Shock collars also called E collars or electronic collars, are gaining both appreciation and condemnation. Some trainers have called them the best remote training collars, while some think they are just aversive training collars. Many new owners and trainers are searching for the core answers, like why they were invented in the first place? What was the inventor’s intent? What is the right method to use them? Are they worth the time and effort? And many more similar questions arise. So, here is the complete detail regarding the origination and the proper use of the shock collars.
A Brief History of Dog Collars
The traces of dog collars were found 6000 years ago in the Mesopotamian era. According to them, the dog was the symbol of health and protection and was kept by almost all the people. Initially, the dog collar was just a piece of cord tied at the end with a stick. Later the upper-class people ornated the dog collar and tried to make it more beautiful for their pet dogs- the symbol of vitality. While mostly they were made of cloth and leather, the Persians took it to another level by making it out of gold.
Egyptians associated dogs with the afterlife and gave them more value than any other tradition did. Their dog collars had brass studs and floral paintings on them, especially of lotus. Some collars were found to have the dog’s names on them, indicating that attaching an identification tag to the dog is an old Egyptian practice. Greeks started adding more colors and arts to the collars and ornate them more than ever.
Later on, different cultures began to train dogs for various purposes like hunting, companionship, and herding. So, the dog collars were modified accordingly. Some made spiked collars for the dog’s welfare to stop the attacks of wolves in the wild. Choke chains and prong collars were also made to take control over the dog, and from here, the idea of training the dogs began. At that point, the Roman dog collar came on the scene that was made from iron but was still colorful.
Who Invented Shock Collars?
The shock collar is the invention of the 20th century. The first E collar was made by Richard Peck that was patented in 1973. It was made to keep the dogs inside a particular boundary, using them as pet containment tools, very similar to present-day invisible fence collars.
Later it was used as a remote training collar by the departments of police and military for the hunting dogs. However, one cannot train the dogs to run and catch the victim while keeping them on a leash. To resolve the issue, these collars were made. They gave out an electric shock that made the dogs realize that they are not doing something good whenever they made a mistake.
Pet thieves started emerging in many areas of the world, then these collars were modified and were built with a GPS on them. Besides GPS, modern E collars have more unique features discussed later in the article.
How Do Shock Collars Work?
Electric training collars give electrical stimulation with the metal contact points. The collars come with the transmitter. The transmitter is a small device that can be held in the hand and is used to give the signals. It is connected to the electronic dog collar, which in return gives a shock to the dog.
Many dog trainers don’t know the right use of these electronic collars and end up messing with their dog’s behavior. For instance, not fitting the collar rightly around the neck can cause pressure on the neck area and hence wounds. It can also cause choking hazards. Moreover, some keep the collar switched on while putting it around the dog’s neck.
This act can give them an unnecessary shock when they are not ready for it. So, the best practice is to turn off the collar, put it on the dog, and then turn it on during the training session. Similarly, one must know how often a dog can tolerate shock without getting aggressive or becoming afraid of it.
Besides increasing their sales, the companies should also make efforts for customer education to ensure the proper use of shock collars. If not used rightly, shock collars are not less than aversive training tools.
Do All Shock Collars Work the Same?
No, not all shock collars work the same. The first-generation electronic dog collars had the same electrical stimulation level. They had no option for increasing or decreasing the intensity. It was the major drawback of these collars as a small dog has a different tolerance for electric stimulation as compared to a larger dog.
In the last decade, introduced collars had several modifications to make their use safe considering the animal welfare. As the training methods have been changed, so do the training collars. Now the modern electronic collars have varying levels of electrical shocks. The level can be set for each dog differently. The best method is to set the level to the minimum and make the dog wear it. Then gradually increase the level and notice at what point the dog responds. Finally, make sure to use the collar at the same level with positive reinforcement.
Even after this singular, distinctive advancement, many companies are still manufacturing collars similar to the ones used in the past. Moreover, many have defaults and flaws since they are made. So, it’s up to the buyer to buy the right collars for his dog from trusted brands or by seeking the help of professional dog trainers.
The Major Myth About Shock Collars
Many people assume the E collar is going to give the dog the electrical shock that we get from the electrical circuits. After listening to the name of the electronic collar, the first image that comes to mind is the dog with its fur raised (goosebumps) and smoke coming from its ears. But, no, nothing like that will happen to the dog, as the collar uses static current.
