The term shock collar is often interchangeably used with a stim collar and an E collar. But all the terms give a bit different notion about the training collars. Do they refer to the same thing? or are they different types of training collars? Here’s the complete detail regarding these terminologies, their brief history, ethical concerns, and their pros and cons.
Stim Collar Vs E Collar Vs Shock Collar
All the three are different names for the same thing. They all refer to the same type of training collars. There are several reasons behind these names. Initially, they were called electronic collars, which were abbreviated as E collars. Back then, some of these collars were not manufactured rightly and caused much harm to dogs. In addition to this, dog owners and trainers know nothing about reward-based training. They didn’t know they had to encourage positive reinforcement training. They also don’t know how to use the collars rightly and end up harming the dogs. It raises ethical concerns, so some companies and authorities tried to stop E collar training and named them shock collars. This name was given just to scare away the trainers from these collars. Many companies banned these collars and called them inhumane and unsafe training tools.
But at this point, owners and trainers felt difficulties in training the dogs after abandoning the method completely, so they tried to resolve the issues by bringing some modifications to the collars. In the modern electronic collars, manufacturers added the feature of changeable stimulation levels and made E collars safe for dogs. For marketing purposes to attract customers, companies started calling them stim collars (also called stimulation collars). They educated the audience that the modern E collars are not meant to give a shock to the dogs instead, they give a slight stimulation whose intensity can be changed for each dog. So they abandoned the name shock collar and started calling them either E collar or stim collar.
Even many writers started writing articles teaching people the difference between these collars – telling them how the “shock collars” were cruel, but the “E collar or the stim collars” are the safe option. In reality, both old and new collars use static shock; old ones have a constant intensity while new ones have varying stimulations. They are the same things; the evolution makes the only difference of these collars. So now’t believe him if you hear someone telling you the details regarding E collar vs. shock collar.
A Brief History of Shock Collars
Around 6000 years ago, the first collars were made for dogs. They were simple long pieces of cords. Their use was first made by farmers that used to pet the dogs to protect their fields from other small animals. After some time, seeing how faithful dogs were, people started keeping them as a symbol of faithfulness and protection. That’s when the collar integration started. Instead of cords, they were now made from leather and other materials. Some people started upgrading them for training dogs while some had a sole focus on their ornamental purposes.
Soon another dog training program emerged in which the dogs were trained for detecting things and persons by their efficient sense of smell and were used in police and military departments. Moreover, some people from the upper social class had the desire to train the dogs for hunting purposes. These things were not possible with a long leash attached to their collar. Neither they could be trained off the leash. How would the dog owner control his dog? Trying to resolve such issues, Richard Peck came up with the idea of the first electronic collar in the 1970s. Though they were not the best collars. Many amendments were made to make them safe for training methods later.
How Do Shock Collars Work?
A shock collar, we know, is a training tool that modifies a dog’s behavior by administering a shock. But how do they do this? Through remote signaling, of course. Shock collars are remote training collars that are available in different shapes, forms, and colors, but all of these have a common working design. Every shock collar consists of two main parts, a collar and remote control through which the collar can be controlled far off. The remote control is a small device that fits easily in the palm of the dog trainer. It has a transmitter that transmits the electric signals to the collar that the dog is wearing. The collar has a small rectangular enclosure that encloses a receiver. The receiver receives the electric signals and conducts them further to the dog’s neck through the metal contact points protruding from the receiver and bearing down on the skin of the dog.
When the dog shows undesirable behavior, the person training the dog presses the button on the shock collar right at that instant. The remote will send the electric impulses, which the collar will accept. This electronic stimulation will then be passed on to the area contacting the collar. The sensory receptors present on the dog’s skin surface of that particular area sense the stimulation as the “electronic shock”. This static shock will then be gradually passed on to the surrounding body parts. The dog will no longer be able to detect pain; he will draw himself away from the negative behavior targeted in the training. The shock treatment here works more like a deterrent in correcting uncontrollable behavior in dogs.
