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Are Shock Collars Bad?

This is a question I get a lot. First of all, let's define shock collars. What they are and what they aren’t.

The old-school shock collars were a hard and awful tool. They indeed shocked dogs. It had the potential not only to burn the skin of the dog but to create lasting psychological damage due to inflicting pain on the dog – using fear of punishment to motivate the dog. These collars were created for dogs that ONLY cared about one thing - hunting. No treat was good enough. They were bred and designed to hunt. They had to make the shock bad enough that the dog would disengage from the hunt (the ultimate reward) and come home. We have since learned that that level of pain is not necessary for training dogs.

German Shepherd mix dog smiling and ready to play!
Dogs need to run and be free. Dogs that have reliable recall can live their best lives.

Dog trainers saw a huge need for a training device that could give dogs reliable off leash freedom without the negative side effects of the old school “shock collars.” Something that was comfortable and yet achieved the distance recall when Auditory exclusion and/or prey drive came into the picture. Unfortunately, because of the history of the shock collar, the general public instantly thinks that it is still a pain-inflicting, psychologically damaging device. That is not necessarily true. The modern electronic collar (Or E-collar) is a simple and gentle solution to the age old problem of dogs needing a “tune in” device when they go into prey drive. The modern E-collar is not a shock collar. It does use electricity – but it’s similar to that of a TENS unit that people use to stimulate muscles. In fact, I put the e-collar in owner's hands before I ever put it on their dog so they know what it feels like. The purpose of the E-collar is to teach the dog in the most gentle way possible to “tune in” using positive reinforcement and/or a simple pressure and release of pressure. The problem is that not every trainer uses them the same way or teaches the same way. When in doubt, pay attention to the dogs. They don’t lie. They will tell you if the e-collar is affecting them negatively.

Tan Pitbull sitting on an orange cot that is on a sidewalk with an e-collar on  and no leash. The dog is happy.
E-collars provide freedom and off leash reliability for dogs.

The beauty of the modern e-collar is that it can be used as a tune in device. I equate it to you having a conversation with someone and all of a sudden, your cell phone starts vibrating in your pocket. This sensation takes your mind off the conversation and redirects your brain to a different thing.


So, just to give you an idea, this sensation that I typically train the dogs with is so gentle that I cannot feel the level of sensation my dogs respond to. I equate it to the feeling of a feather tickling your arm. Something you can barely feel. When we pair this with food, or teach the dog how to turn off the pressure by engaging with us, the dog starts to get excited about it and it boosts their confidence. Unlike the old school shock collars, these e-collars build up fearful, scared dogs and give them confidence instead of crushing their spirit. I show this time and again in my videos on Facebook and Instagram.

Doberman mix sitting and smiling at her dad in a beautiful green park with grass and trees. .
Cleo LOVES having the freedom to run and has excellent obedience. She listens very well when dad says "Come."

The old shock collars were awful. They are a thing of the past, and no decent person uses those anymore. A good e-collar paired with good training is a safe, gentle tool that instills confidence and gives you an insurance policy that your dog will come back every time.


With an e-collar, a deaf dog can be off leash, a dog with a high prey drive can be off leash. There are lots of applications for the e-collar. It is communication. It's a way to give our dogs information and help them check in from a distance.


ANY tool, even a leash, can be abused in the wrong hands, so make sure you have a trainer you trust, who uses high quality equipment. And as always, trust your dog! I highly recommend working with a dog trainer for e-collar work instead of trying it on your own. It's a process that needs to be done right and with the right tools. There are a variety of e-collars out there. Don't skimp on the cost. Cheap ones are no good. I use E-Collar Technologies for my e-collar training programs. Message me for more details!



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