Electric Dog Training Collars: Cruel or Not?

By on August 28, 2012

K9 Magazine takes a look at one of the most controversial subjects in the entire dog world, a much maligned defendant takes to the stand. The electric shock dog training collar. These are the collars that actually administer an electrical charge into the dog’s neck when activated and should not be confused with other varieties of a remote dog training collar or anti-bark collar that use a variety of different methods to achieve desired results such as sprays and noises.

electric dog collar reviews

The Case For The Prosecution: (Against Electric Collars)

Electric shock collars, you stand accused of being one of the single most vivid examples of man’s ability to use modern technology to the detriment of all that is natural and justified in the animal kingdom.

Whoever conceived the idea of a device capable of administering a painful electric shock into the neck of a creature devoid of the ability to comprehend electricity or its effects on the body should take a serious look into their conscience and picture the pain and anguish suffered by the thousands of dogs all over the world who have been electrocuted in the name of ‘better’ or ‘more socially acceptable’ behaviour.

Whoever had the notion that a device operable by a completely un-trained or un-qualified ‘ordinary’ pet owner, capable of sending an agonising current through the veins of an unsuspecting animal, would be an advancement of the human / canine interface must consider the damage and destruction they have caused to that most sacred of relationships.

Quite simply the electric shock collar would have been best left un-discovered in the same laboratory as Mustard Gas and gun powder.

The concept of the device is simply horrific. Dog partakes in behaviour not to the liking of dog’s owner, owner electrocutes dog. Forgive me for thinking we lived in a society that had long since abandoned the ideals of drowning Witches or burning people at the stake but I am convinced that future generations will look back on the world who embraced the electric shock collar with a similar level of disdain.

Electric shock collars, you have caused harm, you continue to cause harm. The pain and anguish you have delivered in your time could never be justified by the pro-electric shock brigade who seem to think your ability to inflict instant ‘correction’ and the possibility of such an action being capable of righting the wrongs of a dog whose behavioural misdemeanours have placed him in life’s last chance saloon, are a reasonable argument for their role in society.

How many times must we hear the argument that electric shock collars have saved the lives of dogs considered to be too unruly or too untrustworthy to co-exist in human society? Dogs with temperament problems who could be considered beyond the reach of the most successful canine behaviour experts still do not deserve to be persecuted and tortured into submission.

There are humane methods to change and influence the behaviour of any living breathing creature capable of thinking, a dog especially so. Remote control electrocution simply can not be considered a humane or acceptable solution, whatever the necessity to alter behaviour. Even convicted criminals, sentenced to death in the Electric Chair are spared the long term agony of punishing electrical charges being pumped into their bodies. Death comes relatively quickly for these people and as barbaric as the act itself may be, even murderers would never be subjected to a daily electrocution until such a time as they had ‘learned their lesson.’ Why, therefore, should a dog?

Members of the K9 Magazine jury, I ask you to consider the following:

Is it in any way conceivable that a dog, an animal born of no inherent malevolence, a creature whose psychological makeup is influenced entirely by environmental conditioning and its interaction with members of the human race, could ever commit an act worthy of this most vile and excruciatingly painful example of human cruelty as a means of justifiable reprisal?

Furthermore, that companies who profit from the sale and manufacture of a device renowned for its capability to inflict a deplorable level of brutality on its animal victims, should do so at the physical and mental expense of those dogs who have to endure the consequences of its potency all in the name of ‘more desirable behaviour’?

Is this a product that we, a supposed Nation of animal lovers should be tolerant of as it is made freely available for sale in the United Kingdom to anyone who so desires to one?

Does not the sheer concept of a device, created to inflict punishment by means of remote electrocution on an animal we refer to as ‘man’s best friend’, strike you as being barbaric, hypocritical and contradictory to everything that modern society stands for?

I put it to you, members of the K9 Magazine jury that you use your jurisdiction to sentence the electric shock collar to death by way of your consciences compelling you to speak out against anyone reckless enough to use one or any business mercenary enough to sell or manufacture one for profit. I say stop this shocking tool from being made available for sale and spare the anguish of thousands of dogs. Call for a ban on the electric shock collar.

