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I have reviewed more than 10 Position Statements on Shock Collars released by different organizations that made the claim that shock collars are cruel. In this blog, I have shared detailed information quoting peer-reviewed research criticizing the use of shock collars while also sharing the case presented by proponents of shock collar use for training.

Peta.org, AKC, ASPCA, and several other animal-rights activists have always insisted that shock collars are cruel to dogs.

PETA wrote this on its website.

“PETA opposes “no-bark” shock collars and “invisible fences,” which electrically shock dogs when they bark or cross an invisible line. ” It goes further here to explain their reasons for opposing the use of shock collars and invisible fences to control dog behavior during training.

Peta.org position statement on Shock collars

ASPCA wrote this on their position statement on shock collars;

Humane training does not inflict unnecessary distress or discomfort on the pet. Humane training makes primary use of lures and rewards such as food, praise, petting and play. 

ASPCA Position Statement

It is important not be fooled by deceptive marketing terms (e.g. vibrating, e-touch, stimulation,
tingle, static) for shock collars. The primary reason shock collars are effective in stopping behavior
is because they are painful, and it is time for pet professionals to stop inflicting pain
masquerading as training, and take shock off the table once and for all.

Pet Professional Guild Statement on Shock Collars

The British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals also posted on their website their opposition to shock collars listing their 5 key reasons not to use a shock collar.

The Humane Society also registered its disapproval of using shock collars on their website stating that they are “often misused and can create fear, anxiety and aggression in your dog toward you or other animals. “

The big question now is – Are shock collars really cruel?

To answer these questions, let me first explain what shock collars are.

Shock collars are also known as e-collars, and are most commonly used in dog training. They deliver an electric shock to the dog wearing it when he or she performs an undesired behavior – like barking excessively, digging holes, or jumping on people.

And now, let’s define what the word ‘humane’ is.

What is the definition of humane?

Before proceeding to explain some key terms, I would like to share the definition of the word ‘humane’. According to Merriam Webster, these are the two definitions of humane;

1. Marked by compassion, sympathy, or consideration for humans or animals humane prison guards.

2. Characterized by or tending to broad humanistic culture 

Merriam Webster

I got the snapshot below of the definition too.

Snapshot from Merriam Webster defining the word 'humane'
Snapshot from Merriam Webster defining the word ‘humane’

With respect to being humane to our pups, we’ll evaluate shock collars based on the first definition of humane. With this in mind, it’s important that we understand that use of shock collars is a form of punishment as defined by the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB).

Let’s first go through these key terms;

Some helpful terms to understand:

Various terms are used to describe various forms of eliciting the desired behavior in dogs. The following are the key terms used to describe various methods;

  • Punishment: Something done immediately following a behavior that results in the behavior happening less often in the future.
  • Negative punishment: A type of punishment where something is taken away from the dog after he performs an undesired behavior. For example, if your dog jumps on you and you turn and walk away, the act of walking away is negative punishment.
  • Positive punishment: A type of punishment where something is added after the dog performs an undesired behavior. For example, if your dog jumps on you and you push him off, the act of pushing him off is positive punishment.
  • Positive reinforcement: Something done immediately following a behavior that results in the behavior happening more often in the future.
  • Negative reinforcement: A type of reinforcement where something is taken away after the dog performs a desired behavior. For example, if your dog is pulling on his leash and you release the pressure when he walks by your side, the act of releasing the pressure is negative reinforcement.

10 Reasons why Shock Collars are Cruel:

The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) listed key negative impacts of punishing a dog using shock collars with their shock collar opposition statement.

