Are Shock Collars For Dogs Cruel?

Electronic Dog Collars

Whether you’re planning to purchase a remote training collar, a bark collar, or the dog containment system which sends electrical impulses through the collar, we’re talking about the so-called “shock collars.” This term is used quite openly in the United States, while some other countries use more gentle names, such as the electronic collar (e-collar) or static correction collar.

As you probably already know, there’s a particular stigma surrounding these devices. Many people think that these things deliver a painful electric correction that’s capable of melting the electrical grid. Of course, this is far from the actual truth – we’re here to shed some light on the matter.

E-Collar or Shock Collar?

As we said, the electronic dog collars are referred to with a couple of other names, such as shock collars and e-collars. The term “shock collar” is quite outdated, as it relates to devices used all the way back in the 1960s for the training of the hunting dogs. More than 50 years ago, these devices were much more powerful and offered almost no choice when it comes to the level of stimulation. We could safely say that they were quite inhumane and barbaric, and it’s a good thing that they’re no longer manufactured.

Dog Callar ShockUnlike the modern bark collars, these delivered a real electric shock (instead of a static electric shock). Current models come with safety switches that prevent the canines from receiving a prolonged static electric shock. The same could be said for the modern containment-system collars – they do the same thing if the pooch gets stuck in the correction zone. Having just one high level of correction is a thing of the past – currently-produced models of e-collars come with multiple levels of correction, allowing the owner to find the right setting for his four-legged friend.

Even so, the term “shock collar” stayed and is used by many people today. No matter which of the previously mentioned terms one decides to use, we’ll all be talking about the same thing.

What Is An Electronic Dog Collar?

The electronic dog collar is a device that’s mainly used in the following areas:

  • For keeping the canines inside the property

Every time the dog gets close to the fence-line, he’ll be corrected and thus forced to back up. This is also known as the “invisible dog fence” (or “underground fence”).

  • It stops them from barking

Whenever the dog starts barking, the collar will automatically deliver a correction. If the canine, however, continues to bark, the device will automatically increase the frequency and the duration of the shocks.

  • It stops the problematic dog behaviors

These devices are very common when it comes to off-leash training. Some pet owners and professional dog trainers use it to correct behavioral problems, such as aggression.

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  • It teaches the canines to stay away from dangerous things

A good example is the so-called “rattlesnake aversion training.” The dog gets shocked whenever he comes close to a caged rattlesnake, and thus learns not to approach these dangerous animals in the future.

Not all e-collars have to be used as shock collars. Most models come with three primary modes – beep, vibrate, and shock. Most have the shock functionality, with the other two being entirely optional. Let’s have a closer look at all three modes:

Beep mode

In the beep mode, a beep will be emitted whenever the dog owner presses the collar controller. Just like the clickers in the clicker training, this sound can be used as a marker.

However, a pup needs some prior training that will help him associate this sound with positive or negative consequences for this sound to become a valid marker. If the beep, for example, always comes before the reward, the pooch will stop and wait – he knows that he’s getting his favorite treat. On the other hand, a dog could also freeze in place when he hears it, knowing that his failure to obey the order will be followed by a shock.

Similarly to blowing a whistle, the beep is also capable of causing a startle response. An owner can use it to interrupt the dog’s current action or get his attention. However, one has to use the interrupt signals infrequently – owners who use it too often will notice that their pets are getting accustomed to it and are starting to ignore it.

Vibrate mode

As the name suggests, the collar will vibrate in this mode, similarly how our phones vibrate to get our attention. Just like the beep mode, it can be used as an interruption or as a marker, and it also doesn’t deliver an electric shock to your dog.

Shock mode

In this mode, the collar will release an electric current to the dog’s neck through the two special contact points. This causes pain and discomfort to the pooch – otherwise, it would be entirely ineffective for the training. The amount of pain generated depends on the following factors:

Current’s frequency

Current’s duration

Current’s power/voltage

The amount of pain that the pet will feel also depends on his or her physical characteristics, such as the breed, skin, size, fur, and similar things. Some canines are far more sensitive to pain than the others are.

Sometimes, companies will describe their shock collars with words like “stimulation,” calling them “gentle training collars” and similar names. We advise you to beware of these gimmicks and simply accept these devices for what they are.

Is It Safe for Puppies?

Experts agree that most puppies are ready for the collars once they’re around six months old. The reason behind this is the fact that most modern models will give your puppy only a mild electric simulation – you don’t have to worry about pain or injuries.

However, introducing the puppy to an electric collar before he’s six months of age can have serious repercussions – it could leave the pup very scared. This is why it’s of paramount importance to wait for the right moment and thus avoid having your little friend scared of collars for life.