Case For The Defence: (In Support of the Electric Collar)

Members of the K9 Magazine reader’s jury. Before I say anything, I credit you all with the intellectual capacity to have already spotted the fundamentally flawed motives of the anti-electric collar bandwagon.

The charge levelled against this most innovative and successful product is without foundation and is confounded when you view the successes that have been achieved with electric collars.

Whilst it maybe true that many a dog trainer would have you believe they would never stoop so low as to use an ecollar, the facts are that many trainers who do sample the device when pressed with an apparently insurmountable behavioural problem capable of ultimately leading to the destruction of a healthy animal, discover a life-saving tool that is effective ONLY because it fits with the dog’s own understanding of negative or positive behavioural re-enforcement.

Jury, you must understand what the anti-collar browbeaters fail to acknowledge. Dogs are not humans. It sounds obvious, in fact it is obvious but the reality is lost on the anti-ecollar protesters. Dogs, not being human, have learning and thinking systems that are very different to our own. Dogs understand the blackness or whiteness of a situation but not grey. That is to say a dog has the capability to understand if a behaviour it participates in is acceptable or not. It does not have a comprehension of a behaviour being anti-social or ‘not in keeping with the expectancy level of its human counterparts’.

Let’s take a hypothetical case: A family dog, let’s say he’s a 12 month old Labrador. His owners let him sit on the sofa in the living room every day. Every day that is apart from Fridays when his owners hold a very important dinner party in which case he gets scolded for being ill-mannered enough to even attempt to get up on the sofa and carry out behaviour which he understands to be acceptable on other occasions.

He doesn’t know he can’t get on the sofa on a Friday. He understands a pattern that says he either can get on the sofa or he can’t. He’ll pretty much accept either rule but what he really struggles with is this horrible, human inflicted grey area. I will re-iterate, dogs understand black or white, hot or cold, acceptable or not acceptable. They do not have a great ability to add in scenario evaluation or circumstance-relevant decision making to their thought process.

The dog’s black or white learning pattern is the main reason why the electric shock training collar is so very successful and fair. It has the capability to instantly and effectively communicate a highly comprehensible message to the dog. ‘Your behaviour is acceptable or your behaviour is not’.

Dogs do not enjoy the shock. Some ecollar advocates try and play down the fact that the device can (and sometimes does) cause discomfort. This is true, conceded. But neither does a dog enjoy an existence where there are no clearly defined social boundaries or confusion, for example dogs who pull on lead and are constantly being ‘strangled’ by an owner who has never correctly taught the dog to walk properly. Dogs understand rank and the system of a pack which is why the most successful and contented packs consist of pack leader who is on hand to administer discipline and order to the rest of the pack the instant it is required.

That discipline may range from a ‘stare’ in minor cases of behavioural misdemeanor to a full scale exertion of physical dominance, including the infliction of some degree of pain, in cases where the pack leader’s authority is being severely challenged.

Here is where the case for the defence overwhelms any charges brought against the electric collar. If used correctly in accordance with manufacturers instructions and only in cases where there is a severe challenge of authority that threatens to destabilise the entire family unit (pack) either by way of the dog’s behaviour becoming a danger to people or to their own lives, the electric shock collar has the power to save thousands of dogs lives through its ability to act quickly and decisively leaving the dog with no grey area difficulties.

If dogs could speak they would all seek to communicate their desire to live and conform in a human-lead, modern society ahead of the prospect of having their life terminated as a result of our human inability to translate our acceptable behaviour standards sufficiently into a language that they can understand.

The case for the defence rests and leaves the jury with this final thought:

“Ask a dog to choose between certain death or one final chance at being shown the path to acceptable human-interaction and behaviour and you have the very reason why electric collars have a valuable role to play in modern society. There are thousands of dogs who are only alive today because of this ground breaking, innovative use of modern technology and advanced understanding of canine behaviour”

Witnesses Called To The Stand:

Hi to all of you at k9 magazine

I am one of those who think that the e-collar is a barbaric invention, one that if not banned should certainly be subject to strict legislation, only to be used by qualified behaviourists for extreme problems – where the only alternative would be euthanasia. They cannot be the way forward for modern trainers. Modern trainers mostly train with kindness and reward, positive reinforcement techniques, not by giving a dog an electric shock! I have been training my own dogs for twenty years and have not yet come across a training problem that can’t be overcome with patience and perseverance. The damage that could be done to a sensitive dog by an inexperienced handler using an e-collar horrifies me. E-collars are a step backwards in training methods and have no place in our canine classes or in general use.