Screenshot of AVSAB's Position Statement on the Use of Shock Collars
Screenshot of AVSAB’s Position Statement on the Use of Shock Collars

Below are all the key negative reasons of punishing your dog;

  1. It’s difficult to time punishment correctly with dogs:The punishment must be timed to take effect while the behavior is in progress: within 1 second or before the next action, whichever comes first.
  2. Punishment can strengthen the undesired behavior: Punishment can cause fear, anxiety and aggression.
  3. It can harm the health of the dog – with high-intensity shocks.
  4. The intensity of punishment must be high: A punishment strong enough to deter the dog from repeating the undesired behavior is also likely to elicit fear, anxiety and aggression.
  5. Punishment may lead to learned helplessness: The dog may become afraid of everything if he believes that he can’t escape the punishment.
  6. Punishment can exacerbate dog aggression: If the dog is already aggressive, punishment can make the aggression worse.
  7. Can cause bad association: If the dog associates the shock with something else – like the person holding the remote – he may become fearful or aggressive toward that person.
  8. Punishment does not teach desired behavior: You need to show your dog what you want him to do instead of the undesired behavior. Punishment should never be used in place of positive
  9. Punishment can interfere with learning: The dog may become so anxious that he is unable to learn anything else. Punishment doesn’t teach the dog what you want him to do instead of the undesired behavior: In order for punishment to be effective,
  10. Electronic shocks can have adverse effects on the cardiovascular and respiratory systems:Shock collars can cause physical pain and damage to the dog’s neck, back and spine.

Shock collars are cruel because they rely on punishment to train dogs. The problem with punishment is that it is difficult to time correctly, it can strengthen the undesired behavior, and it can cause fear, anxiety, and aggression. In addition, shock collars can have adverse effects on the dog’s cardiovascular and respiratory systems. If you are looking for a way to train your dog, there are many positive reinforcement methods that are more humane and effective.

Are shock collars humane:

No. Shock collars rely on punishment to train dogs which can cause fear, anxiety, and aggression. In addition, shock collars can have adverse effects on the dog’s cardiovascular and respiratory systems. If you are looking for a way to train your dog, there are many positive reinforcement methods that are more humane and effective.

There are credible negative ethical and physiological arguments against the use of electric training collars (e-collars, ecollars, remote training collars, Zap collars); However, the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) has released a position statement against the use of these devices stating that “scientific studies have not established that positive punishment (e.g., collar corrections, choke chains, pinch collars) contributes to the long-term welfare of companion animals.”

The AVSAB further states that “positive punishment (e.g., collar corrections) may be associated with negative physiological and behavioral effects”. In 2010 the American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation convened an expert panel to review scientific evidence regarding the use of e-collars for training and containment of dogs; they found that, “There is a lack of scientific evidence regarding the efficacy and welfare consequences of e-collar use. Until these concerns are resolved scientifically, the responsible use of e-collars must be advised.”

Shock collars certainly have their detractors. However, there are many experts and trainers who do believe that, when used correctly, shock collars can be an effective training tool – even for dogs with behavior problems.

The key is to use the collar correctly. That means choosing the right time to deliver the shock, using the lowest possible level of stimulation that will still get your dog’s attention, and making sure that your dog associates the shock with the undesired behavior – not with you.

If you’re thinking about using a shock collar to train your dog, make sure to consult with a qualified trainer first to get tips on how to use it correctly.

Shock Collars: The Pros

There are several advantages of using a shock collar to train your dog.

  • One of the biggest advantages is that shock collars can be very effective, even for dogs with behavior problems.
  • Another advantage is that they can be much less expensive than other types of training, like hiring a professional trainer.

Shock Collars: The Cons

  • One of the biggest disadvantages is that they can be misused. That means that if you don’t use the collar correctly, you could end up causing your dog more harm than good.
  • Another disadvantage is that some people believe that shock collars are inhumane and cruel. However, if used correctly, they can actually be quite humane – especially when compared to other types of training that use more physical methods, like leash corrections.

Psychological Concerns of shock collars

Schilder and van der Borg (2004) found out in their study that shock collars were indeed painful to dogs. The study concluded that, “that being trained is stressful, that receiving shocks is a painful experience to dogs and that the S-dogs evidently have learned that the presence of their owner (or his commands) announces reception of shocks, even outside of the normal training context.”

Ethical Concerns:

There are also ethical concerns about using shock collars. Some people believe that it is cruel to use any kind of physical punishment to train a dog. When the dog fails to perform as expected, it can lead to owner outrage and irritation. This might cause the user to increase the harshness of his or her punishment (increasing shock levels). Some shock collar advocates believe that many shock collars should be used simultaneously – one on each neck and groin.

