Can Shock Collars Make Dogs Aggressive?

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If you’ve been noticing your pet becoming aggressive lately, you must have thought of the possible reasons why your dog is exhibiting such behavior. Provided that you are using a shock collar to teach some basic commands to your pooch, it must have clicked in your mind that your dog’s aggressive behavior is likely to be associated with the use of a shock collar for his training. Is it really possible, though? Can shock collars make your dogs aggressive? Read the article below to know!

How Do Shock Collars Work?

The idea of training pet dogs by using E-collars is actually based on Operant Conditioning. This psychological approach allows you to reinforce or deter a certain animal behavior by the use of punishments or rewards. E-collar training methods are either based on positive punishment or negative reinforcement. In positive punishment, any dog’s bad behavior is deterred by the use of an electric shock, which works like a punishment. On the contrary, negative reinforcement works by inducing certain positive behaviors in dogs through static shock. When the dog successfully adopts or reinforces that particular behavior, shock is withdrawn from him. Both methods use a negative stimulus to trigger a positive response in an animal.

But, how does an E-collar make use of these and other training methods? Well! There’s no rocket science behind it. A shock collar looks exactly like any regular dog collar with the addition of a rectangular enclosure on it. This enclosure is the receiver that receives the electric impulses. The transmitter sends these electric signals to the remote control. Whenever the dog tries to exhibit bad behavior, the trainer will press the button on the remote control. The receiver of the collar on the dog’s neck will receive the electric signals, which will be conducted to the neck via the two metallic electrodes attached to the enclosure. The static electric shock that the dog experiences will act as a deterrent to rectifying your pooch’s bad behaviors. Some E-collars feature additional modes of beeping or vibration, which are used to warn the dog prior to an electric shock.

Are E-collars Humane for Dogs?

Usually, shock collars become the last choice of many dog parents when they face difficulty in training their dogs through simple training techniques. Many pet owners are reluctant to use E-collars since they employ aversive training methods. Both the negative reinforcement and the positive punishment methods are aversive because they hurt a dog, especially his neck, which is one of the most sensitive parts of the body. Any method of training which causes harm or discomfort to the dog will be considered inhumane, and shock collars, without a doubt, create discomfort. Although proponents may refer to this sensation as a “gentle pulse” or a “slight tap,” we all have learned from the psychology of Operant conditioning that the negative stimulus must be effective enough to elicit a behavioral change in the animal.

In view of the fact that a shock collar causes pain and distress, it may have an impact on your relationship with your pet. The special bond you share with your dog is really valuable. If you use inhumane training methods based on merely fear and pain, your dog may become arrogant in front of you or may begin avoiding you altogether. Unwanted behaviors of a dog can be managed with humane training methods that focus on rewards rather than punishments. These will prevent damaging your particular relationship with your pet.

Do Shock Collars Cause Aggression?

Yes! Shock collars can induce aggressive behaviors in dogs. According to a study, 72% of dogs are seen to have certain behavioral issues, out of which aggression is on the top of the list. If your dog has been showing aggressive behavior even before the use of a shock collar, this aggression in your dog may be rooted in his DNA. But if you have noticed the behavior worsen over time, the use of a shock collar may be triggering his nerves. Not only shock collars but also choke collars and prong collars are examples of positive punishment training tools that can cause aggression in dogs.

This happens due to the fact that the dog begins to associate the fear and discomfort he experiences with whatever he was concentrating on at the time when he was shocked. It may be the dog owner, another house pet, or a neighbor’s puppy. He may not realize that he is shocked due to his own behavior. Instead, he begins to impose his frustration on the people and animals around him. If your dog has already been suffering from aggression, then a shock collar is not something to be blamed for. But, some dogs are afraid to wear the collar because it identifies pain or discomfort whenever they wear it. The aggression in these dogs is actually an expression of their fear and distress.

Factors Leading to Dog Aggression Due to Shock Collars

There are different factors that may add to aggressive behavior.