Karen White

Hi K9 Magazine

Only barbaric man could invent such a thing.  Man’s best friend they are supposed to be.  I have done some studies with a reputable behavioural school and all studies have shown that this causes a dog more anxiety than anything we could imagine.

If a dog gets a shock at the wrong time, you are teaching it to be scared of all the wrong things.  A dog has to be taught no within 3 seconds, you can not possibly get that right.

How would man like this treatment? Can you imagine every time you did something wrong at work for instance and your boss pressed the button, what would your reaction be?

Ban the damn things, a nation of animal lovers, I don’t think so.

Dawn.

Dear K9 Magazine

Anything that causes pain to an animal should be outlawed! Would we use
the same device to get children to do as we want? I don’t think so somehow!

Kind regards

Adele Travis-Jones

Dear Sir/Madam

I read the last edition of K9 magazine and was pleased that the topic of electric collars has come up for debate having been an avid user for a number of years now. Whilst acknowledging that there is an element of concern over the use of anything electrical, this debate really stems from people not properly understanding on how it operates.

At no time when using our remote trainer have we caused our dog any distress, to the contrary it has saved our Labrador’s life. He had taken to worrying sheep down on Common Land and was liable to be shot if we did not immediately take corrective measures.

We did seek advice, train him and follow guidelines along traditional lines – however this proved ineffective and the sheep far more interesting. We were then recommended a remote trainer by a friend, and indeed we only used the electric collar once in accordance with the manufacturer’s guidelines and Wellington has never chased sheep again. This device was used to safeguard our pet within his home environment and has most definitely enhanced his enjoyment of being part of our family.

I have recommended these devices to a lot of people since first using it and the results are astounding.

Yours faithfully

Angela Brown

I read with interest your request for comments regarding electric collars. Although your magazine is aimed at dog owners it was passed to me by a friend as we use such a product with our cats.

We live in a semi-rural area on the edge of town, a reasonable distance from the main road. Several years ago we rescued three cats from a local centre all of who became much loved, and very settled members of our family. However one always had a tendency to wander, and frequently crossed the main road to go into the fields beyond. We always had a strong belief that cats being very independent creatures should not be restrained, however earlier this year my husband went out to work early one morning only to find our beloved “wanderer” dead by the side of the road having been hit by a vehicle on his way home for breakfast. We were devastated.

Since then we re-considered that possibility of some sort of device to restrict their wanderings a little. After much consideration we opted to install a radio fence and have the cats wear electric collars. This has successfully prevented them from leaving our reasonably sized garden and has given us so much more peace of mind. The thought of losing another member of our family in such a horrible way was just too much to bear, and I am so glad we have taken this decision. The cats were carefully trained in accordance with the manufacturers advice, and after having received one or two corrections in the early days now accept their collars and the limitations to their wanderings. They are still well-adjusted, and very contented pets.

I do understand the other side of the electric collar debate, but feel very strongly that in the right hands and used correctly and responsibly they are a huge asset from several points of view – the animal’s safety, the owner’s peace of mind, and reducing the possibility of causing a major road accident.

Regards,

SL

Dear K9 Magazine,

There has been a lot of controversy about electronic dog collars and restraints in the press and government recently. I write as a very happy user of such a system. We live on a couple of acres in a village in Leicestershire

A couple of years ago we had problems with our Retriever bitch escaping and wandering when on heat, causing a bother to our neighbours.

We then also got a Ridgeback dog who when 8 months old escaped and was hit by a car in the road outside. Luckily, neither dog nor car occupants suffered serious harm. However, there remained the risk of nuisance to other people and dogs.

At the recommendation of some friends, we had a Freedom Fence system installed around our boundary. We adjusted the levels so that the dogs received the minimum prompt they recognised. Our dogs took 2 days to learn where the boundaries are.

Since then, our dogs will approach the boundary but will not cross unless for example we walk across looking like we are going to take them for a walk. The collars emit a warning beep when the dog comes up to the boundary, and the dogs know not to proceed further and to retreat a little to stop the bleeping, without receiving any prompt other than the beep.

