When you share your life with a dog that has a behavioral problem, such as barking or escaping your yard, it's not surprising that you want a quick fix to put an end to it. Many people reach for an electric shock collar to teach their pet how to behave.
The use of these collars is controversial. Those in favor of them feel they offer advantages in being able to manage a dog's behavior from a distance. Opponents believe that they cause pain and suffering to dogs, and are responsible for increased stress and anxiety. Anxious dogs are less likely to respond to punishment so the collars may not have as much effect as a pet parent would like.
These collars were first used to train hunting dogs but are now often used to teach pet dogs. They provide an electrical current across two electrodes that are held against a dog's neck. Some shock collars are operated by a person via a transmitter. Others work independently of people, and operate automatically in response to barking or to a dog approaching a boundary wire.
There are three types of electric collars commonly used in dogs.
1. Anti-barking collars
These emit an electric shock when a dog barks. The instant punishment is supposed to discourage them from barking. The problem with the use of these collars is that they don't deal with the reason a dog is barking. The dog may be lonely, anxious, or afraid, and an electric shock will make the pet feel much worse. A much better option is to identify why a dog is barking and resolve it in a more positive way with exercise, training, and companionship.
2. Boundary fence collars
These collars shock a dog when it approaches an underground wire to prevent them from leaving their property. Ideally, dogs are taught to recognize the sounds made when they approach the wire, so they can then choose to stop and not go any further. There have been many instances where an excited dog has rushed past their boundary wire under the influence of a surge of adrenalin, perhaps when chasing a cat or looking for a romantic encounter. When they've calmed down, they can't get back into their yard because if they approach the boundary wire, they receive a shock. Unfortunately, this has resulted in dogs being lost or killed on the road.
3. Training collars with hand-held transmitters
These collars are designed to be used while you're at a distance from the dog. You can give them a shock to stop a behavior even if you're not near them. The main issue with the use of this type of collar is the timing. Punishment needs to be closely associated with the unwanted behavior and if your timing is off, your dog could connect the pain with something completely different.
An electric shock collar is a dog welfare concern, and one that is considered by behaviorists and welfare groups to be an unsuitable treatment for pets with behavioral problems. There are too many potential problems with this training technique for it to be recommended for use on our much-loved canine family members. Instead of relying on shock collars that produce stress, pain, and anxiety, look into alternatives that don't hurt dogs, such as positive reinforcement training, behavior modification for barking, and sturdy fencing.