Jolted. My Experience Getting Shocked By a Dog Collar

The Purpose of Dog Collars

Dog collars serve various purposes depending on the type of collar used. The most common collar styles include:

Flat collars – These standard collars lay flat against a dog’s neck and are used for identification tags and attaching leashes. Flat collars can be made of nylon, leather, or other materials (source).

Martingale collars – Martingale collars tighten slightly when pressure is applied but do not constrict the airway. They are often used for training and walking dogs that slip out of regular flat collars (source).

Choke or slip collars – These collars tighten around a dog’s neck when tension is applied to a leash and are sometimes used for training. However, they can risk injuring a dog’s neck if used improperly (source).

Shock collars – Shock collars deliver an electric stimulus as a training correction or deterrent. While advocates believe they can be effective for some training, others view them as inhumane and risky (source).

How Shock Collars Work

different types of dog collars including shock collar

Shock collars were first invented in the 1960s and initially gained popularity for training hunting dogs. The collars use electric current to discourage unwanted behaviors. Today, shock collars are commonly used for various types of dog training.

A shock collar system consists of two main components – the collar receiver worn by the dog and a handheld remote transmitter operated by the handler. The collar has metal contact points that touch the dog’s neck, while the remote has buttons to activate the shock.

When the handler presses the button on the remote, a radio signal is sent to the collar receiver. This triggers an electric current to pass through the contact points on the collar and deliver a shock to the dog’s neck. The intensity of the shock can be adjusted on many models. The shock lasts for as long as the button is held down, generally 1-2 seconds. The purpose is to get the dog’s attention and deter unwanted behaviors through an aversive stimulus (Wikipedia).

The shock is often paired with a warning tone or vibration to signal to the dog that a shock is about to be delivered. The handler can also set the collar to deliver a shock automatically in response to barking or after warning beeps. The operational range of most collars is 300-400 yards.

The Controversy Around Shock Collars

The use of shock collars has been a controversial topic in dog training for decades. Advocates argue that shock collars can help quickly stop unwanted behaviors that put dogs or others at risk, like aggression, running into traffic, or chasing livestock. They also claim shock collars are more effective for reliable off-leash obedience than reward-based methods alone. However, critics point out several ethical and humane concerns.

Opponents of shock collars say that using pain, fear or intimidation to train dogs can lead to increased anxiety, stress and diminished quality of life [1]. The collars can suppress behaviors without addressing the root cause, and dogs may show signs of confusion or distress when shocked. There are fears that repeated shocks could potentially cause physiological issues over time. Critics argue there are gentler methods like positive reinforcement that can achieve training goals without pain or intimidation.

There are also concerns that shock collars can be misused by inexperienced owners. Setting the right shock level requires precise timing, proper collar use and an understanding of individual dog temperament. If used improperly, critics argue shock collars could lead to exacerbated problems. Collars on the market range greatly in quality and intensity of shock.

dog looking fearful when receiving shock

Regulations on shock collars vary considerably depending on location. They have been partially or fully banned in several countries as well as some states and cities in the US. There are campaigns for wider legislation, but so far there is no nationwide ban in the US or Canada. While the debate continues, pet industry scientists and experts advise weighing the associated risks carefully before utilizing shock collars.

When Shock Collars Are Activated

Shock collars are designed to deliver a shock when a dog exhibits an undesirable behavior that the owner is trying to correct or deter[1]. Common behaviors that will trigger the shock function include barking, aggression, and wandering off limits. The collars have adjustable settings that allow the owner to control the exact behaviors that will activate the shock.

Most modern shock collars have multiple buttons that can be programmed to address different behavioral issues. For example, one button could be set to deliver a shock if the dog barks, while another button is for shocks related to begging at the table or jumping on furniture. The collar receiver worn by the dog detects when a button has been pushed on the remote control and delivers the corresponding shock.[2]

In addition to controlling which behaviors elicit a shock, the owner can adjust the intensity level of the shock. Shock collars often have multiple levels ranging from low to high. A lower intensity shock can be used for initial training, especially with puppies. Higher shock levels are reserved for stopping more serious problem behaviors in adult dogs. It’s recommended to always use the minimum shock level necessary to correct the dog’s behavior.

The ability to customize when and how strong the shocks are allows owners to tailor the shock collar to address their dog’s unique training issues. However, the risk of overuse and misuse means shock collars should only be considered after other positive reinforcement methods have failed.[3]

[1] https://www.invirox.com/blogs/dog-training-solutions/10-dos-and-don-ts-when-using-dog-shock-collar
[2] https://www.outsideonline.com/outdoor-gear/tools/dog-shock-collar-training-experience/
[3] https://petspy.com/blogs/dog-training/at-what-age-should-e-collar-training-start

The Feeling of Receiving a Shock

When a shock collar is activated, it sends an electrical current through two contact points that touch the dog’s skin. This causes an unpleasant sensation that interrupts and deters unwanted behavior. But what does it actually feel like to be on the receiving end of a shock collar?

According to first-hand accounts from people who have tried shock collars on themselves, the sensation can be surprising and intense. As described in one testimonial, “You could really feel the shock throughout your whole body, almost like your bones were vibrating. It caused really bad muscle aches afterward.” (https://ultimatebarkcontrol.com/blogs/news/we-test-shock-collars-on-ourselves) The shock creates an involuntary physical jolt, making your muscles tense up.

Psychologically, it provokes a fight-or-flight fear response. Even though the shock only lasts a moment, it’s an unpleasant, alarming experience. As another tester put it, “It’s certainly not a pleasant feeling, but it’s momentary and not so much painful as it is intense.” (https://www.outsideonline.com/outdoor-gear/tools/dog-shock-collar-training-experience/) The surprise of being suddenly shocked adds to the discomfort and stress.

