not at all! I growth my child with love! And I did the same with my beloved terrier. And the obedience was achieved by an offl eash training method. This I consider a real training method, without any oppresive, invasive and other in-force methods. Just my thoughts! Katty!

glebec
glebec

I live in rattlesnake country and have put my dogs through rattlesnake avoidance training programs conducted by experienced dog trainers.  I cringe when they get zapped, but having watched a dog die from such a bite, I will choose the training every time.  Shock collars should not be the everyday tool for most pet owners to use for most training but there are some specific circumstances in which, in experienced hands, they are appropriate.

AmberHeath
AmberHeath

most of the time it's pretty obvious that shock collars aren't the way to go, but poison training is sort of a grey area, since the idea of food rewards completely goes against it. it's fine if you have a dog who only wants to please, but a more wilful dog with more of an interest in food than making master happy would be a nightmare to train, especially since the training is ongoing. I know someone whose dog was poisoned, and would definitely want to make sure my dog wouldn't accept food from strangers or eat something they found lying around, but it's very tough. I can understand why people would resort to shock collars to deter their dogs from taking food, but even then you'd have to make sure there was nothing else around they could associate with the pain, and you'd still have no control over how the dog interprets the situation. imo it's not worth the risk to use a shock collar even in poison training, but I can understand why people resort to doing so as there's nothing worse for a dog owner than to find their dog's been poisoned... it may be risky but if it works their dog could escape a horrible death and possibly prevent a home invasion

Seattle DogSpot
Seattle DogSpot

I think shock collars are a crutch for inexperienced dog owners and completely give people the excuse to rely on them instead of doing proper training which takes more time and effort. I've never used one but I probably would have before I understood more about them.

Champion of My Heart
Champion of My Heart

Well, as the founder of the Never Shock a Puppy campaign, you know where I stand on this. I know people / have friends who use them on hunting dogs and such, and I get how they are supposed to "work," but I still believe that VERY FEW people have the temperament, timing and skill to use them well ... if there is such a thing. I also think that only 10% or so of dogs have the "bomb-proof" temperament to handle painful corrections without long-term effects. Everyone makes their own decisions on these things. My main beef is the justification about it "not really hurting," etc. I don't buy it, and I full-on boycott companies who make shock collars. 

MAMeader
MAMeader

I have a deaf dog and I use a dogtra shock/vibration collar on her. She is 7 years old and we have been using one for her since she was 6 months old. Best thing I have ever used to let her have a normal life when we go outside of the house. I bought a dual collar when I got another dog who is a hearing dog. They both do well with it and I seldom use the shock feature, usually I just vibrate and they know that is when I want them to come to me. We go for walks in the woods and my deaf dog response better than any hear dog and is always the first to come when "called". Just like any tool, shock collars can be good or bad depending on who is using them and for what purpose.

DanCavender
DanCavender

YDWWYW I completely understand, I wanted to put shock collars, on my four boys (adults now) when they were growing-up, never did! Something about child-cruelty!  But it seemed, like a good idea, at the time! Patients~~~~~is my guidance now! With your next dog, try the food reward system, it works! It doesn't mean you'll always, have to provide treats, to the dog when it's grown! We all learn, and move-on, I bet your dog still loves you, right? So do my kids; after 28 years-averaged, well father's day is coming will see! :-)

Dan    

YDWWYW
YDWWYW

When I was a new dog owner, and didn't know any better, I did use a shock collar on Chester to curb his barking. In retrospect I admit it was because I didn't know what else to do and lived in an apartment where technically dogs were not allowed - so I could have been evicted if Chester barked a lot. i will clarify though: It is not something I just put on him the minute he started to bark or left on for long periods of time. If he barked he got asked to quiet down. If he didn't then he got a more stern warning. If he did it a third time then I put the shock collar on. He learned. Now I do still "use" the shock collar on him every once in a while - by showing it to him if he doesn't stop barking after the second warning (he almost always stops after I show it to him) or putting the inactive collar on him (turned off) for a brief moment. I wouldn't use one on any of my future dogs though.

xfb2004
xfb2004

Shock collars sounds a little harsh but I understand why they may be needed

DawgBlogger
DawgBlogger

Well, just recently I read an article on deaf dogs, talking about a vibrating collar. Such use makes sense to me; probably a different type of product?

 

Also read a vet article on "snake" training. Not sure about that one, possibly lesser of the evil?

sue2
sue2

Count me in the real learning, anti-shock collar, camp. 

DanCavender
DanCavender

Anything used by inexperienced people; e.g., a hand gun, is bad news! With a proper reward training, love and repeating good "girl/boy" when the puppy, does perform a good behavior, is critical for learning and will be more effective, when the dog gets bigger and older. Use the word "NO" when he/she is bad! People wait to long, teach their dog good habits, this delay, in behavioral reinforcement; causes the dog to learn BAD habits, so the inexperienced dog handlers use tools, designed for other proposes. The shock collar was developed originally for "hunting" dogs and/or bird dog retrieval "tool" and set on the lowest possible setting; when the "hunter" or owner wanted the dog, to return to him/her and only after the command was given, was the dog shocked! A dog is trained to hunt; its focused is on one thing...the chase! The 'dog' gets intense and its focuses, by nature is to hunt and find the prey. 

H Bailey
H Bailey

I am not an advocate of shock collars for almost any type of  training purposes. Having said that, I have LARGE dogs that need a lot of running room, and I live in a residential neighborhood with a lot of SMALL kids. For the limited purposes of containing the dogs on our property, I use an 'invisible' fence system at a low setting. I set up the flags, and let the dog get shocked one time. The flags stayed up until they fell over from rusting. Once our dogs learned the boundaries by seeing the flags, they stopped running through into other yards. Other than this, I refuse to use a shock collar.

mipser
mipser

This is not real learning of the proper sort - with love an patience! I would not choose to do this to my dog or any other dog. Additionally, I will share (if you don't know) that the Apple tracking collar may not show the location of the dog for up to 15 mins! Ziggy is a runner! He thinks it is the best game in the whole world to run out of the house whenever he gets a chance. He comes back if he's done before we find him (the little bugger is fast and we live in a twisty turny neighborhood of cul-de-sacs). If we drive up to him in the car he comes running to leap in. ANYWAY, a 15 minute delay is pointless when your dog is out on the street with cars. If we lived on an acre of land properly fenced I would let him roam free because there wouldn't be any cars.

 

All of this underscores my point about the shock collar being a terrible thing. Ziggy is a willful, stubborn, nutty. squirrely, incredibly smart dog. He has learned a lot since we adopted as a wiley flop footed maybe 1 year old, but he still gets his way when he want to. It's our responsibility to love him and keep him safe in spite of himself. That has taken lots of patience and disciple and time. How in the world could I put a shock collar on him and call him my love bug?Long winded as usual. :-) 

WayneHurlbert
WayneHurlbert

A person who truly loves their pet would choose a more humane and less terrifying way to train their dog, A bit of patience, sensitivity and love are vastly superior to a collar that shocks and frightens the dog. Positive training based on love and reward is immeasurably better for both the dog and the people than negative and cruel punishment based systems like this collar.

Timur Khan
Timur Khan

Civil Vision International strongly supports your position on this!  Thanks for your principled stand!

Will84302
Will84302

I think that shock collars are cruel in most circumstances.

softwarehollis
softwarehollis

my recommendation - strap this thing on yourself and "try it out" before you put it on your dog.... I bet it changes how you think about these things.

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