Stress signals being given by dogs in such situations may not be understood immediately a dog trainer or you may think the dog is just playing or persisting on their negative behavior which may make you increase the intensity even more.

Some history about shock collars:

Shock collars were first introduced in the 1960s, and since then, their popularity has grown steadily. In the 1980s, they became more widely available with the development of electronic fences. These fences worked by giving a mild shock to the dog when he or she attempted to cross the boundary line.

Shock collars were originally designed for hunting dogs, and were used to train them to stay close to the hunter and not wander off. The theory behind using a shock collar is that it will teach the dog to avoid the behavior that leads to the electric shock.

Shock collars are now commonly used by dog owners and trainers for a variety of purposes, including:

– To stop barking

– To keep dogs within invisible boundaries (often called an “invisible fence”)

– To train dogs to perform tricks or obedience commands

– To stop digging

– To keep dogs from jumping on people

Reasons dog owners use shock collars:

People use shock collars for different reasons. Some use them because they have an issue with their dog barking excessively, while others use them to keep their dog from leaving their yard.

Still, others use them to train their dogs to perform tricks or obedience commands. A common reason people give for using a shock collar is that it is a quick and easy way to train a dog, and it is often seen as more effective than other methods.

Emily J. et al., (2012) surveyed 185 dog owners on Risk Factors as well as Reasons for use of Shock collars by Dog Owners and found the following to be some of the common reasons;

  1. Dog barking – 47/185
  2. Dog Recall – 47/185
  3. Dog Chasing livestock – 31/185
  4. Dog chasing others – other wildlife – 27/185
  5. General training – 15/185
  6. Pulling on lead – 9/185
  7. Chasing other dogs – 5/185
  8. Escaping/jumping fences – 3/185
Snapshot of a research with surveys indicating why 185 dog owners use shock collars
Snapshot of research with surveys indicating why 185 dog owners use shock collars

How strong is the shock delivered by shock collars:

Shock collars use static electricity which doesn’t last. It’s similar to when you touch a charged door knob and you get a little electric shock. The feeling is unpleasant but not harmful.

The strength of the shock delivered by a shock collar is measured in volts, and it can range from as low as 6 volts to as high as 22,000 volts.

The voltage of the shock is one factor that determines how unpleasant it is for the dog. Another factor is how long the shock lasts – which can range from a fraction of a second to several seconds.

Some shock collars have a feature called “stair climbing” which delivers a series of shocks of increasing intensity until the dog stops the undesired behavior.

Shock collars can also be used in conjunction with a citronella spray collar. When the dog barks, the collar emits a citronella spray which is unpleasant for the dog. This can be effective in deterring barking, but some dogs may become more agitated and aggressive when they are sprayed.

To give you an idea of various shocks, below are examples;

  • Static shock: When you touch a door, there is an electric charge of approximately 30000 volts at.5 milliamps for 1/1000th. of a second. According to this Petsafe Report, the strongest static shock delivered to dogs is 8000 volts and lasts for few seconds at less than 1 milliamps. It’s unpleasant but not dangerous
  • Main electricity line shock: Main electricity lines have 220 volts at 13 amps and are continuous which makes them extremely fatal; there have been numerous circumstances of people knocking out wires directly connected to a 220v or 110v circuit, both animals and humans, resulting in death.
  • Welding power: A welder uses a current of 200 amps to burn through steel.

There are three types of collars that can deliver an electric shock:

– Collars that deliver a shock when the dog barks (bark collars)

– Collars that deliver a shock when the dog crosses an invisible boundary line (invisible fence collars)

– Collars that can be remote-controlled by the owner or trainer to deliver a shock when the dog is performing an undesired behavior (remote-controlled collars)

Understanding the shock impact on behavior:

The shock delivered by a shock collar is similar to the static electricity shock that we sometimes feel when we touch something metal. On the neck, it would feel like someone had tapped you on the shoulder. For most dogs, this is not painful. As mentioned above, it is about 0.5 milliamps compared to welding electricity which has 200 amps.