Let’s revise some electrostatics. When we rub two things together, one of them or sometimes both get charged because of the transfer of atomic particles – electrons. The most common example is the one we all studied in high school, and many of us tried it for sure.
Combing the hair continuously for a few seconds gets the plastic comb charged, and when it’s brought near to the small pieces of paper, it attracted those pieces. Similarly, the shock we get suddenly after touching the metallic doorknob in winter or the standing of the hair when a balloon is rubbed against them are examples of static current.
Are Shock Collars Humane?
From the viewpoint of the static shock, E collars are perfectly safe and humane for dog training purposes. This much amount of shock is probably not going to harm the dog. But the point to be noted is that as long as the collars are used rightly. Not setting the right stimulation level or fitting the collar too tight around the neck will definitely worsen the dog’s behavior instead of getting rid of undesirable behavior.
A present-day electronic collar gives the dog a signal before giving him a shock. Usually, the signal is a mild vibration or a sound. If the dog obeys the trainer, then he will not suffer the shock; in the other case, he has to go through it. Over time, the dog gets used to the vibration and sound signal, knows what comes next, and obeys the trainer to avoid the shock. All these features make the E collar a humane and safe training tool.
For What Type of Training Are Shock Collars Used?
Shock collars are mainly used for obedience training purposes. For instance, if you want the dog to pick up the ball you threw but don’t want him to cross a particular boundary, just give the command as soon as he is on the verge of crossing that boundary.
But remember, you can only get the desired behavior from the dog as long as you have already taught him the basic commands, manners, and the rules of the training. For example, in the above-mentioned case, the dog must have the training to pick up the ball and know that he must remain within the boundary.
Afterward, you can only use an E collar to reinforce the particular behavior. In short, the dog must get his obedience training via traditional training methods; if the dog has a hard time memorizing the rules, one can use the shock collars.
Shock collars can also be used as bark collars depending on the dog’s personality. If you are living in an apartment and your neighbors are tired of your dog’s excessive barking, just keep the collar on the dog and whenever he barks without any reason, give him a shock. It will divert the dog’s attention and prevents him from unwanted behavior.
Pros of Shock Collars
Though it needs to be handled with care, shock collars come with a lot of advantages. They offer a lot of training opportunities that would otherwise be impossible with the help of traditional training methods. They are also adjustable and affordable along with the following benefits:
Best for Off-leash Training
Besides reinforcing obedience training and some good manners required in the everyday life situations, E collars are a great tool to give the dogs off-leash training. Hunting dogs are especially given this type of training. It gives the dogs a sense of freedom. When they have some time in their own company, they tend to become more cheerful and friendly. Remember that staying within the same four-walled boundary during the COVID pandemic frustrated everyone? The same goes for the dogs. They need fresh air and want to run in the vast fields too.
Everything has got some downsides, and so does the off-leash training. A well-trained dog can also get distracted by prey and might run after it. In the same manner, if the dog has aggression issues, he might start biting or barking at another animal or a human. To stop your dog from such undesirable behaviors, shock treatment is the remedy. You have the remote control in your hand, and as soon as you notice that the dog is having any problem, just give the command and call him back.
If your dog is strictly trained for walking with a leash on, training him for walking off the leash. Start the training in a confined space. At first, let him walk on a loose leash, then upgrade his collar with the electronic one and train him. There is no overnight training; a dog learns with time.
Many professional trainers out there use E collars to get fast and effective results for training dogs. The main reason behind it is that the shock is often unpleasant. A good dog won’t desire it again and again. He will correct himself and learn the specific commands faster than traditional methods for fear of getting the shock again.
Besides it, using positive reinforcement methods enhance the results as well. In this method, one treats his dog with food or a toy to encourage his good behavior. Though there’s this rule of positive reinforcement, the dog should be rewarded instantly for his behavior.
The reward must be given exactly the moment when he accomplishes the task, neither before nor after it. So, the question arises regarding how one is supposed to treat the dog instantly while using a remote training collar?
For this purpose, you can use verbal markers at the start. Just say “Good boy” or something like “Good job” and reward as soon as the dog reaches you. You can also use clickers for this purpose. Once the dog becomes engaged with that particular behavior, you can drop the markers and rewards.
Your Bonding With Your Dog Will Not Be Affected
Another significant advantage of E collar training is that you don’t need to be present right in front of the dog. Instead, you can rest in the corner of your backyard and let the dog enjoy his freedom. When you feel the dog is crossing the boundary, give him a shock to help him remember the limits.
