Do Dog Collars Really Shock Your Pup? The Truth About E-Collars


Shock collars and vibration collars are types of training collars used for dogs. Shock collars deliver an electric shock as a correction when dogs exhibit unwanted behaviors, while vibration collars vibrate instead of shocking. The purpose of both collars is to discourage dogs from barking excessively, jumping, chasing, digging, and other problematic behaviors through an unpleasant sensation. Proponents argue they can be effective training tools if used correctly, while critics argue they are inhumane and carry risks.

Types of Shock Collars

There are three main types of shock collars:

  • Spray collars – These collars emit a quick burst of citronella spray when triggered. The spray is unpleasant for dogs and acts as a deterrent, but does not cause pain. Some consider spray collars to be more humane than other shock options.

  • Vibration collars – These collars vibrate when triggered. The sensation surprises dogs and gets their attention, but is not painful. Vibration collars are one of the more gentle shock collar options.

  • Static shock collars – These collars deliver an electric shock ranging from 1500 to 4000 volts when triggered. The shock is intended to get the dog’s attention and deter unwanted behaviors. Static shock collars are considered the most aversive type of shock collar.

types of shock collars for dogs

Most shock collars have multiple modes, allowing owners to choose between vibration, spray, and shock. Some collars have tone or beep modes as well. Shock intensity on static collars is often adjustable.

How Shock Collars Work

Shock collars, also known as electronic collars or e-collars, work by delivering an electric static shock or vibration to a dog through contact points on the collar. The intensity and duration of the shock can be adjusted through a remote control held by the dog’s handler.

According to TheDogLine, modern shock collars use transistorized circuitry to deliver a brief electric stimulation between two contact points on the collar. This produces a static shock or tingling sensation similar to a TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) machine. The intensity of the shock can be adjusted from low to high, with multiple levels in between.

Some key components inside a shock collar device include:

  • Receiver unit – Contains the electrical stimulation generator and receiver for the remote control signal.
  • Contact points – Deliver the shock to the dog’s neck.
  • Remote control – Allows the handler to activate the shock and adjust settings.
  • Batteries – Provide power to the collar.

When triggered by the remote control, the collar delivers an electric shock ranging from around 3,000 to 4,000 volts. However, due to resistivity in the dog’s coat and skin, the intensity felt by the dog is much lower, from 20 to 70 volts. The duration or length of the shock is typically 1/1000 of a second or less.

Some collars also have vibration or tone modes that can be used as warnings before a shock is delivered. More advanced collars have GPS tracking, Bluetooth connectivity, and BarkLimiter functions that automatically trigger a shock when barking is detected.

Advantages of Shock Collars

One of the main advantages of shock collars is their ability to stop unwanted behaviors in dogs such as excessive barking, jumping, aggression, and chasing. The electric stimulation from the collar acts as an immediate deterrent and disruption to these problem behaviors. According to Dogtra, the stimulation helps dogs associate the unwanted behavior with something unpleasant, which over time decreases the frequency of the behavior. The stimulation level can be adjusted to suit the temperament of each individual dog.

Additionally, shock collars can serve as obedience training aids. The collar allows the trainer to reinforce commands and desired behaviors from a distance through the use of electronic stimulation or vibration. This is useful for training dogs on skills like recall and heeling off-leash. The stimulation assists in getting a dog’s attention and compliance with the handler’s cues during the training process. As reported by Outside, some trainers utilize shock collars judiciously for specific obedience behaviors that are difficult or dangerous to train using only positive reinforcement. However, shock collars should never replace positive reinforcement entirely.

Disadvantages of Shock Collars

Using shock collars can have several disadvantages for dogs. The main concern is that shock collars can cause physical and psychological pain and stress.

dog looking fearful of shock collar

The electric shock can hurt a dog, especially at high settings. According to the BC SPCA, the electrostatic shock can cause psychological distress including phobias and high levels of stress.

Shock collars can make some dogs aggressive and fearful. As explained by the Animal Care Clinic, being repeatedly shocked can make dogs become scared, and frightened dogs may end up becoming dangerous dogs who are more prone to aggression and biting.Animal Care Clinic

There is also potential for misuse and abuse of shock collars by owners who use excessively high and inhumane settings. This can significantly harm a dog physically and psychologically.