The system gives a great benefit to the dogs. It allows us to give the dogs freedom to wander in our garden without worry, when we are indoors.

The system is excellent. It has not shown any sign of malfunction or problem, and can easily be switched off when we want to take the dogs out. Our friends who recommended it to us have similarly had nothing but success with the system. I recommend it to your readers for 3
reasons:

It stops the problems of wandering dogs.
It gives us the reassurance that the dogs are safe on our land. It allows the dogs the fun of wandering on our land when we are busy.

Yours sincerely

Jan van der Post
Leicestershire

The Verdict: You’re The Jury

Do you find electric shock collars guilty as charged or innocent and free to go on their way?

The above article was first published in K9 Magazine in 2003. Since then, debates over the electric dog training collar have raged just as actively as when we first broached the subject.

As is our style, we try to present a balanced case and afford our readers (you!) the chance to form your own opinions and have your say. If you HATE em’, tell us why. If you support em’, we’d like to hear your reasons.*

Over to you.

*Disclaimer: Whilst happy to allow the issue to be discussed in an intelligent, adult manner – K9 Magazine does not accept advertising for electric collars. If you happen to see adverts served by Google on this page (or any other) for electric dog training collars (as a result of the keyword relevance of this article), we’d appreciate it if you could let us know (the same goes for any other ‘dodgy’ adverts served by Google on our pages. Thank you!)

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9 Comments

  1. Fran

    August 29, 2012 at 11:48 am

    Anyone who thinks dogs learn differently from humans are in lala land. Learning theory is precisely that, a theory which is well overdue for abandonment in the dog world. The processes involved in learning have way way surpassed the old Pavlovian/Skinner theories and are far more complex than those old guys originally believed. The brain processes are much the same in learning for all mammals, and indeed even insects. The fact that other animals have less developed brains than ours (this does NOT mean the actual processes are different) is NOT an excuse for pain to be inflicted upon them in training and behaviour modification. Shock collars are lazy training, and a tool for the ignorant who have become bereft of ideas and understanding. Anyone who uses a shock collar, should be prepared to have one fitted around their own neck in order that I can shock them for anything I don’t like about them.

  2. uschi

    October 5, 2012 at 9:33 am

    In the defence of electric dog collars the incorrect age old theory of human being seen as pack leader is brought to the front again. I would suspect that the same mentality that believes in this myth also believe in the use of electric dog collars.

  3. sara

    October 15, 2012 at 2:30 pm

    I have a patterdale, I hated taking him for a walk as it would always be on a lead as he would never come back when called, resulting with me and my children hunting for hours at a time to retrieve him! If these collars are used in the correct manor, the results are amazing, have any people against these collars actually seen the before and after results? My patterdale sits with his tail wagging for it to be put on as it has always been used correctly, if it was detrimental to him( I speak singularly as every case of use if different) would he really sit there wanting it on? No he wouldn’t, if the collar ever went to court , I would happily bring him and the collar to prove that used correctly they work wonders. I have used it to also stop him barking at other dogs in the street, he learnt that if he didn’t bark he got a treat! Yes I will get argumentative responses, but used correctly I will always remain for them! Any one misusing them perhaps shouldn’t keep animals!

    • sharon

      March 2, 2015 at 11:03 am

      Hi im glad to hear that you have a success story to tell. I have 3 young healthy large breed dogs that i run on a rig they love it as do i . but they go crazy when they see other dogs this behaviour is to the point they will pull 180* and have me kiss the concrete with out a second thought the K9 magazine are talking about leash walked fluffy tea party pets that sit on the lap of humans with electric shock controls on every finger pressing for the fun of seeing an animal suffer. I however have literally seconds beforemy dogs eyes glaze over and fight or flight kicks in. on the rig they have learned i am too far away from them to use anything physical. and my voice command is worse than usless.I have been trawling the net looking for a way to break the stalking behavour before they drag me under a lorry killing us all. the problem is there are many products that I have looked at has anyone any advice on the best make models of collar to use xx

  4. Pete Hawthron

    January 19, 2013 at 11:48 am

    Oh well if they are for lazy trainers and lazy pet owners then I must get one, I spent 2 years with various supposed positive trainers, one cost me £150 a session, claimed my dog had ‘redirectional’ behavior i.e. he ignored the recall when off lead & was at risk, now he has to be kept on lead, so as a lazy pet owners I sure need one of these, save money on more reward trainers.