So while shock collars are designed not to cause injury, receiving an activation undoubtedly feels rough and jarring. It provides a fearful jolt meant to startle and deter, tapping into basic instinctual reactions. For both people and dogs, the experience is primarily defined by its aversive, overwhelming sensory discomfort.

Shock Levels and Their Effects

Shock collars have various levels that allow the intensity of the shock to be adjusted. The shock levels are usually measured from 1 to 100, with 1 being the mildest and 100 being the most intense. Some collars may have fewer levels, such as 0-10 or 0-20.

At the lowest levels, the shock sensation may feel like a tingle or static pulse. As the levels increase, the shock becomes more intense and can feel like a strong sting or pinch. At the highest levels, the shock is extremely painful and jolting, similar to the feeling of a severe bee sting.

While lower shock levels can startle a dog or get their attention, higher shock levels have risks and dangers. According to a study, repeated high level shocks may cause physical pain, stress, and psychological damage in dogs. High level shocks can also potentially lead to tissue damage, burns, heart problems, and aggression.

Trainers recommend using the minimum level of shock needed to get a response from the dog. The collar should never be set high enough to significantly hurt or injure a dog. Responsible and humane use of shock collars relies on appropriate timing and intensity of the shock.

Short Term Effects on Dogs

When a shock collar is activated on a dog, the immediate effects can be quite distressing. Studies show that most dogs will yelp, squeal, bark, or show other signs of pain and fear when receiving a shock (Schilder, 2004). The shock creates a startle response and feelings of anxiety. Dogs may also freeze up, engage in redirected aggression, or try to avoid the area they associate with the shock (Schilder, 2004).

Shock collars can also cause physical reactions like lowered body postures indicating fear or submission. Some dogs may temporarily lose control of their bladder or bowels from the surprise of the shock. There may be signs of burns or skin irritation where the nodes of the collar make contact (Lugar K9 Training, 2022).

In the minutes and hours following a shock, dogs often remain anxious or depressed. They may hide, avoid eating, or act skittish around their owners. The shock experience creates distrust and damages the human-animal bond (Utrecht University, 2020). Rather than reducing problematic behaviors, shock collars often exacerbate them by creating more fear and anxiety in dogs.

Long Term Effects on Dogs

Research has shown that the long term use of shock collars can have lasting negative effects on dogs. One study published in Applied Animal Behaviour Science analyzed the behavior of dogs that had been exposed to shock collars over several years (Schilder, 2004). The researchers found that the dogs exhibited more stress-related behavior such as crouching and yelping even when not receiving shocks compared to a control group.

Prolonged use of shock collars has also been linked to an increase in aggressive behavior in dogs. According to a study by the University of Lincoln, dogs trained with shock collars exhibited significantly more behavioral signs of distress and aggression towards other dogs (Cooper, 2014). The researchers theorized this was due to the pain and fear caused by the repeated shocks.

In terms of psychological effects, studies have shown that the chronic stress from shock collars can cause dogs to exhibit symptoms similar to post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in humans. Dogs may become fearful, anxious, and withdrawn. A study found that one third of the dogs trained with shock collars in the long-term study showed severe and persistent stress symptoms. This evidence indicates that the pain and fear from repeated shocks can have severe psychological consequences for dogs.

Alternatives to Shock Collars

There are many humane alternatives to using shock collars for dog training. The most effective approach is positive reinforcement training, which rewards desired behaviors instead of punishing unwanted behaviors. This creates a cooperative partnership between owner and dog.

using positive reinforcement like treat to train dog

Vibration collars can be used to get a dog’s attention and redirect them without using an unpleasant shock. The sensation surprises them without causing pain. Citronella bark collars spray a scented mist when excessive barking occurs. The odor deters barking but is harmless. There are also ultrasonic and spray collars that make use of sounds or sensations dogs dislike.

Here are some tips for training dogs without resorting to shock collars:

  • Reward good behavior immediately with treats, praise, playtime, etc. This reinforces actions you want to see again.
  • Interrupt and redirect bad behavior to something positive. Say “No!”, then give a command you can reward.
  • Be consistent. Everyone should use the same training cues and responses.
  • Start training early and be patient. Puppies and adults can learn new tricks.
  • Consider enrolling in obedience classes for socialization and extra support.
  • Manage their environment to prevent opportunities for unwanted behaviors.

With persistence and the right motivation, dogs can be trained using force-free methods that create a happier pet.

Takeaways on Shock Collar Use

In summary, using shock collars on dogs is a controversial training method that should be carefully considered. While some owners report success with shock collars, negative side effects like increased anxiety and aggression have also been documented.

Ethically, shock collars should only be used as a last resort when all other positive training methods have failed. Owners should reflect on whether a shock is truly needed, or if continued positive reinforcement might achieve the same goal. Causing pain or fear in dogs should always be avoided when possible.

considering ethical issues with shock collar use

If owners do elect to try shock collars, usage should adhere to best practices like: starting on the lowest setting and only increasing if needed; limiting to 1-2 second corrections; pairing corrections with positive reinforcement; restricting use to specific training contexts. Additionally, collars should be properly fitted by a trainer and continually monitored to prevent overuse. Owners must also commit to transitioning away from the collar as the dog learns.

With thoughtful and selective use, shock collars may have a place in certain training regimens. However, they also carry risks of trauma, and should not be considered indispensable or harmless. A animal’s wellbeing should take priority in all decisions regarding shock collar use.

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