Alternatives to Shock Collars

There are several humane alternatives to using shock collars that focus on positive reinforcement. Here are some of the top options:

Positive Reinforcement Training: This method rewards good behavior instead of punishing bad behavior. You can use treats, praise, or clickers to reinforce commands and tricks. According to ManyPets, positive reinforcement builds a stronger bond between owner and dog.

using positive reinforcement to train dog

Citronella Collars: These collars emit a citronella spray when a dog barks. The smell deterrs barking but does not hurt or startle them. Citronella is plant-based and safe for dogs, but they strongly dislike the odor, as explained in this Fresh Patch article.

Obedience Training Classes: Enrolling in puppy and obedience training can teach commands, leash manners, and proper behavior. Classes provide socialization and a professional trainer guiding the process, as suggested by ManyPets.

Laws and Regulations

The use of shock collars is controversial and has led some jurisdictions to restrict their use. However, there are currently no nationwide laws in the United States regulating their use.

Some states and municipalities have passed laws prohibiting or restricting shock collars:

  • New Jersey banned the use of shock collars for dogs in 2019 (1).
  • Massachusetts prohibits the use of shock collars to discipline dogs (2).
  • Some cities like Miami Beach, FL prohibit the use of shock collars on public property (2).

However, shock collars remain legal in most of the United States. There are efforts by animal welfare advocates to pass more comprehensive bans, but currently municipal and state laws provide only localized restrictions.

Shock Collar Training Tips

When using shock collars for dog training, it’s important to follow some best practices to ensure proper use and effective results:

Proper fitting of the collar is crucial. It should be snug but not overly tight. You should be able to fit two fingers comfortably between the collar and your dog’s neck. Make sure the contact points are touching your dog’s skin.

Start with the lowest level stimulation setting and work your way up as needed. Give your dog time to respond at each level before increasing. The stimulation should be just enough to get your dog’s attention.

Timing of the stimulation is key. Apply stimulation immediately when your dog exhibits the unwanted behavior you want to correct. Do not stimulate your dog after the behavior has stopped.

Reward and praise your dog for obeying commands. Use positive reinforcement along with the collar for best training results.

Limit training sessions to 5-15 minutes at a time. Don’t overuse the stimulation feature in one session.

Remove the collar after each training session. Using the collar for too long can lead to neck irritation.

Consult a professional trainer if you have any questions about proper fitting, use, and techniques for your specific dog.

Signs of Misuse

signs of shock collar misuse in dogs

One of the most concerning aspects of shock collars is that they can easily be misused, leading to physical and psychological harm for dogs. According to The Unintended Consequences of Shock Collars, the anxiety and pain caused by shock collars can actually cause increased aggression in dogs. This is because the shocks trigger a “fight or flight” response, making the dog feel threatened.

Other signs of misuse and fear/anxiety in dogs wearing shock collars include:

  • Yelping or crying when the collar is put on
  • Cringing or hiding when they see the collar
  • Acting fearful, anxious or depressed
  • Showing aggression towards humans or other dogs
  • Urination, defecation or destruction when left alone
  • Compulsive behaviors like licking or chewing themselves

If a dog exhibits any of these warning signs, the shock collar should be immediately removed and positive training methods implemented instead. The physical and psychological well-being of dogs should always come before convenience or speed of training.


In conclusion, shock collars can be an effective training tool for some dogs if used correctly, but they also come with risks. The main pros of shock collars are that they can help stop unwanted behaviors like excessive barking, chasing, and aggression very quickly. They can also be used for recall training at a distance. However, the cons are that they use punishment which can potentially worsen behavior problems if not timed properly. Shock collars also have risks like burn injuries, fear, and aggression if misused at high levels.

To use a shock collar humanely, it should only be used at the lowest effective level, in limited situations for serious behavioral issues, and under the guidance of a professional. The collar should never be used out of anger or frustration. There are also alternative positive reinforcement methods that can be tried first before resorting to an electronic collar. With proper training, shock collars can be useful in some cases, but they are controversial and require caution.

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