Does Shock Collar Training Work?

How Does A Dog Shock Collar (Dog Remote Training Collar) Work?

A shock collar provides a small stimulus in the form of a beep or sound function, vibration, or small electric shock.

You control the intensity of the stimulus. The goal is to find the minimum stimulus needed to get your dog’s attention. See the example video below where Ty the Dog guy trains his dog to come using a shock collar.

The basic pattern is as follows:

  1. Say command
  2. Wait for response
  3. Apply stimulus at lowest setting to get attention
  4. Remove stimulus when they make an initial success to follow the command. This is an example of negative reinforcement.
  5. Give a treat and/or praise for the behavior. This is an example of positive reinforcement traininig.

Note that in the example above shock collar training device is essentially a form of negative reinforcement dog training. However, it can and should be combined with positive reinforcement training methods for the fastest results.

Also note that there are two basic types of shock collars:

  • Remote Activated Shock Collars
  • Automatic Shock Collars

Remote activated collars use a remote with a button to transmit the signal to the collar receiver and induce the sound function, vibration, or electric shock. This is a form of active training.

Automatic shock collars are primarily used for bark or meow training methods. They either sense vibration or sound in the throat during barking or meowing.

When they sense barking or meowing they start with a sound function (e.g. beeping). If the barking or meowing continues it moves on to vibration. For some collars it can move on to an electric shock as the final stimulus.

Automatic barking collars still require active training to help your dog or cat understand them in the beginning.

Are Training Collars Shock Collars?

An electric shock collar is just one type of dog training collars. Other examples of training collars include:

  • “Normal Training Collar” – A normal collar being used by a professional trainer or amateur dog trainer that has spent time learning to train dogs with positive reinforcement training or negative reinforcement training.
  • Slip Collars or Leash – tightens around the dog’s neck when they pull on the leash. Used for no-pull training during walks
  • Choke Chains – Same as slip leash but using a small chain instead of a rope leash
  • Prong and Pinch Collar – Used for leash training to stop pulling. Much more intense version of choke chain. It’s made of metal and has dull metal prongs that pinch or push into the neck when the dog pulls on a leash. Typically used for large dogs or aggressive dogs sometimes in combo with a muzzle. We’d much rather you learn to train using a shock collar than use these.
  • No-Pull Harnesses – Not a collar as it goes around the body but functions the same. Used effectively to prevent pulling by tricking the dog to think it’s going to fall over when they pull on the leash. Passive training.
  • Elizabethan Collar (i.e. Cone of Shame) – used to prevent dog from scratching head usually after medical procedures. Not so much a training function.

Pros of Using a Shock Collar

  • Faster command to behavior response times
  • Automatic bark collars train when you are away (after the initial active training you do to set your dog up)
  • Cheaper than hiring a professional trainer
  • E-collar design has improved – more varieties, safer, more options (e.g. sound/vibrate only without shock), automatic stimulus cutoff in newer collars to prevent over-correction
  • Trusted method used for years by professional dog trainers
  • More effective at interrupting a dog from a distraction (e.g. new dog, squirrel, etc.) to continue command training. Being able to steer a dog’s attention is a key part of training. It’s also why dog clicker training works so well – it breaks the dog’s attention from distractions and puts it back on you.
  • Can be used to prevent dog fights or dog aggression against other people
  • Can be used over a greater distance. If you’re dog is 50 yards away they won’t be able to hear a clicker. If you’re using the sound function of the electronic collar similar to a clicker, this stimulus will work even when they can’t hear the clicker.
  • Great for hiking, RV camping, and backpacking – GPS-Based shock collars can create an invisible or wireless fence anywhere.

Cons of Using a Shock Collar

  • Requires trainer training – Not to be used by amateur dog trainers that don’t have specific shock collar training
  • Costs more money for equipment
  • Can hurt your dog physically or psychologically (e.g. anxiety) if used improperly
  • Negative reinforcement or positive punishment training has been shown in one study to increase dog aggression (Source)

What Can You Teach Your Dog Using A Shock Collar?

Remote training collars can be used to teach your dog any habit or trick. They are most commonly used for the following:

  • Stop Aggression
  • Stop Jumping
  • Heel or Come
  • No-pull Walking
  • Stay inside an invisible or wireless fenced area
  • Stop barking – manual training or using an automatic bark collar
  • Overcoming Distractions

How Do You Teach Your Dog Using A Shock Collar?

Watch the video below for a quick overview of how to train your dog to come using a shock collar.

It’s important to train yourself on proper electronic collar methods before starting any training. Watching Ty demonstrate how to do it is a great first step.

We go into depth on how to train your dog to come using proper and humane electronic collar training in our article on positive reinforcement vs negative reinforcement. We also cover it briefly in our article on how to use a dog shock collar.

Tips to Use a Shock Collar or Remote Training Collar Humanely and Properly

  1. Fit the Electronic Training Collar Properly – Check the instructions and make sure it’s properly fitted. Like a normal collar you want it tight enough so you can just fit one or two fingers between the collar and the skin. Also, the prongs should be touching the skin. You may need to use longer prongs for longer hair. Most new models of shock collars will have two sets of prongs that you can change out for different hair lengths. Lastly, the collar should be just below the base of the skull at the thinnest part of the neck. If you put it on the thicker part of the neck it may slip up causing the prongs to pull off the neck. That could cause intermittent shocks and will confuse the dog and ruin the training.
  2. Use the Right Electronic Collar and Remote Combo for the Weather – some units are waterproof and some aren’t. Check this before using the collar outside for long hikes.
  3. Store the remote training collar and remote transmitter properly – Keep it in a zip lock or plastic bag at home and while not in use.
  4. Charge it up – Keep the collar receiver and the remote transmitter fully charged before use.
  5. Train at home before you train in the field – Train in a controlled environment with leashes at home prior to training or using shock collars on long hikes or during camping.
  6. Use a Remote Training Collar Like a Clicker – This makes it a means of getting your dog’s attention. You can use a shock collar for positive punishment or negative reinforcement training. However, you catch more flies with honey and you train more dogs with positive rewards. That was made clear in a study on aggressive dogs where they found that positive reinforcement training reduced aggression more than negative reinforcement training (source). To do this use a shock collar with three functions – sound, vibrate, and shock. See minute 5 of the video below for an example of using a shock collar as a clicker. Also, check out our clicker training tool article.
  7. Train with beep and vibration only – Take the prongs out and just use the sound function or the vibration function for initial training. Again, watch the video at minute 5 below for an example of this.
  8. Use the shock collar training tool at the end, not the beginning – Train your dog normally at first (e.g. positive reinforcement training with treats and praise in your yard or house). Then when they understand the command you can use the electronic collar to finish the training so you can command over greater distances or get them to respond faster.
  9. Always start at the lowest setting – sound function first, then vibrate, then lowest shock until you get their attention. Any yelping, anxiety, or physical pain means you’ve gone too far and need to dial it back or go back to normal training again to set the foundation. Keep in mind that if you traumatize your dog you will undo a lot of what you’ve trained.
  10. Increase the setting slowly till you get a response
  11. Keep Shock Collar Training Sessions Short (15 minutes at a time and no more than a few times a day) – The prongs on a shock collar can rub the skin raw. That could even lead to an infection. Avoid that at all costs by simply shortening the training sessions. Never leave an automatic bark collar on overnight for for long periods of time.
  12. Keep the remote away from kids and other people – Stay in control of your dog’s training. Do not let others, especially children, ever access the shock collar remote. Also do not let others that haven’t been properly trained to use shock collars to use the remove. Ever. As soon as training is done take off the collar and turn off the collar receiver and the remote transmitter.