  1. Misuse of a Shock Collar: If a shock collar is not used in an appropriate way, it can be harmful to the pet’s well-being. Usually, a shock collar has different levels of stimulation, which can be changed according to the tolerance of a dog for pain. As a result, some owners don’t consider it a big deal and use a shock collar at its fullest potential. Unfortunately, this can be a painful experience for some sensitive dogs, which may be mentally disturbed and aggressive.
  2. Overuse a Shock Collar: Experts recommend using a shock collar three to five times during each training session. If a dog trainer exceeds this limit and makes frequent use of the shock collar, it can lead to behavioral problems in the dog. For example, the repeated stimulation through static shock may get on his nerves, and the dog will begin to show an aggressive response instead of a positive response.
  3. Sensitive Dogs: Some dogs are more sensitive to external stimulation than others. The breeds that are tougher may show no response to the electrical stimulation, while the sensitive dogs may consider it a punishment from their owner’s side and take it to their heart. As a result, they will begin to remain depressed and anxious due to the way their beloved fellow humans are treating them. This depression will eventually be changed into aggression.
  4. Underlying Psychological Issues: If your dog has a history of abuse, he will already be suffering from mental trauma. They say that one learns from past experiences; the same goes for dogs. If an electric shock stimulates a dog that has been mistreated by humans before, he will begin to defend himself by showing aggression. In a dog’s view, it will be the last resort for him to escape the pain or shock he is going through.

Other Harms of Shock Collars

Apart from inducing offensive behavior, shock collars can sometimes lead to physical injury and other harms as well. This is why they are considered inhumane, and their use has been banned in many parts of the world. Following are some common problems in dogs that have been associated with the use of shock collars:

Skin Damage

The repeated static shock may cause burns on the dog’s skin, as reported in some cases. In addition, exposure to the collar for an extended period of time may lead to the dog developing contact allergies. It can be in the form of sores, irritation, or swelling of the skin.

Sometimes, the owners don’t bother taking off the collar after it has been soaked with water. If the dog has been playing in a wet and muddy place with his collar on, the collar will become wet. A damp collar will allow different bacteria to reside in it. These harmful bacteria can cause certain diseases in dogs, the most common of which are skin infections.

Seizures

Generally, in all dogs, and particularly in epileptic dogs, shock collars can cause seizures. When a dog is epileptic, he has already been experiencing an electric disturbance in the motor area of his brain; an external electrical stimulation can add to the aberration in his brain function, making the condition even worse. The use of shock collars on an epileptic dog can prove fatal. If you notice any signs of epilepsy in your dog, you must never use a shock collar to train him again.

Trauma

The use of aversive collars for dog training, whether it’s a shock collar, a prong collar, or a choke collar, can cause emotional stress and mental trauma in your dog. Punishing him each time he does something wrong can have deleterious effects on his brain. He will begin to link your presence with the pain and discomfort. Whenever he is with you, he will feel insecure.

Experiments have clearly shown that when a dog is subjected to stimulation through shock collars, there is a significant rise in cortisol levels in his body. This is a hormone that animals produce when they are extremely stressed. The studies thus prove that shock collars can induce stress in dogs, even if they are used by professional dog trainers in the most humane way possible.

Can Electric Fences Make Dogs Aggressive Too?

Electric fences or invisible fences are pet containment systems that also use aversion for the off-leash training of dogs. They also employ a shock to make the dogs learn their boundaries. Whenever a dog tries to cross an invisible fence, he’ll receive a shock from the collar. Individuals who choose to use underground fence systems say that they do not want any harm to their dogs. In actual practice, it’s often just the contrary.

People want their pets to have as much freedom as possible by using an electric fence. But the problem lies in the lack of comprehension of the potential consequences for dogs of such systems. Since these fences are automated and are synchronized with the collars the dogs are wearing, dogs are usually left unattended in the yards. The problem starts from here. Let’s understand it through an example. Consider an amiable dog who greets your neighbor whenever he exits his house. The dog owner has implanted an invisible fence on the boundary. The next time the dog tries to go and greet his neighbor, he will experience an electric shock. When the response is repeated several times, the dog may wrongly interpret that it’s his neighbor trying to harm him. Now, whenever he sees him, he’ll begin to bark and show aggressive behavior.

How to Use a Shock Collar on Aggressive Dogs?