Electronic Training Collars
Since E-collars are available in a variety of forms, these range in design from the basic shock collars used for obedience training to the specialized collars like anti-bark collars. Besides these, there are also others that are used to rectify certain other behavioral problems in dogs. In general, most of these remote dog training collars function by sending a wireless signal from the portable remote transmitter to the receiver of the collar, which initiates the stimulus, such as sound, vibration, and static shock. The dog senses these stimuli through the different mechanical receptors present in his body.
Anti-bark collars work a bit differently. In these collars, the stimulation is not controlled through any handheld device like a remote control. Instead, the dog’s own barking is what activates the shock stimulus. This collar has a very sensitive microphone that detects the dog’s barking sound. The collar then automatically transfers the electric shock to the dog’s body, causing him to stop barking. Some anti-bark collars also administer a beep or vibration prior to the shock; this is a warning or a quick stimulus that may cause the dog to quit his barking behavior even before experiencing the shock. Mostly, these collars are available in varying levels of intensities so that you can choose the one according to your dog’s sensitivity. These shock collars can prove to be useful if your dog barks excessively at inconvenient times, such as when you are sleeping or when you have visitors at home.
Electronic Pet Containment Systems
Another use of the E collars is in the pet containment systems. In regard to this system, invisible fence collars have been manufactured that work on the same basis. They also have two parts. One is a long wire, and the other is the collar. The wire is often buried under the ground and acts like an invisible fence. The collar dog wears is attached to the wire. The collar delivers a shock as soon as the dog wearing the collar comes near the buried fence. If the dog stops and goes away, it will not deliver any shock. This kind of system is important when you potty train your dog in the backyard. Your dog can go potty in your absence, and there is a risk of the dog being attracted by something on the roadside and drifting away from the backyard. In that case, the collar will keep the dog within its limits.
Are Shock Collars Humane?
Yes, shock collars are perfectly humane training tools for behavior modification. The first-generation shock collars were not humane, given that they operate on the same intensity of stimulation level. That intensity could neither be increased nor be decreased. Most dogs who are smaller in age and size had less tolerance for that intensity and suffered negative impacts. But with the advancement in electronics and dog training methods, modern electronic collars were introduced that have an option of varying stimulation levels. Mostly this level starts from zero and ends at 100. Each dog of different size and age can be trained easily using the electronic stimulation level that he can easily tolerate.
Another major reason that makes the E collars safe and humane is the type of electric shock they deliver to the dog’s body. Majorly, there are two types of electronic shocks. One is called electric shock, and the other is called static shock. The former one is the type that we all are afraid of. While the latter is the one that many of us experience commonly in life, usually from a doorknob in winters, after wearing nylon clothes for too long, it also includes the shock that makes our hair stand after brushing them too long. It is similar to the TENS therapy (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) that is applied for relieving pain. An electronic collar makes use of the static shock as it is bearable by dogs. Just like humans, they are unable to tolerate an electric shock.
Why Do Many Dog Trainers Call It Negative Reinforcement Training?
Many dog trainers and owners have called electric pulse training aids aversive training methods. The reason behind it is the unawareness of the right use of the shock collars. For instance, fitting the collar too tightly around the neck can pose a choking hazard and other issues like too much pressure and external and internal injuries. In the same manner, many of them don’t know how to set the right stimulation level for the dog. Sometimes they start with an intensity that is way too high for a dog to bear, and gradually lowers it. In fact, the right practice works completely opposite of it. Another wrong practice that makes E collars cruel is leaving the collar turned on while putting it on the dog. It can give the dog unnecessary shock that might startle him. As a result, he might resist wearing the collar or even show anxiety about it.
How to Use Electronic Collars Rightly?
Knowing the right use of the electronic training collar is important for animal welfare. It can change the dog’s behavior and provide such training opportunities for which one might have to opt for other training methods. Before starting with the practice, make the dog use the electronic collar immediately. Let the dog wear it and wander around for some time so that he can trust the collars and does not become reluctant when he has to wear them next time. Make sure the collar is turned off to avoid any unpleasant shock that might scare him. Then ensure the collar is fitted rightly on the dog’s neck. It should neither be too loose nor too tight. A traditional rule that even a professional trainer practices is leaving the space of two fingers between the collar and the dog’s neck. Amazingly it always works. With some time breaks, check the fitness of the collar so that it has not become tight accidentally by the dog himself.
