Updated: Aug 31
Shock collar training, also known as electronic collar training or e-collar training, has been a controversial method of dog training, and there are several reasons why it is considered bad and generally discouraged by many professional dog trainers and animal welfare organizations. Shock collars are forbidden in most European countries.
Physical and Psychological Harm: The electric shocks delivered by shock collars can cause physical pain and distress to dogs. These collars do NOT result in burns, that is a myth. But they quite often cause skin irritations because of how tight they need to be on the dog to ensure both contacts are making a proper connection with the dog’s skin. These irritations can become severe blisters if the ecollar is not rotated often and it is these blisters that are often referred to as a burn. Think of it like breaking in a new pair of shoes, you will likely get a painful blister if you wear them all day for a day of walking.
Most eCollar dog trainers say the shock collar does not cause pain. This is also a myth, or simply a lie. As a dog trainer, I have put the ecollar on my face at level 84 out of 100 and I will NOT do that again…it HURT! That does not mean every ecollar trainer is trying to hurt your dog or that they are hurting a dog, but it can happen and with some trainers, especially dog training franchises, it is how they are taught to train. Dog Training Franchises teach their franchisee owners to use high levels on the ecollar for two reasons:
1) The Franchisee attends training when they purchase their franchise. This training is 3 to 4 weeks in length and is designed to teach the dog training franchisee how to be a Dog Trainer AND how to start and run a successful business all within a matter of weeks. That is not possible to do either of those two objectives in just 3 to 4 weeks and it is not possible to do them both.
2) Since dog training franchises are pushing franchises through training at such a fast pace, the dogs must also “learn” fast. It is because of the desire for speed that most dog training franchises use electronic collars to compel dogs to perform commands for it is faster than teaching a dog a command.
Moreover, the fear and anxiety induced by the shocks or sensation of an electronic training collar can have a detrimental impact on a dog's emotional well-being. Some dogs do not do well with the sensation even at extremely low levels that a human may not even feel.
Negative Associations: Shock Collars or Electronic Collars rely on punishment or compulsion rather than positive reinforcement, which means dogs associate training with discomfort, not with positive experiences. This can create anxiety around training sessions and harm the bond between the dog and the owner or slow more advanced skills down later for the dog is leery of learning new things because they associate learning as painful.
Potential for Misuse: Shock collars are often misused by inexperienced owners or trainers, leading to unintentional harm to the dog. The intensity of the shocks can be difficult to gauge accurately, and some dogs may be more sensitive to the stimulation, causing unnecessary suffering. This is a huge concern for even well-meaning people can become frustrated when a dog refuses to do something and ALL doges refuse to do something at some point.
Ineffective Long-Term Results: While shock collars may suppress certain behaviors temporarily, they do not address the underlying causes of the behavior. They just do NOT! They are used to mitigate and manage a behavior not fix the underlying issue that is causing it.
Consequently, the unwanted behavior may resurface once the collar is removed, without providing the dog with an alternative desired behavior. This is the reason most dog training franchises have ecollars on their dogs all their dog’s life, wherever they go, for they need the ecollar to ensure the dog complies otherwise the dog may not obey if they know the electronic training collar is not on for the dog knows the owner cannot make them obey.
Risk of Fear and Aggression: The use of aversive techniques like shock collars can lead to increased fear and aggression in dogs. Fearful dogs may become more anxious or reactive, making training more challenging and exacerbating existing behavioral issues. Some dogs may wrongfully associate the severe correction of a shock collar with the other dog and cause the aggression to magnify.
Alternative Positive Reinforcement Methods: Positive reinforcement-based or rewards-based training methods have been proven to be more effective, humane, and sustainable. Rewarding desired behaviors with treats, praise, play, or toys helps build a strong bond between the dog and the owner and encourages the dog to engage in behaviors that are rewarded. It works for humans, and it works for dogs.
Many professional dog trainers and behaviorists advocate for positive reinforcement training, where good behaviors are reinforced with rewards, and unwanted behaviors are redirected, limited, or ignored. Positive reinforcement creates a more enjoyable training experience for both the dog and the owner, leading to better long-term results and a stronger bond between you and your dog.
Some dog training franchises use electronic collars (also known as shock collars or e-collars) because they claim they can deliver fast results in modifying a dog's behavior. These franchises may argue that electronic collars provide a quick and efficient way to control a dog's actions and discourage unwanted behaviors.
However, it's important to note that the use of electronic collars remains controversial, and many professional dog trainers, veterinarians, and animal welfare organizations strongly discourage their use due to the potential for physical and psychological harm they can cause to dogs.
The reasons why some dog training franchises may use electronic collars or shock collars include:
Quick Fix Mentality: Electronic collars may offer immediate suppression of certain behaviors, which may appeal to dog owners looking for a quick solution to their dog's behavioral issues. Franchises may use this as a selling point to attract clients seeking fast results instead of long-term results.
Consistency in Training Methods: In a franchise model, there is often a desire for consistency across all locations and trainers. The use of electronic collars may be incorporated into the franchise's training methods to ensure uniformity in their approach.
Perceived Efficacy: Some trainers using electronic collars claim that these devices are effective in modifying behavior. They may believe that the aversive nature of the shock will deter dogs from engaging in unwanted behaviors. But this approach usually requires the dog to wear an ecollar for potentially the rest of their life to actively manage unwanted behaviors because the dog was never taught and rewarded for the appropriate behavior merely punished for the wrong one.
Increased Revenue: For some franchises, offering electronic collar training may be financially beneficial. Electronic collars can be expensive, and franchises may charge additional fees for their use, potentially increasing their revenue.
Despite these reasons, it's crucial to recognize that using electronic collars for dog training is associated with several drawbacks and ethical concerns. These collars can cause physical pain, fear, and anxiety in dogs, which can lead to adverse behavioral outcomes and damage the human-dog relationship.
When researching dog training services, it's essential for dog owners to research and choose trainers who prioritize the well-being and welfare of their dogs and rely on scientifically sound, positive reinforcement-based training techniques. This does not mean it has to be purely positive training, for sometimes a dog will need a correction when doing something wrong after they have been taught how to do it correctly and you KNOW they know how to do it. Much like a correction you would give your teenager for breaking curfew. A correction does not need to be painful, a correction simply needs to be MEANINGFUL !!
Compulsion-based training, also known as aversive training or punishment-based training, relies on using force, fear, and punishment to modify a dog's behavior. While it may have been a common training method in the past, there is now a growing consensus among dog trainers, veterinarians, and behaviorists that compulsion-based training is not only ineffective but can also be harmful to dogs.
Dogs trained using aversive methods may not generalize their learning to different environments or situations. They may only respond in the specific context where the training took place, making it challenging to maintain good behavior in various settings.
Years ago, we used ecollars when working with dogs for that was how we were taught how to train dogs, but we quickly realized their limitations and risks were not the best tool to teach a dog appropriate behaviors or new skills. The other drawback with ecollar training is it takes a trainer months to become effeicient at using this extra device in their hand and passing that on to the owner is often confusing for the owner with only one or two lessons on how to use it. If it is confusing for the owner, then your dog is about to become very confused, very quickly when you start using it incorrectly or at the wrong time. The best decision we ever made for our dog training company was to stop using ecollars and it is one we have never second guessed, there are just so many better ways to teach and train a dog.
If your dog is struggling with unwanted behaviors or perhaps they just need obedience training, we would love to be part of your dog's training journey with with. Schedule a free evaluation or if you are outside of the Dallas, TX area give us a call and we can discuss your dog training goals.
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