Puppies have much to learn when they’re young – getting used to a leash, basic obedience training, going to the bathroom, and similar things. These things need to be taught before introducing them to an e-collar. During the first couple of months, it is entirely normal for the puppy to go through a fear stage. Some puppies are scared of everything – they hide if someone wants to pet them. But with proper training that started at the right moment, they will inevitably become social dogs that love both people and other dogs.

German ShepherdThis is why most canine professionals agree on half-a-year age mark. Most puppies master the basic commands by that time and aren’t scared of leashes and trivial things like their own shadows. An excellent way to prepare your pooch for the static correction is to build a DIY fence and train with him. Otherwise, you’re risking having your little canine friend running back to the house after the first contact with static correction. He might even refuse to come back to the yard!

There are a high number of pet parents that don’t understand how important it is to hold off with the e-collars until the pooch is wise enough and old enough to understand the whole process. Waiting until the 6-month mark is crucial – that’s when the puppy can have a positive response to the electric stimulation. At that age, he’s able to understand the new boundaries and learn to respect them, no matter the breed or temperament.

Some professional installation companies claim that it’s entirely ok to introduce your puppy to an e-collar when he’s only three months old. One needs to understand that these companies don’t only install the fence for you, but they also train your dog. The trainers from these companies are highly skilled and know how to teach each puppy to respond well to an electric fence. It’s not something that can be done by anyone, which is why the owners need to wait for their pups to hit the right age mark.

Puppies are just like small children – they require a slow and gentle introduction to new things, as that allows them to adapt to changes and enjoy the new environment without fear.

Puppy Dachshund Collar

Are Electronic Dog Collars Humane?

Companies such as Invisible Fence Brand, SportDog, and PetSafe spend a lot of money and time to make their e-collars as humane as possible. Most models manufactured by these companies come with the following features:

  • Lower levels of static correction

As we already mentioned, the old shock collars from the 1960s had just one level of static correction – painfully high. Researchers done by experts throughout the last decades have shown that dogs respond quite well to lower levels of static correction. This knowledge has been incorporated into modern e-collars – they’re not as nearly as inhumane as those from over 50 years ago.

  • Training-only modes

To make the pooch familiar with the new rules and boundaries, these companies have equipped their e-collars with the beep and vibrated modes. These cause no discomfort to the dog and are an excellent way to start the training process. They allow the canines to learn how to appropriately respond to warning vibrations and beeps before they get to be introduced to static correction.

Jack Russell
  • A wide array of stimulation levels

Most of the electric collars on today’s market come with 5-10 degrees of electrical stimulation that the owner can choose from. This allows every owner to find a level that will suit his four-legged friend the best, no matter his size or temperament.

In short terms, today’s shock collars have been manufactured to provide the best results with the least possible amount of static correction. This makes them very humane – certainly a lot more than the ones from the 1960s.

Who Shouldn’t Use Them?

Let’s have a quick look at canines and owners that shouldn’t use e-collars:

  • Infirm owners

Unfortunately, some owners just can’t imagine imposing any boundaries on their pets. The invisible fence and the e-collar can’t work by themselves – an owner needs to be committed to teaching his pooch how to appropriately respond to this new system. Without proper training (at least three 15-minute sessions a day), the whole thing is useless.

For that matter, be honest with yourself – if you can’t commit to the training, don’t buy an e-collar. You’ll only be wasting your money.

  • Infirm or pregnant dogs

When a dog is infirm or in later stages of pregnancy, an owner should avoid using an e-collar and wait for the pooch to get back into the normal state. As we already said, puppies should be at least six months of age before you introduce them to such a device. Small dogs (not heavier than 10 pounds) on the other hand, should be trained on systems specially made for them.

  • Aggressive dogs

Dogs that act aggressively when they’re in the presence of strangers should not be trusted on only electronic collars. The problem of escaping is not the only one – visitors who enter your yard might end up bitten. In these kinds of situations, an owner should consider combining the electronic fence with a physical fence, and thus make sure that the pooch is securely contained. Stubborn canines should use systems designed specifically for them – there are a couple of such systems in today’s market.


No matter how we put it, there will always be some controversy on the use of these devices. But to us, the only essential opinions are from those owners who are already using these collars on their canines. An overwhelming majority of these people say that these devices are not only completely safe but that they also present an incredibly useful way to teach the pooch to stay in the yard.

When used correctly, the e-collar is bound to keep your dog safe from getting out on the road – just be committed to teaching him how to respond to it properly.