The goal of using a shock collar is to startle the dog and distract him from the undesired behavior. The hope is that with enough training, the dog will learn to associate the undesired behavior with the shock and will eventually stop doing the behavior.

There is some debate among experts about whether or not shock collars are effective. Some studies have shown that shock collars can be an effective training tool, while other studies have found that they are no more effective than other training methods.

There is also concern that shock collars can be misused and can cause fear, anxiety, and aggression in dogs. It is important to consult with a professional trainer or behaviorist if you are considering using a shock collar to train your dog.

How Shock Happens with Current Flow through dog’s body:

Two terminals come in contact with the dog’s skin and when the circuit is activated, one terminal is energized. The dog’s flesh, which is the load and the other terminal provides a path for the current.

Image showing shock collar prongs that has vibration and Electric shock modes.
Image showing shock collar prongs that has vibration and Electric shock modes.

Electricity follows the path of least resistance and since the dog’s body has a much higher resistance to electricity than air, most of the current will flow through the dog’s body.

As the current flows through his body, it will cause muscle contractions and he may yelp or cry out.

The level of intensity of the shock is determined by the owner or trainer and is usually based on the size, age, and temperament of the dog.

Image showing parts of a shock collar brand
Image showing parts of a shock collar brand

When the shock collar unit fails when a remote button is pushed, you may opt to increase the intensity and the dog receives a highly-intense shock rather than a gradual increase.

What does AKC say about shock collars?

From the American Kennel Club’s (AKC) position statement on Training Aids:

The AKC believes that while positive reinforcement techniques such as food rewards or play with a favorite toy are generally far more effective and humane than punishment, physical and psychological punishment can be considered when all other training methods have failed. They have shared 4 tips on effective reinforcement that you can use and avoid shock collars.

They point to the potential for physical and psychological damage caused by the use of electric shock. The American Kennel Club (AKC) states that, “Training your dog with an e-collar can lead to behavioral issues down the line. In addition, consider the possibility of your dog receiving an electric shock accidentally (i.e. if he gets his paw caught in the collar).”

In their Official Obedience Dog Training Manual released in April 2022, they have banned the use of shock collars stating;

  •  “No special training collars, such as electronic collars or prong collars, will be permitted. Nothing may be hanging from the dog’s collar”
Snapshot from AKC's Dog Training Manual
Snapshot from AKC’s Dog Training Manual

Are shock collars safe for puppies?

Shock collars are not safe for puppies, especially those younger than 6 months old as their body tissue including the heart and brain have not fully matured and the shock can lead to long-term negative health impacts. Puppies have not yet developed the thick coat that will protect them from electric shock, and their skin is more permeable, so they may be more susceptible to physical injury from a shock collar.

In addition, shock collars may actually make it more difficult to house train puppies as it will not understand what is being punished for.

And despite the fact that some manufacturers say their product is safe to use on puppies, the AKC does not advise using a shock collar on any dog until he or she is at least six months. Our search on the recommendations by leading shock collar brands indicates that some recommend their use only after the puppy has had at least two rounds of vaccinations.

Are shock collars safe for humans?

Most shock collars deliver static electricity of 0.5 milliamps intensity and is similar to the static tingling you may feel when touching a metal doorknob in winter. The manufacturer claims that the shock is not harmful to humans or dogs. But there are reports of people and pets being injured by electric shock collars.

Watch the quick 26-second video below of Steve Yendle who got zapped with thousands of volts of electricity from a dog collar.

<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/NWaG9MZTRIs” title=”Hilarious moment a silly husband tries on their dog’s new shock collar – and gets zapped! | SWNS” frameborder=”0″ allow=”accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture” allowfullscreen></iframe>

This other video is by another pet owner who shocked himself using a dog collar at a different intensities from 10% to 100%. At 100%, he describes the sensation as, “incredibly painful, like being hit with a bat.”

There is a very sad story of a girl being forced to wear shock collars for 9 years.

Which countries have banned shock collars?

The Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Scotland, Norway, Slovenia, Sweden, and Switzerland have all banned the importation and sale of shock collars.

In 2021 Austria passed a law that will ban the use of electric shock collars on dogs and other pets starting January 1, 2022. Violators will face a fine up to €4,000.

I found a Guardian article from 2019 claiming UK was in the process of banning use of shock collars but not sure if this has taken effect. It is a contentious issue in New Zealand.

Can Shock Collars Kill Dogs?

While the answer may be technically no, there have been reports of dogs dying from electric shock collars. In this study by the National Animal Cruelty Investigation School, they found that out of 27 cases involving electric shocks to dogs, 4 were fatal – although that also included electric fences. In another report from Medina County(Ohio), a family’s dog died after being zapped by an underground fence as reported by Newss5 Cleveland . The necropsy showed that the cause of death was electrocution.

ABC News also reported another story of a dog being in a pool of diarrhea and vomit 20 minutes after he received electronic jolts from an e-collar by a dog trainer.

Are shock collars safe for humans?

Most shock collars deliver static electricity of 0.5 milliamps intensity and is similar to the static tingling you may feel when touching a metal doorknob in winter. The manufacturer claims that the shock is not harmful to humans or dogs. But there are reports of people and pets being injured by electric shock collars.

Watch the quick 26-second video below of Steve Yendle who got zapped with thousands of volts of electricity from a dog collar.

<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/NWaG9MZTRIs” title=”Hilarious moment a silly husband tries on their dog’s new shock collar – and gets zapped! | SWNS” frameborder=”0″ allow=”accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture” allowfullscreen></iframe>

This other video is by another pet owner who shocked himself using a dog collar at a different intensities from 10% to 100%. At 100%, he describes the sensation as, “incredibly painful, like being hit with a bat.”

There is a very sad story of a girl being forced to wear shock collars for 9 years.

Which countries have banned shock collars?

The Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Scotland, Norway, Slovenia, Sweden, and Switzerland have all banned the importation and sale of shock collars.

In 2021 Austria passed a law that will ban the use of electric shock collars on dogs and other pets starting January 1, 2022. Violators will face a fine up to €4,000.

I found a Guardian article from 2019 claiming UK was in the process of banning use of shock collars but not sure if this has taken effect. It is a contentious issue in New Zealand.

Can Shock Collars Kill Dogs?

While the answer may be technically no, there have been reports of dogs dying from electric shock collars. In this study by the National Animal Cruelty Investigation School, they found that out of 27 cases involving electric shocks to dogs, 4 were fatal – although that also included electric fences. In another report from Medina County(Ohio), a family’s dog died after being zapped by an underground fence as reported by Newss5 Cleveland . The necropsy showed that the cause of death was electrocution.

ABC News also reported another story of a dog being in a pool of diarrhea and vomit 20 minutes after he received electronic jolts from an e-collar by a dog trainer.

Are shock collars safe for puppies?

Shock collars are not safe for puppies, especially those younger than 6 months old as their body tissue including the heart and brain have not fully matured and the shock can lead to long-term negative health impacts. Puppies have not yet developed the thick coat that will protect them from electric shock, and their skin is more permeable, so they may be more susceptible to physical injury from a shock collar.

In addition, shock collars may actually make it more difficult to house train puppies as it will not understand what is being punished for.

And despite the fact that some manufacturers say their product is safe to use on puppies, the AKC does not advise using a shock collar on any dog until he or she is at least six months. Our search on the recommendations by leading shock collar brands indicates that some recommend their use only after the puppy has had at least two rounds of vaccinations.

Are shock collars safe for humans?

Most shock collars deliver static electricity of 0.5 milliamps intensity and is similar to the static tingling you may feel when touching a metal doorknob in winter. The manufacturer claims that the shock is not harmful to humans or dogs. But there are reports of people and pets being injured by electric shock collars.

Watch the quick 26-second video below of Steve Yendle who got zapped with thousands of volts of electricity from a dog collar.

This other video is by another pet owner who shocked himself using a dog collar at a different intensities from 10% to 100%. At 100%, he describes the sensation as, “incredibly painful, like being hit with a bat.”

