Can Shock Collars Kill Dogs?


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A shock collar, or E collar, is widely used for dog training and fixing some behaviors. These electronic collars work well, but some trainers call them aversive tools. **Want to know the full scoop on how shock collars** work and **whether they can harm your dog**? Dive in to find out if shock collars can lead to serious health risks or even death.

How Does a Shock Collar Work?

Shock collars (also called E collars) work by giving an electric shock through metal contact points. Dog owners have the transmitter in their hands while the collar is on the dog’s neck. They just need to press the command and give the signal to prevent unwanted behavior in dogs. The best part of using these collars is that the dog will never know who is giving him shocks, so there will be no harm to the dog-owner bonding.

The thing that most users need to understand is that it is not a painful shock. It is just a mild tickling sensation that is used to get the dog’s attention. The actual shock is the static shock that just stimulates the muscles and sends some signals to the brain indicating that something is going wrong.

If used rightly while implying positive reinforcement, shock collars can turn out to be the best training collars ever.

Can a Shock Collar Kill a Dog?

Some trainers have called the shock collars as simply torture devices, but no death cases have been reported after their use. There have been very exceptional cases but all those dogs were abandoned, hence is no proof whether the dogs died from shock collars or because they were not taken good care of.

Do Shock Collars Hurt Dogs?

Though electric shock collars don’t kill dogs, they can cause both physical and mental harm. Dogs are prone to the following conditions if the shock collars are not used the right way.

Physical Pain

Shock collars can easily give dogs physical pain. Injury ranging from minor skin irritation and rashes to electrical burns can also occur. These rashes and wounds mostly occur because the collar is not worn the right way and it can hurt a dog. The collar might be too tight or have an attached leash that causes it to become tighter or the collar might be of low quality. All these reasons can cause pressure necrosis in the neck area. Skin becomes red, the dog losses his hair at the wound site, and lesions can be easily seen with fluid coming out of them. Another important sign is the severe inflammation at the wound site. If not treated, the infection can spread to underlying layers and become more susceptible for bacteria to enter and harm the body resulting in lasting physical harm.

Psychological Stress

Many dogs are prone to undergo stress. They show fearful or aggressive behavior just at the sight of the shock collar.

Fear and Anxiety

If a dog had a bad experience with these collars like nonstop shocks or a painful shock of high stimulation when one was just trying to set the level for his dog (it might be due to a mistake but the dog doesn’t know), he undergoes severe anxiety and starts fearing the collar. The dog barks even when the collar is quite far from him. Though individual animals vary in their level of fear and anxiety, small dogs get anxious more easily. While other dogs who are larger in size might tolerate their fear up to some levels.

Stress produces high levels of a hormone called cortisol that affect the dog’s heart and can cause cardiac fibrillation and strokes. The hormone does not directly affect the heart, rather it increases the factors that put the heart at risk, such as high blood pressure, high sugar level, and increase in blood cholesterol. Stress can also cause gastrointestinal disorders, including upset stomach, irritable bowel movements, cramps, decrease in blood flow, gut inflammation, and imbalance of gut bacteria.


Electric current passing through the dog’s neck suddenly when he was not ready for it can induce aggressive behavior in him. The major type of aggression observed is the displaced aggression (also referred to as misplaced aggression), in which the dog starts barking at other animals or humans who are not actually the source of his aggression. As said above it is the advantage of E collars that the dog will never know who is giving him shocks, but the same advantage can turn out to be bad for other dogs nearby your dog. Instead of rectifying the dog’s behavior, you will have to handle the aggression too.

Humans Have Tried Shock Collars Too

In order to falsify the fact that shock collars hurt or shock collars can cause some sort of wounds and burns, many people tried collars on themselves. Firstly, the shock administered was not too high and secondly, these people were mentally prepared for what was coming their way. They knew that they are going to suffer a shock so their mind prepared them for the situation. Now apply the scenario to dogs. When a dog first suffers the shock, he does not know what’s happening to him and from where it’s coming? He just undergoes stress, especially if the stimulation level is not yet set and the dog ends up suffering a high stimulation level.

Another reason that made shock collars safe for humans is that human skin is quite thick as compared to dog skin. Humans have a thickness of at least 10 to 15 cells whereas dogs have a skin layer having a thickness of only 3 to 5 cells.

How to Use Shock Collars Rightly?

The old shock collars didn’t have the option to set the stimulation level, but now many shock collars do have. Most of them have stimulation levels from 1 to 100. 1 is the extremely lowest level and is tolerable by all the dogs. Make the dog wear the collar and slowly increase the stimulation. Just at the point when the dog responds to the shock, stop increasing it any further and set that level for your dog. Even modern shock collars can hurt the dogs if not used rightly. For instance, putting the collar on the dog while it’s connected to the transmitter. Someone can mistakenly give the command way before the training session starts and the dog remains fearful during the whole training session. To avoid such a situation turn off the collar and the transmitter before putting the collar on the dog.

If you notice the dog developing any sores or infection after the use of the shock collars, discard its use for the time being and make sure to visit the vet.

Are Shock Collars Recommended?

Some vets and trainers recommend using a shock collar while subjecting positive reinforcement during the training. While some trainers and vets are totally against the shock collars calling them aversive training tools. According to them, even a low-level shock can give the dog physical and mental harm. This type of dog training collar encourages negative reinforcement and animal abuse.

There’s a lot of controversy over the use of an approved shock collar. Besides shock collars, there are invisible fence collars that also use static correction and are still under observation.

Whether you use a shock collar or not totally depends on you. The least you need to do is make sure you are using it rightly.


Shock collars have been used for training dogs for some time. Some trainers say they are aversive devices, while some have got excellent training results. Shock collars can cause a lot of injuries and can even make the dog undergo stress if not used rightly, but a shock collar is not capable of killing a dog. No such deaths have been reported. So, one can freely use a shock collar to train the dogs after understanding its right use.

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