Imagine your aggressive puppy that scares the shit out of everyone in your neighborhood. He will not find a playmate in the dog park since no other dog will be ready to play with him. In such cases, it is handy and time-saving to use shock collars when your dog’s aggressive behavior gets worse. Moreover, several dog parents had reported injuries when they tried to interfere with the behavior of an aggressive dog. Therefore, a remote-controlled shock collar can also prevent any harm during a confrontation with your dog. There’s only one option for such highly aggressive dogs: shock collar training. It will protect both you and your dog from possible harm due to aggression.

Most collars come with various levels of stimulation so that they can be customized according to the nature of the dog. For example, a highly aggressive dog may be so focused on the subject of aggression that he never realizes that he is getting a shock. For such a dog, you can use the maximum levels of stimulation to get the dog’s attention. A more sensitive dog will need very little stimulation to get rid of his aggressiveness. Other dogs may need a little elevated level of stimulation to show a response. Choosing the right level of stimulation for an aggressive dog is the key to successful training. You may also use hand signs or switch to beep or vibration mode to warn the dog.

If a dog’s behavior is not rectified by the shock alone, then there is an adequate need to combine positive reinforcements to the shock in shock collar training. Dogs are usually more responsive to reward-based training methods. These help in an effective thought process and better interpretation of the command. Positive reinforcement helps dogs with offensive behaviors and prevents making things worse.

Causes for a Dog Becoming Aggressive

Certain dogs are naturally more aggressive than others. They express aggressive behavior either out of their territorial nature or survival in their environment. Humans and animals are well aware of the rule that “Survival is for the fittest only.” Although they do not show aggression out of the fear that humans would eat them up, they may find this behavior necessary in order to keep themselves healthy and fit. Some of the most common aggressive breeds of dogs include the German Shepherd, Siberian Husky, American Pit Bull Terrier, Dachshunds, Doberman Pinscher, etc.

Two dogs living together can also show aggression and may hurt each other. It is possible due to the dominant behavior of the dogs. Each of the two dogs will consider himself the Alpha of his pack and try to dominate the other. He will show his dominance and aggression to the other dog by biting or barking at him. If you give more time to one of them, the other will be jealous. It may also increase aggression.

Another reason for a dog becoming aggressive is YOU, yes you!! It is highly possible that you are unable to give sufficient time to your dog because of your busy routine. When left alone for most of the day, the dog will become fearful and depressed. This anxiety may lead to aggressive behavior in him. You must assure your dog that you love him greatly by providing extra care and time.

Alternatives to Shock Collars to Avoid Aggressive Behaviors

The best option for training your domestic dogs by yourself in order to prevent aggression in them is through positive reinforcement. Reward-based training strategies work like magic: whether you want to limit your dog’s barking, restrain him from bad behavior, or teach him to walk without a leash. You can start by teaching him some basic commands, like ‘sit,’ ‘stand,’ ‘come,’ and ‘go’ using hand gestures or verbal communication. Whenever the dog obeys your command, he will look at you. You must reward him for completing his responsibility when he looks at you.

Another effective alternative that works wonders is clicker training. In this training, you use the clicker’s sound to reinforce a dog’s behavior. First, you teach him the desirable behavior; when he obeys you and accomplishes the particular task assigned to him, you’ll press the clicker. Immediately after it, the dog is rewarded with a treat or a pat. After a few repeats, the dog will be able to associate the clicker’s sound with something very pleasant, like a tasty treat or a pat. In this way, you can precisely mark a dog’s behavior and reward him immediately with merely the clicker’s sound.

Conclusion

Shock collars can cause aggression in dogs. These are aversive collars that work through positive punishment methods for training dogs. Whenever the dog shows undesirable behavior, he experiences an electric shock. This shock works as a deterrent to restrain the dog from undesirable behavior. Although it may seem effective, an E-collar reflects many drawbacks. Firstly, it deters the behavior only temporarily. Secondly, it may cause aggression.

The shock from a shock collar doesn’t explain which behavior he is being punished for to the dog. He may mistakenly assume the person or thing in front of him as the cause of the pain instead of his own behavior. This confusion will result in friendly dogs becoming aggressive dogs. Sometimes, the dog may have a history of abuse and may already be suffering from trauma. Using a shock collar on such a dog will surely cause aggression.

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