Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, former veterinary assistant, and author of the online dog training course "Brain Training for Dogs."
Shock or Click? See the differences...
What Exactly are Shock Collars?
Wondering how to use a shock collar on your dog? First of all, let's take a look at what shock collars are. Shock collars are devices meant to be worn by dogs for the purpose of training them to stop unwanted behaviors. The owner, or trainer, remotely delivers a correction by using a handheld device. This hand held device delivers a shock of varying intensity to the collar worn by the dog. The shock is meant to correct unwanted behaviors during training or behavior modification. The shock delivered is for the most part used as positive punishment or negative reinforcement.
In positive punishment, the dog's behavior is expected to extinguish because the dog is shocked the moment it engages in the unwanted behavior. Therefore, if a dog is shocked every time it attempts to chase cars, eventually, shock after shock, the dog may give up chasing. In this case, the addition of the momentary shock (positive) causes a behavior to stop (punishment).
In negative reinforcement, continuous shock is delivered and removed only once the dog performs the wanted behavior. For instance, if the dog is called and refuses initially to come, the dog is shocked and the electrical stimulation stops only once the dog moves towards the direction of the owner. Because the shock is unpleasant, the dog learns to come to the owner more often, so to avoid the shock. In this form of avoidance training, ideally the dog should not associate the owner with the shock, but we will take a look at some studies on this in the next paragraphs. In this scenario, the shock is removed (negative) when the dog behaves, and the behavior of coming when called occurs more often, and therefore, is reinforced.
Shock collars may be effective training tools, but their use requires great timing, good knowledge on its use and the acknowledgement of the risk of unwanted side effects. To learn more about the risks of using shock collars read: Why the use of electric collars is counterproductive. Currently, shock collars are an object of much controversy and the world seems split in half when it comes to its use.
So what are really shock collars? On one hand, some trainers sugar-coat the term used to depict these collars and refer to their use as "tap technology" remote training" or "static stimulation training". They often compare the shock to a "nick" or a "tap on the shoulder".
On the other hand, some trainers call them simply: "shock collars," zap collars" or "electronic collars" and compare the shock as the sensation humans feel when they place their finger in an electrical outlet.
So who is right? What are shock collars exactly? Are they gentle as a shoulder tap or are they brutal coercive tools? The opinions on shock collars vary and are for the great part coined by humans, but what about dogs? Shouldn't dogs be the ones to primarily keep into consideration? Since dogs are spared from the gift of voice, we can only deduce their thoughts by observing their body language. Dogs are masters in body language and from observing their displays, a lot can be deduced from those experienced enough to decipher them.
Shock Collars from a Dog's Perspective
So what do dogs think about shock collars? Their body speaks volumes when it comes to depicting something pleasant and unpleasant. If you look at a dog in the process of being clicker trained as in the picture above, very likely you will see the following signs:
- Happy tail wagging
- Eagerness to learn
- The offering of behaviors
- Bright eyes
- Lively expression
- Ears kept naturally
When it comes to being trained with an electronic collar, unfortunately, the picture is less rosy. Indeed, according to a study conducted by Matthijs Schilder and Joanne van der Borg, upon being trained with shock collars, dogs exhibited vocal and non-vocal signals suggestive of avoidance, fear and pain. Following are some of the signals observed in the 32 dogs observed in this study when receiving a total of 107 shocks .
- Lowered body
- Tongue flicking
- Lowering Tail
- Turning head downwards or to the sides so to avoid the shock
- Moving away
- Sniffing the ground
- Lifting front paw
Interestingly, the study also came to the conclusion that the group of shocked dogs in the experiment started associating the owners with the shocks, even when out of the training context. This suggests that dogs are capable of making associations, and therefore, conflicts with the common thought that dogs do not associate the owners with the delivery of the shock. This, perhaps, explains why dogs trained with rewards, tend to bond closer because they tend to associate their owners with good things.
Veterinarian and animal behavior specialist, Karen Overall, also claims that when shock is used, there is always some level of damage done to the dog whether it is visible or invisible. So now that we know what dogs really think about shock collars, let's see shock collars from a human's perspective. Their use on children obviously would be considered abused, so why use them on dogs? Learn what it feels like to be shocked by a shock collar by watching this trainer's courageous Sampling the stimulus of a shock-collar
If you are still interested in using a shock collar for your dog you may want to know how to use it correctly. As promised, the video below will help you learn how to use it correctly and train your dog to be the most obedient dog in the neighborhood.
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Dog trainer explains how to use shock collar correctly
How to Use a Shock Collar....
To use shock as an effective dog training method you will need:
A thorough understanding of canine behavior.
A thorough understanding of learning theory.
And if you have those three things, you don't need a shock collar. --
— Dr. Ian Dunbar
For further reading
- The Use of Aversives in Dog Training: Pros and Cons
Training with aversives Dogs are exposed to various stimuli on a daily basis which are for the most part perceived as positive, neutral or negative. Positive stimuli are obviously those that are associated with positive emotions, either through an...
- Reasons why the Use of Electronic Collars in Dogs i...
Learn the risks of using electronic collars in dogs. Learn why they should not be used lightly and why their use may be highly counter-productive.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on June 18, 2019:
Rebelwolf, nobody can blame you! I think I would bite too in a similar circumstance.
Rebelwolf from United Kingdom on June 10, 2019:
Put a shock collar on me and I will bite whoever is closest when you activate it - and I mean REALLY bite...HARD! Fortunately, my Mum would never allow one in our house let alone round my neck so, as you can see, I'm one very happy, chilled out puppy!
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on May 13, 2012:
There really should not be a place for e-collars in training; training should be fun and rewarding!
Sunshine Canine on May 13, 2012:
I will not ever ever support or recommend the use of a shock collar for any thing!
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on May 10, 2012:
Thank you, dog electronic shock collars are also banned in some countries.
Georgina Crawford from Dartmoor on May 10, 2012:
Not shock collars for my pooches, please. These collars are VERY unpopular in the UK. Great hub BTW.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on May 09, 2012:
thanks, you are very smart dog and very cute too! I like your serious face as it reflects your ability to reflect on serious issues as this.
wetnosedogs from Alabama on May 09, 2012:
No shock collar for me please. I may not look too happy in this profile, but that's because I posed for the picture-serous librarian dog. Books used to taste yummy! But I grew up and leave them alone. Great hub.