    • mark dewhurst

      July 10, 2013 at 10:47 pm

      I have two boxer dogs, 8 year old bitch and a 2 year old dog, the bitch has always been dog aggressive when off the lead which has restricted the amount of proper exercise she can have, i purchased an ecollar and what a difference, i trained the dogs on the vibrate mode and buzzer giving them treats when vibrated, now when they are off the lead and enjoying a good run when they get 50 -75 yards away and i want them to come back to me they get a quick vibrate which i have to say is the same as a mobile phone on vibrate so there is no pain. they shoot back towards me and are happy to do so. on encountering another dog and the bitch decides shes maybe going to sniff and then bite which is not fair on the other dog or the owner i change the mode to electric shock and when shes racing towards the dog i would give her a quick shock which shes not keen on obviously she turns back to me and ignores the other dog, i think its better for the bitch to have a small shock to correct her behaviour than have a possible dog fight, my boxer are both 40-45kg
      and when and if they kick off they are like a frieght train, these collars give me the confidence to run them off lead, i must stress both dogs are well trained especialily in the home, i wonder whether the poeple who disagree with the use of the ecollar would change there mind set if two boxers came racing towards them and there dog and then turned and went back to the dog owner, releif would certainly be a word used, i will continue to use them and the shock mode is becoming redundant but its always there if needed. hope this will change some veiws as responsible dog owners use them as a last resort and they work great.

  5. Jamie

    July 26, 2013 at 10:37 am

    I resigned from the APDTUK, following a complaint by the organisation regarding my use of an unscented spray collar to modify livestock chasing in a confirmed sheep chaser. The APDTUK considered it inhumane …. The owner now lives in Wales, with her dogs running freely amongst sheep – 3 years later.
    I specialise in LLELS training for livestock worrying and dogs which have repeatedly killed. My latest client has search 3 counties, only to have been told to either muzzle, avoid or perma-leash her dog …. Using LLELS, take the lead dog training will iradicate sheep worrying, chase and kill behaviours within days … For life.
    PLEASE show me a single solitary clip JUST ONE, of a before and after chase/kill dog or ANY study ANYWHERE, evidencing the successful modification of a sheep chasing or sheep killing dog – using positive reinforcement or anything other than a remote collar. Take as long as you want … I’ve searched for 5 years without success. Take the lead dog training video our dog training for livestock worrying to PROVE, that the criticisms are emotive over evidence.

    • Alan paul

      July 30, 2013 at 5:28 pm

      I agree with everything you have wrote.I have 4 huskies and have had to resort to a training collar as all other methods had failed.I have a vibrate,buzzer and shock on the system and have rarely ever had to use the shock.to be honest I only use the system when I take all four together and that is to reassure other dog walkers that they are under control. I decided that this was the best way forward with my dogs as I have control when they are out and they are not restricted to being on the lead all the time(so the dogs are in a win,win situation)they get to run around and play and I have a more relaxing walk and if its that bad for them why do my dogs queue up to have them put on?.alan proud husky owner!!

  6. Maureen Wingham

    February 28, 2014 at 4:21 pm

    I heard a report on Radio 4 today regarding electronic collars and I would be very concerned if they became illegal in England. When my Golden Retriever was young I used puppy trainers but the one thing they did not seem to be able to achieve was a good recall. This was a problem because it is essential for the dog to be off the lead. He was inclined to follow other dogs when off the lead which would make it easy for him to get lost. I used another dog trainer and he suggested the electronic collar. I was apprehensive but after discussion with him I purchased the collar and the trainer took my dog for a week to train him with the collar so he could be on a very long lead, thus if the shock frighened him he could not run off and get lost. A week later he came back to him and we walked the dog together. I was shown that when the dog has gone a certain distance you call him, if he turns his head towards you call him again if he returns there is no need to shock. However, if he does not return then shock again. After a while he learned to return when called. I still use the collar for off lead walks but most of the time do not have to use the shock. However, I would not let anyone else use it with him in case they misused it.

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