This E collar use comes with another advantage which is most of the time not considered by many owners. The transmitter is quite small, and one can easily hold it in his hands. When one gives the command, the dog will never have an idea where this stimulation is coming from.
Especially in off-leash training, the dog got an electric shock when trying to cross the boundary. He does not know where this shock came from. He will never think it was you, as you are not present in front of him. All he grasped from the situation is that he was safe when he was near you and got shocked while he was away. So, instead of roaming far from you, he will now wander near you. In short, the E collar will never ruin your bonding with the dog.
Adjustability and Versatility
E collars are very adjustable. Not only do they come in different sizes, but they are also adjustable. For example, according to his dog’s neck size, one can loosen or tighten the collar. Another adjustability that an E collar allows is that of the stimulation level. One can set a different stimulation for different dogs according to their tolerance.
Moreover, these collars are quite versatile. They come in a variety of colors and designs. One can choose according to his taste.
Firstly, consider the rates offered by the dog trainers. A local trainer costs somewhere between $50 to $80 per class. A professional or a private dog trainer is definitely going to charge more. Moreover, this is the rate of a single class that will not contribute much to your dog’s training. You definitely need to sign up for more classes. Just consider how much money you will be paying in the end if you want to train the dog for a week or two. In addition to it, the lessons taught often don’t remain in the dog’s memory for long, so they need to be trained repeatedly.
To save your finances, wouldn’t you like an alternative that just demands a one-time investment, and then you can train your dog for anything, anywhere, anytime. This investment is made in the form of a shock collar. It usually ranges from $30 to $250. The better the collar and the more features it offers, the more it will cost. But it still proves to be cost-effective in the end as compared to training classes.
Cons of Shock Collars
Besides these advantages, there are many disadvantages that one needs to keep in view before buying an E collar for his dog. Make sure you go through them all and make the right decision for your pooch.
Can Hurt the Dog if Used Improperly
Just like a pinch collar is avoided as it harms the dog’s body, the same consequences can be observed with the improper use of an electronic dog training collar. Firstly if the collar is too tight or if a leash is attached to the collar (that tends to tighten the collar when the dog pulls), a dog can suffer pressure necrosis in the neck area.
Symptoms range from minor skin irritation and redness to skin damage and severe bacterial infections depending on the pressure that the dog tolerated. The collar can also make the dog lose his hair or might choke him to death. In addition, puss-filled lesions are formed that sometimes smell.
If not taken care of at the early stage of the infection, the underlying skin layers can get damaged as well, making the dog prone to bacterial infections. The same can happen when the collar is worn too long. To avoid such problems, wearing the collar for 8 to 10 hours is more than sufficient.
The best home remedy is to clean the skin with antibacterial soap and apply an ointment. The pain and inflammation of the wounds and sores can be reduced with the help of the aloe vera gel or petroleum jelly. Instead of home remedy, take the dog to the vet in case of severe infection.
Can Cause Anxiety in Dogs
Bad experiences can induce fear-based anxiety in dogs. For example, giving the dog a shock of high stimulation or giving excessive shocks in a single training session can make the dog anxious. If the dog grasps that he is getting shocks from the collar, he will become fearful each time one takes out the collar. Signs of fear might vary, including barking, growling, excessive panting, shaking, tucking tail between legs, or trying to escape from the scene. During such practices of self-defense, dogs often end up hurting themselves.
This fear-based anxiety can be overcome by desensitization and counterconditioning. Desensitization is the process in which the fear is eliminated by exposing the dogs to the thing (in this case, shock collar) from which they are afraid.
Desensitization is backed up by counterconditioning in which the dogs are treated with a thing they enjoy while they are exposed to the thing they fear. It means exposing the dogs to the E collars and rewarding them with a treat or a toy at the same time. Though it is a time taking process.
Can Cause Aggression in Dogs
If the dog’s fear is not overcome, it can lead to a worse condition in which the dog becomes aggressive. It is their last attempt to protect themselves. They start barking at the trainer and sometimes the owner too to escape the collar. He might even give a muzzle punch and can bite intense enough to puncture the skin, causing it to bleed.
In the case of the pet containment tool, the invisible fence collar, which works on the same principle and gives a shock when the dog tries to cross the buried wire, dogs can suffer from frustration-aggression.
