Dog trainer debunks five myths every owner needs to know about using shock collars to better behavior

Dog sticking tongue out
(Image credit: Getty)

Unwanted behavior has a range of causes, including pain, lack of clear boundaries and boredom. If you've tried lots of other methods including distracting your pooch with the longest lasting dog chews, you might be feeling exhausted and frustrated and thinking of turning to more extreme methods like shock collars. 

Shock collars consist of small electrical units which deliver electric currents of varying duration and intensity into the dog’s neck. They’re a type of aversive training, which is the opposite of positive reinforcement, and work on the principle that the dog is ‘punished’ for unwanted behavior rather than rewarded for good behavior. They can either be activated manually via remote control or used as part of a pet containment system. In the latter, the collar deploys when the dog tries to leave a marked area.

According to the Humane Society of the United States, shock collars can actually help create fear, anxiety and aggression. While they may work in discouraging unwanted behavior, they don’t teach the dog how you would like them to behave instead.

Professional dog trainer and certified behavior consultant Kate LaSala does not believe shock collars are a good training tool. In her Instagram account rescuedbytraining she sets out five myths about shock collars and why we shouldn’t believe them.

Have a read below and see if you recognize any myths you've been told before about shock collars and if Lasala deems them as true or false...

  1. Myth: shock collars don't hurt. As LaSala points out, they must hurt to a certain extent or they wouldn’t be a deterrent at all.
  2. Myth: it’s just like a TENS unit. According to LaSala, it’s not the same thing at all – TENS machines are never used on sensitive areas such as the neck, and they’re always used voluntarily while your dog can’t consent.
  3. Myth: it’s just like a pager. To people who say that a shock collar is just a form of communication, LaSala retorts that in that case you should just be using your voice.
  4. Myth: just using the vibrate setting works. Your dog won’t know what the vibration means unless he’s also learnt to associate it with pain, even if it’s only once.
  5. Myth: they work for other dogs. LaSala says that dogs trained with this method often appear calm because they’re afraid, and points out that the absence of normal dog behavior is not healthy.

Many experts agree that positive reinforcement is a more efficient and humane method of training, and does not have the negative side effects of aversive training. If you’re struggling with unwanted behaviors, reach out to a certified dog trainer in your area for some expert advice.

If you're interested in more advice about coping with problem pooches, check out our guide on how to deal with with a badly-behaved dog.

Sara Walker

Sara is a freelance journalist and copywriter of many years’ experience with a lifelong love of animals. She’s written for a range of magazines and websites on subjects varying from pet care to travel. A horse rider since the age of five, she’s currently a full time pet slave to horse Blue and gorgeous, goofy English Springer Spaniel Olly. Adorable Olly has a huge sense of adventure and no sense of direction, keeping Sara on her toes.