After the dog has become accustomed to the collar, one can finally use it as a training tool. Set a stimulation level and stick to it. If you have multiple dogs, set the intensity level for other dogs separately. Don’t let the dog wear the collar for more than 8 to 10 hours in a day. It also shows how long should a training session be. Consult a dog trainer, and he will advise you not to give the dog electronic stimulation more than 3 to 5 times per training session. To gain a better behavior modification, make use of positive reinforcement methods. It’s a big YES if you have stubborn dogs or think the dog commands are a bit difficult for my dog. The word foodies better suits dogs than humans. They will always fall for treats and rewards and bring better behavior.
Pros of Electronic Collars
While discussing the E collar use, one must know the advantages of opting for this training tool. Here are some of the major advantages that a shock collar provides:
Have Adjustable Settings
Like all other dog collars, E collars also come with adjustable settings. The main adjustable feature is the tightness of the collar. One can fit the same collar around different dogs with different neck sizes. Moreover, they are not easy to escape, not even by dogs who have got small necks. The adjustable electronic stimulation level is the second adjustable feature that makes the collars all worth it. One can increase or decrease it according to the dog’s tolerance.
The best way to set its value is to make the dog wear the collar and switch it on. Initially, set the level at its lowest (some have zero, and some have one as the lowest level). Next, give a shock to the dog; if he responds to the lowest level, there is no need to increase the stimulation level any further. But most dogs can tolerate it and will probably not respond to it. For such dogs, increase the intensity of the stimulation a bit more and observe the dog’s response. Gradually increase the intensity and observe the dog each time. The point at which the dog responds to the shock, note it down, and always use the same level on your dog.
Suppose your dog becomes resistant to the specific intensity and does not respond any further after some time. In that case, you can increase the intensity a bit and train the dog at the new stimulation level.
Can Help in Off-leash Training
Are you struggling with off-leash training of your dog? E collars can help. In fact, off-leash training was one of the purposes behind manufacturing the collar. This type of training is important, especially for hunting dogs. So you will train the dog to go and capture something for you from a distance and keep him on a leash? That’s not going to happen.
There are a lot of benefits of off-leash training a dog. First, it gives him a feeling of freedom, and he will trust you more. It can resultantly strengthen your bonding with the dog. Third, it helps boost their mental health. When a dog wanders alone without its trainer, it learns more to be on its own. If he encounters a problem, he will tackle it by himself. In this way, he can also become more social. The dog is also going to experience an amazing side benefit. His physical health will improve.
Bring Fast Results
If you did a bad thing and suffered unpleasant consequences, would you repeat the act again? You will probably refrain from the negative behavior. The same goes with the E collar training of the dog. Though the minute shock is not harmful, it’s unpleasant for sure. Your dog will probably refrain from the bad behavior and learn more good manners, thus increasing the learning process.
At this point, if you associate rewards with the training, it will accelerate the training even more. For instance, each time the dog does a good thing, like obeying you or showing another good manner, he is getting a treat or a reward for his behavior. On the contrary, when the same dog does something bad, like disobeying you or showing bad habits like excessive barking, he will suffer a shock. The dog will compare both situations and comprehend that he gets rewarded whenever he does something good, but whenever he disobeys the owner, he gets a shock. Therefore, it will motivate him to do the right thing and accelerate the training process.