Of course, they cannot leave their boundary, but other dogs and humans can. Seeing others in freedom and finding himself unable to escape that electronic collar can frustrate the dog, and he can become aggressive. It can further lead to displaced aggression in which the dog takes out his anger on the third person who was not actually the source of his frustration. It can be the owner himself.
Can E Collars Cause Brain Damage?
Though a shock collar is often listed as a negative reinforcement method and is associated with a number of diseases, it has never been found to cause any brain damage.
A study clearly explains the effects of electric shock on brain damage. It can cause dizziness, neuron damage, memory loss, headaches, lack of concentration and focus, affected learning abilities, fatigue, depression, and emotional changes. But I repeat again; these are the side effects of the electric shock (dynamic current). A static current of low intensity is not capable of causing such harm.
Can E Collars Cause Asphyxiation?
Yes, dogs can suffer severe suffocation, also called asphyxiation, from shock collars. It occurs mostly when the collar is too tight and is worn for long periods of time. In this case, dogs show extreme anxiety and are seen struggling to get some air.
The breathing rate is increased. Due to the lack of oxygen, tongue and mucous membranes turn blue, resulting in a condition called cyanosis. Heart rate increases, and the dog refuses to move due to the low energy levels. The dog can faint and collapse. The disease can be fatal enough to cause death.
With the appearance of minor signs of difficulty in breathing, take off the collar and put the dog at ease. Remember again that this hazard is not a side effect of using an E collar. It is just a consequence of the carelessness and negligence of the trainer. If the collar was fit rightly in the first place, the dog would not have suffered any situation.
Can E Collars Cause Cardiac Fibrillation?
Cardiac fibrillation, also called atrial fibrillation, is a condition in which the heart muscles contract very rapidly. Again it also occurs due to the improper positioning of the collar. No such hazard is expected if the collar is placed on the top of the neck. Moreover, a dog with heart disease is more susceptible to this disease as compared to other dogs. So, in case your dog already has heart disease, avoid using a shock collar on him. Some dogs can have the disease by birth; the use of these dog collars is also prohibited for them.
Symptoms of this condition include fast heart rate and rapid breathing, and the dog shows weakness and lethargy whenever he is taken out for exercise or training sessions. However, rarely can dog lose their consciousness.
Atrial fibrillation is treatable in dogs. First, make sure to visit the vet as soon as any symptoms appear. Then, strictly follow the prescription, including the medicines and diet.
Can E Collars Kill Dogs?
If used rightly, an electronic dog collar is perfectly safe and a humane training device. But it can harm the dog badly if worn too tight or for long periods. Clinical signs caused by the misuse of E collars can be as worse as an infection similar to that of a burn or lethal bacterial infections, but a dog has not yet been reported dying from an E collar. Yes, a dog can die in case he develops pressure sores that were not taken care of and worsen, but a dog cannot die from the shock he receives from an E collar.
Here arises a question again, an adult dog’s body can tolerate the shock from an E collar, but can a puppy tolerate it too? Yes, puppies have been given E collar training, which was quite successful.
Should I Buy a Shock Collar for My Dog?
From the point of view of a balanced trainer, a shock collar is a must-have training tool. Though dogs can be trained through many other methods that don’t harm in any way, shock collars are necessary for some dogs. Whether you buy a shock collar or not entirely depends on your choice.
If you know how to give your dog E collar training rightly, you should definitely buy one or can also seek professional help. But if you don’t know the right way to use this tool, it’s better to opt for another collar.
The shock collar was invented by Richard Peck in 1973. This early dog collar was similar to that of an invisible fence collar. Later, they were modified to train the dogs, especially hunting dogs, for off-leash training. The collar is attached to a transmitter that a trainer holds. Each time the trainer gives the command, the collar gives a minute shock to the dog through its metal contact points.
In this way, the shock can be used to suppress the unwanted behavior shown by the dog. After hearing the name of these collars, the first thing that comes to mind is the electric shock that seems to be fatal for the dog’s health. But in fact, a static shock is used in these collars, which is not capable of harming the dog.
Moreover, they have varying levels of electric stimulation that can be set according to each dog’s temperament. So, these collars are humane and safe. But these collars are not used to teach the dogs something new; they are only used to reinforce the previously developed habits.
But not all collars are made the same. Some don’t have the option to change the intensity level and are the worst training collars. In addition, the harmful use of these collars can put the dog’s health at risk. Like, putting on the collar too tight or making the dog wear it too long can cause pressure necrosis and other associated complications. So, it’s important to know the right use of these collars.