Is It OK To Use A Shock Collar On My Dog?

There’s a very clear answer ⚡️

shock collar on a dog

The debate about shock collars really upsets people in the dog parenting world.

Some people believe they’re an effective training method for keeping a dog from barking or wandering too far from home.

But others firmly believe they’re simply cruel.

The Dodo spoke with Dr. Vanessa Spano, a veterinarian at Behavior Vets in New York City, to get to the bottom of this — and here’s why you should think twice before buying a shock collar.

The truth about shock collars

Using shock collars as a way to train your dog is what’s called “positive punishment.”

This basically means that shock collars work by motivating your pup to avoid punishment, either through vibration, shock or another uncomfortable feeling. 

“Because many animals are smart and can make associations, the idea behind using a shock collar is that the dog will associate a behavior ... with an unpleasant [stimulus] ... and will learn that anytime he barks, he will experience the unpleasant sensation of either vibrating or shocking,” Dr. Spano told The Dodo.

But just because avoiding punishment might actually get your dog to stop her undesirable behavior, that doesn’t mean it’s a good training method.

Why shock collars are inhumane

Some people may think using a shock collar is OK if they test it on themselves first and deem it “not that bad.”

But anything that causes your dog pain or discomfort is inhumane.

“Yes, even vibrations are considered punishment and ‘unpleasant,’" Dr. Spano said.

Shock collars are particularly cruel if you’re using them to keep your dog from barking.

“They are inhumane because they are suppressing the animal from communicating something they feel the need to communicate,” Dr. Spano explained.

A good way to test whether or not something is humane is to imagine how you would feel in that same situation.

“Please think about this,” Dr. Spano said. “If you wanted to scream because you suspected a threatening figure was coming into your home, or if you wanted your loved one's attention because you were bored or upset, but you decided not to express these things because you did not want to face a punishment, would that feel very good?”

The answer is very obviously no.

So why would you subject your dog to that feeling, especially if you wouldn’t want to feel it yourself?

“This is treating fear with fear. It is like going to a talk therapist and being yelled at,” Dr. Spano explained.

Ways shock collars can affect your dog

Aside from causing physical pain and discomfort, shock collars can also hurt your dog psychologically.

Shock collars can affect your pup by:

  • Intensifying underlying anxiety
  • Intensifying underlying fear
  • Causing frustration
Since some unfavorable behaviors are triggered by fear or anxiety, using a shock collar to train your dog out of those behaviors would only make those triggers worse, leading to even more undesirable behavior.

Alternatives to shock collars

Instead of getting a shock collar for your dog, you should opt for one of the many alternatives.

If you’re using a shock collar to keep your pup close to home, consider a GPS collar instead, so you can always keep track of your BFF in a way that isn’t harmful to her.

Try the Fi collar from Chewy for $149.00

And if you’re using a shock collar to teach your dog not to behave a certain way, there are other effective (and humane) ways to achieve that.

“Shock collars ... may teach the animal what not to do, but it does not teach the animal what to do instead,” Dr. Spano said. “There are no coping mechanisms being learned.”

According to Dr. Spano, coping mechanisms actually come from at-home adjustments. She recommends things like avoiding triggers, and reward-based training.

“I do not mean obedience cues, like ‘sit,’ or ‘stay.’ Instead, I mean techniques like ‘desensitization’ to certain triggers and relaxation protocols,” Dr. Spano explained.

You’re going to want to hit up a trainer or a behavior vet (or both) for this if your dog is dealing with extreme behavior (like nonstop barking, or extreme anxiety).

“I absolutely understand and sympathize with people who are dealing with a behaviorally unhealthy pet. It is far from an easy endeavor to take on that challenge,” Dr. Spano said. “But please consider speaking with a veterinary behaviorist first.”

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