Shock Collars: Training Must or Training Bust?

An active puppy rolling on the ground

When it comes to training man’s best friend, many reach for shock collars to help send home a message. While shock collars can have some utility, they are really not the best choice for a first line training tool. Likewise, they also require a good deal of knowledge to utilize well.

At Rocklin Ranch Veterinary Hospital we want pet parents to understand how and when to properly use shock collars and to recognize that there are many valid alternatives. Choosing appropriate training tools for your dog can really help them to put their best paw forward. 

The Pros and Cons May Shock You!

Shock collars are certainly one way to get your pet’s attention. Traditionally, they utilize an electrical current that runs between two metal prong contact points that provides a jolt in response to your cue or approaching a preset boundary in the case of invisible-type fences.

Most allow this electrical current to be adjusted from a mild tickling sensation all the way to an intense jolt. It can vary widely between individual animals what intensity will be needed to get their attention. 

Shock collars, when appropriately fitted and adjusted, do tend to get a pet’s attention. As with most things, however, all that glitters is not gold. Shock collars can have some unintended consequences as well.

  • They can create fear and anxiety in some dogs.
  • If not appropriately trained with the shock collar, dogs may experience a great deal of stress anticipating a shock.
  • Dogs may not automatically learn the lesson that you are intending without proper training techniques.
  • They do not teach your dog what you do want them to do. 
  • In the case of electrical fences, a dog may not want to re-enter the property after an escape if a shock will be delivered.

Alternatives to Shock Collars

Obviously shock collars are not typically the best solution. But what’s a dog owner to do? Thankfully, there are several great alternatives to shock collars. They typically require a little more effort to be effective, but our staff is here to help and your pet is certainly worth it!

Most effective shock collar alternatives rely on positive reinforcement training, meaning that you reward your pet for the behaviors you do want and ignore those that you don’t. Your pet wants recognition, and it’s up to you what things they get attention for. 

Instead of a punishment, consider:

  • Clicker training to reinforce wanted alternative behaviors
  • Rewarding good behaviors consistently and enthusiastically with very highly valued treats, toys, or attention (each dog will differ on what is valuable to them)
  • Distraction with playtime or other activity
  • Increase your pet’s physical exercise and mental stimulation to decrease problem behaviors
  • Making sure that your pet has a safe space to retreat to if they feel stressed or scared
  • Being sure that everyone in the home is playing by the same rules to avoid confusion
  • Blocking off areas that you don’t want your pet to have access to with things like baby gates

Be careful with alternative aversive tools such as citronella collars, pinch or prong collars, air horns, and water spray bottles. While not quite as imposing as a shock collar, they carry many of the same downsides. 

When You Need to Reach for a Shock Collar

If you feel that you need to utilize a shock collar for your pet, typically it is not a journey that you should enter alone. Before going out and purchasing a shock collar, please contact us

Shock collars are typically used as a last resort, and our guidance will help to be sure that you have explored all other options. We can also help you to utilize a shock collar effectively, minimizing any negative consequences.