There is a very sad story of a girl being forced to wear shock collars for 9 years.

Which countries have banned shock collars?

The Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Scotland, Norway, Slovenia, Sweden, and Switzerland have all banned the importation and sale of shock collars.

In 2021 Austria passed a law that will ban the use of electric shock collars on dogs and other pets starting January 1, 2022. Violators will face a fine up to €4,000.

I found a Guardian article from 2019 claiming UK was in the process of banning use of shock collars but not sure if this has taken effect. It is a contentious issue in New Zealand.

Can Shock Collars Kill Dogs?

While the answer may be technically no, there have been reports of dogs dying from electric shock collars. In this study by the National Animal Cruelty Investigation School, they found that out of 27 cases involving electric shocks to dogs, 4 were fatal – although that also included electric fences. In another report from Medina County(Ohio), a family’s dog died after being zapped by an underground fence as reported by Newss5 Cleveland . The necropsy showed that the cause of death was electrocution.

ABC News also reported another story of a dog being in a pool of diarrhea and vomit 20 minutes after he received electronic jolts from an e-collar by a dog trainer.

Alternative ways to train dogs without shock collars:

There are many ways to train a dog without using an electric shock collar.

Positive reinforcement:

One way is to use positive reinforcement training which means rewarding your dog for good behavior instead of punishing them with an electric shock.

Using treats, praise, and pets are all great ways to positively reinforce good behavior in your dog. You can also use toys as a way to reward your dog.

Clicker training.

In this type of training, you will need a clicker(which makes a clicking noise) and some tasty treats. When your dog does something you want them to do, you click the clicker and then immediately give them a treat.

By doing this, your dog will start to associate the click sound with getting a treat and will be more likely to repeat the behavior you want.

Head Halter:

Another way to train your dog without using an electric shock collar is to use a head halter.

A head halter is a piece of equipment that goes around your dog’s head and muzzle. It gives you more control over your dog’s movements and can be used to teach them manners and obedience commands.

How to safely use Shock Collars if you want to use them:

If you do decide to use a shock collar, it is important to use it safely and correctly.

Here are some tips:

Start at the lowest setting:

When you first start using the collar, it is important to begin at the lowest setting and gradually increase the intensity if needed.

Do not leave the collar on for more than 12 hours:

It is important to not leave the collar on your dog for more than 12 hours at a time. This can cause skin irritation and discomfort for your dog.

Do not use the collar as a punishment:

The shock from the collar should not be used as a punishment, but rather as a way to get your dog’s attention.

For example, if your dog is barking excessively, you would give them a verbal command to stop first and then if they continue barking, you would use the shock collar.

Do not shock your dog for no reason:

Do not shock your dog just for the sake of shocking them. This will only cause them to be scared and confused.

Only use the collar under supervision:

It is important to only use the shock collar when you are able to supervise your dog. This way you can make sure they are not being harmed in any way.

Best shock collars for different situations or for different dogs;

Shock collars for large dogs:

For large dogs such as GSD, French Bulldog, or Great Danes, it is important to find a collar that is durable and can handle their size and strength both in terms of intensity and durability.

Some of the best shock collars for large dogs include the PetSafe Big Dog Rechargeable Collar, the SportDOG NoBark 10R Collar, and the Garmin Delta XC Bundle.

Shock collars for small dogs:

For small dogs, it is important to find a collar that is not too big or bulky and that has a lower range of intensity levels.

Some of the best shock collars for small dogs include the PetSafe Little Dog Remote Trainer, the E-Collar Technologies Mini Educator 1 Mile Range Dog Training Collar, and the Paww Wavecolla. Consider these for medium-size dogs.

Shock collars for toy breeds under 5 lbs:

For toy breeds under 5lbs, it is important to find a collar that has a lower range of intensity levels and is small enough to fit their size.

Some of the best shock collars for toy breeds include the PetSafe Yard & Park Rechargeable Collar, the eXtreme Dog Fence Mini Shock Collar, and the PetSafe Little Dog Remote Trainer.

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