Dog Shock Collars: Cruel or Not?

Once upon a time, there was a fair lady who loved canines so much she spent every day grooming and training them. One day, her Pomeranian fathered a litter of puppies, and she spent six months raising and training the sweet little furballs. While she loved all of them, she was especially fond of the blondest one in the litter. When it was time for the puppies to leave the nest and venture out into their own homes, the lady diligently chose a good home for each one of them. The blondest puppy went to a friend of the lady’s, a friend she trusted to give the tiny furball the love and care he deserved.

Fast forward six months. The lady, wondering about her beloved puppies, went on Facebook and found a photo album of little Blondie. After oohing and ahhiing over how big he had gotten, the lady’s eyes fell on something, and her heart instantly jumped to her throat.

A shock collar. Wrapped around the puppy’s tiny little neck was a collar considered so cruel and inhumane Wales made it illegal. The lady, who knew how trainable Blondie was, politely contacted her friend and informed her about the dangers of shock collars. It could cause anxiety and fearful aggression in Blondie. It could burn his skin. If used improperly, it could even fry the little puppy’s brain. The friend became defensive and rattled off the benefits of a shock collar: it made the puppy stop barking so much, stay inside her property, and avoid dangerous objects. The lady fired back with a much gentler alternative – reward training – which she knew very well had worked on Blondie. The friend then retaliated with the classic, “It’s my dog, so I can train him however I want.”

The intense argument turned into a huge controversy within their circle of friends on Facebook. This incident claimed the end of their friendship, and today, three years later, they still speak bitterly of each other.

True story. The lady and the friend were acquaintances of mine.

I’m pretty sure this wasn’t the first friendship to fall out over the issue of whether a dog shock collar is humane or not. It has always been a highly controversial topic.

The shock collar (which some electric collar companies have dubbed “gentle training collars” and “sport collars”) delivers an electric current to the dog (or even cat) through two contact points at the animal’s neck whenever he crosses an invisible line or his owner presses a button. The amount of pain and discomfort the dog experiences depends on the voltage level, the duration, and the frequency of the electric current. The smaller the dog is, the more sensitive he is to the electric currents. The amount of pain he feels can also depend on the type of fur he has and his temperament.

Some dog trainers say that shock collars bring many risks, like fearful aggression, the possibility of the dog linking the shock with the wrong thing, and serious injury or eventual death of the dog due to poor handling on the owner’s part. The bottom line, they say, is that shock collars can permanently traumatize a dog, physically and mentally.

Other dog trainers see nothing wrong with shock collars. They’re quick to list the advantages of a shock collar, such as the owner’s ability to control the dog from a distance, “automatic training” in the owner’s absence, and providing a shortcut to teaching the dog his exact boundaries.

If you ask me, I’m not a big fan of those things. I believe that, because dogs are always eager to please their owners, there’s a way to train even the most attention-challenged dog with rewards and lots of hugs and kisses. It just takes a lot of time and patience, that’s all. I don’t think dogs deserve to suffer just because their owners are too lazy or busy to train them properly. Just my two cents!

What do you think? Are you for or against dog shock collars? Aye or nay?


  1. I put on my parents’ dog’s shock collar and walked thru the invisible fence to see how it felt for their dog and it HURT!! I talked my mom into removing it! Their poor dog is much happier now lol! They should make a human version for all the people who are cruel to their pets.

  2. I don’t think dogs deserve to suffer just because their owners are too lazy or busy to train them properly. Just my two cents!

    I understand your opinion, but as someone who trains his dog 30 minutes a day five days a week I disagree. Shock collars provide excellent control and if used properly can actually protect the dog from running into the street, for example. I agree that many people abuse them, and don’t understand how damaging they can be, but please, do not paint with a wide brush and assume that the use of a shock collar means the trainer is too lazy.

  3. They are not a cruel method of training. I have trained to gun(hunting) dogs with the use of shock collars and I will tell you why they aren’t humane.

    People that oppose shock collars seem to not realize that anything involved in dog training can be cruel to the dog if the owner doesn’t have the patience or knowledge to use the device correctly. An example can even be jerking extremely hard on a leash when a dog doesn’t respond. With that in mind, I will say that there are some people who use shock collars incorrectly which can be harmful to the dog but if you know what you are doing then it is perfectly fine for the dog. Below I will list reasons why I believe it’s ok to use them in training a dog.

    1. Dog’s skin is different than humans, ours is much more sensitive. This in response to people saying that they have put it on themselves and said it “HURT.” Now I have actually put this on my wrist and shocked myself to see exactly what the dog is experiencing when I press the button on him. I had the dial set to the setting it is on my dog and its just a weird feeling but not painful at all (kind of reminds me of those prank shocking things like prank lighters that used to be very popular). The videos you see on youtube of people saying it hurts are mainly drunk people with the settings all the way up…. This is where the responsibility of knowing how to use theses collars comes in. If you have the setting on where the shock just gets the dogs attention, then its perfectly ok and there is no pain involved for the dog at all. The point isn’t to get the dog to yelp in pain and quit what it’s doing, it’s to have it set just lightly enough to break it’s attention to what it was previously focused on and focus on you.

    2. People say that using collars to train makes you a “lazy” owner. If that is true, then isn’t every human who purchases a car for their transportation lazy….? I didn’t purchase the collar because I am lazy, I purchased it because it’s a very efficient way of training a dog. It takes around 6 months to 9 months to train a hunting dog with a collar, I am not for certain, but I would assume that it would take double or triple that to train one without the use of them. I make money off of taking people quail and pheasant hunting with these dogs and so the faster I get a dog trained and the more trained he is, the faster I can generate income. Sure I can train them without it, but it’s just more efficient and effective means of training.

    3. It also does give me instant control in emergency situations. How many times have you seen your dog or someone else’s dog take off after other dogs at the park and they wouldn’t respond to commands. When dogs get excited, they get what I would call tunnel vision on the item of interest and completely tune out the world around them. Like I mentioned earlier, the shock collar is used to break that focus so you can administer a command to them. If my dog was ever in a situation where he got focused on an item and his actions in response to this stimulus could possibly endanger his life ( like running into the street or in front of a gun) I can use the collar to break his attention and give him a command.

    4. Technology. The technology advancement on these collars are incredible. Most have great ranges, vibration along with shock settings, noise only settings, and various amounts of correction control. Companies aren’t going to make something and put it on the market that would kill a dog, that would burn a dog, or that would cause brain damage to a dog. They have to pass numerous testing stages before they are allowed to sell their product and these issues are part of these test. If you put the collar around the neck where it is supposed to be, then you won’t have any issues like those listed above, this is of course assuming you are a responsible trainer.

    Being someone who has trained 2 GSP and 1 Lab hunting dogs, I think my experience provides a creditable answer. If used properly by the owner, then using a collar to train a dog is perfectly safe and harmless for the dog.

  4. No to shock collars! Also the ones with steel spikes! I think we should put them on those who use them for a week , then let them see how painful they are.

  5. I am in complete agreement with you. I have one of the models for small dogs that had variable settings on the shock but it has the vibration and has a lock device so the level of intensity of the shock cant be changed. I have it for a small Sheltie pup that was ignoring commands. He well understood what we wanted, but refused to respond. COME has been his big bugaboo and escaping into the street has resulted in chasing scenes in the neighborhhood. I have used the shock on 1 or 2 only twice. Vibration got his attention. Now just having the collar on will settle him down to attention mode. He wiil be 8 mos. Next week and I expect by the time he is a year old the collar will be a memory but I think it irresponsible to risk the street behaviour over not using the collar. I can see it could be ill used with a frustrated owner and a very stubborn dog.

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