Cons of Electronic Collars
If the pilot does not know how to fly an airplane, it will crash. The same goes with a trainer’s knowledge about the right use of the E collar. Using the E collars rightly will bring the above-mentioned advantages but one mistake, and you can make your dog suffer a health hazard. In addition, the following disadvantages are also the result of the misuse of the E collars:
Can Harm the Dog if Used Incorrectly
As mentioned above, misuse of E collars during dog training can harm the dog badly. The major health hazard seen is pressure necrosis. Also called pressure sores and bedsores, they develop due to one of the two main reasons. Either the collar is fitted too tight around the dog’s neck or the dog was made to wear the collar for a long time. Both of these reasons exert pressure beyond the tolerance of the skin and cause necrosis (death of body cells). In addition, it can cause certain other complications, including lesions that are often filled with pus, hair loss, redness, itching, pain, foul-smelling, and open wounds. All these infections occur step by step. First, the skin changes its color then the lesions are formed. Soon, it is followed by open wounds. Initially, the body fat is revealed, but if the wound deepens, the muscles and bones are also exposed. After the muscle is lost completely, a thick mucus covering called slough is formed.
Open wounds are like a free pass for the bacteria and other microorganisms into the body. As a result, fatal bacteria can attack and cause life-threatening diseases. In addition, these bacteria worsen the condition and slow down the healing process. The most common bacteria found at these sites include Staphylococcus aureus, Proteus mirabilis, Enterococcus faecalis, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. These bacteria can further cause diseases associated with them, such as skin allergy, urinary tract infections, and digestive tract infections, especially in immunosuppressed dogs.
Can Cause Anxiety
If the dog’s first encounter with the shock collar is bad or if he faces something bad later during the training session, he can become fearful. Extreme fear can cause anxiety in them. They start fearing the collars and show weird signs whenever the training session is about to begin. They start panting heavily. Often they try to escape the training field. They tend to hide more, especially when they feel the owner is getting ready for the training session. This type of fear and isolation is extremely bad from both the mental and the physical standpoint.
In such a case, never force a dog to train. It can worsen his mental health. He takes it as punishment and associates it with negative reinforcement. In case you observe the signs of fear-based anxiety in your dog before the start of the training session, it would be best to drop the training for a while. His mental health is the priority. Slowly the dog can be treated through exposure to the shock collar via desensitization and counter-conditioning.
Can Cause Aggression
If the anxiety is not treated, it can soon change into aggressive behavior. Usually, it is defensive aggression. The dog tends to be scary just to protect himself. He knows no one will come near him to put on collars on him when he barks. In severe aggression, he can also bite not only the trainer but also his owner. The dogs show some signs. Such as they distance themselves from the thing that is causing fear. Sometimes a dog freezes in his place, giving the impression that I am not afraid, but you better not mess up with me. Sometimes he gets out of control, running around the training field, biting every person that tries to calm him down.
Dogs also experience frustration-based anxiety when they are subjected to invisible fence collars for long. Though your dog is unable to leave the backyard, it cannot stop other people and dogs from entering your yard. Maybe a mischievous dog from the neighborhood enters your backyard, hitting and teasing your dog. Your dog will definitely run after him, but being unable to cross the invisible fence, he will be bounded in the backyard. This frustration can trigger his aggressive mode. He can take out all his anger on you, harming you in the response.
Are Electronic Collars Worth the Money?
The answer to this question completely depends on the efficiency of the trainer. If he knows the right use of the collar, then it is definitely worth the money as a shock collar brings more efficient and faster results. But if a trainer does not know the right use or just buys the collar because he uses negative reinforcement training methods, then he is just utilizing that money in harming the dogs.
Another amazing thing about E collars is that you can train the dog by yourself. You don’t have to visit a trainer as long as you know the right way to use these collars.
There have been different terminologies being used for the same thing. The shock collar, E collar, and stim collar are the name of the same thing. However, all these names have a bit of story behind them. Initially, they were manufactured and sold in the market under the name of the E collars, but the old collars were not quite humane and harm the dogs. So authorities decided to keep the collars away from society and started calling them shock collars. But these collars were efficient in getting fast training results, so the manufacturers made some amendments to the collars and make them humane for training dogs. They started calling them stim collars, referring to that they don’t give a shock instead, they only give a mild stimulation.
The reason old collars were not humane was the constant level of electrical stimulation. All the dogs and the puppies were administered the same shock though they did not have the same tolerance. Modern collars have varying levels of stimulation that can be set differently for all dogs. Thus, they are humane.