Shock Collar Training for Dogs in 3 Easy Steps (For Beginners)

Is training your dog difficult because she keeps getting distracted from what you are trying to teach them? A shock collar can be a helpful way of getting your pet’s attention. Here’s what you need to know about using this style of collar for your pets.

Quick Facts – E-collars and shock collars keep getting better and better. Overall the market has grown more than 150% from 2016 through 2021 (source). According to Sgt. Rod Hampton, Canine Unit Supervisor of the Round Rock (Texas) Police Department Canine Unit, the most effective use of e-collars is controlling dogs at a distance (when verbal commands are harder to hear) and preventing accidental bites (source).

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Positive Reinforcement Shock Collar Training for Dogs

Shock collars can be used as a training aid to teach your dog any of the basic obedience commands.

You will get better results if you think of your shock collar like a clicker. It’s a tool to get your dog’s attention when they are distracted. It can be especially useful if your dog is easily distracted by other dogs, people, or animals.

Positive reinforcement training using a shock collar involves the following:

  1. Command
  2. Dog ignores you because they are overly excited (e.g. jumping on someone, barking, squirrels!)
  3. Trigger the collar to get your dog’s attention
  4. Repeat command
  5. Dog does the command or a small step towards it
  6. Treat and/or Praise

Many electronic/training collars feature a buzz or vibration setting that’s most effective for training. You’ll often see them in use for recall training, especially for working dogs who will be in the field.

To use these collars humanely, they should not be used as a punishment, but rather as a method of communicating with your dog. This is where they can be a better option over something like clicker training.

A training collar will enable you to give commands over a long distance, and be able to proof behaviors as needed with a stronger stimulus.

Josh Snead, CEO of Rainwalk Pet Insurance

Step 1 – Set the collar to tone or beep

Always use the lowest setting first and go up from there if needed.

Step 2 – Press the button on the remote to trigger the collar then give a treat.

This will train your dog to understand that the collar brings treats

Repeat 10-20 times. Do this for short 5 minute sessions throughout the week.

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Step 3 – Conduct obedience training

Now that your dog understands the collar means to pay attention to you for treats you can use it to help break through their distractions.

Follow the steps below for any type of trick or skill you want your dog to learn. We recommend starting with the 7 basic obedience commands.

  1. Command
  2. Dog ignores you because they are overly excited (e.g. jumping on someone, barking, squirrels!)
  3. Trigger the collar to get your dog’s attention
  4. Repeat command
  5. Dog does the command or a small step towards it
  6. Treat and/or Praise

Negative Reinforcement Shock Collar Training for Dogs

This article wouldn’t be complete unless we also cover how to properly use a shock collar for negative reinforcement training. Though we recommend positive reinforcement as described above, this is another common training method that can work if used properly without hurting your dog.

Negative reinforcement means you use a negative stimulus to get your dog to stop doing a negative behavior then you remove the stimulus when they do the correct behavior.

It follows the following format:

  1. Use a very low setting to get your dog’s attention while they do the negative behavior.
  2. Employ a verbal command while physically guiding your dog to do the task.
  3. Let go of the remote as soon as your dog begins obeying.
  4. Praise your dog for obeying.
  5. Repeat.

Watch the video below to see negative reinforcement training in action for teaching the command come.

It goes through the steps of teaching your dog a basic task and highlighting the mistakes you need to avoid.

Start with commands your dog already knows

When you first start training, remember your dog has no clue what the shock means. It is a good idea to begin shock training with the command your dog knows.

This helps them understand the idea that the sensation of a low shock is linked to the behavior you do not want and the lack of a shock is linked to the behavior you do want.

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How to control bad behavior

Can a shock collar work to stop issues like your dog digging or barking? They can be very effective when used during training but won’t be that useful if you just set it to shock and leave your dog alone.

All you have to do is follow the standard steps for using a shock collar. Remember:

  • Gently set off a low shock when your dog is bad.
  • Reinforce with a verbal command and physical movement.
  • Reduce the shock as soon as your dog obeys.
  • Reward the dog for being good.

How to move from shock to vibrate to no collar training

Like many other dog owners, you are probably hoping to eventually transition away from the collar.

If you get the right collar and train your dog properly, you should be able to gradually reduce the shock setting before moving to a vibrating setting.

The key to this is always using verbal commands during shock collar training. This ensures your dog associates their training with a cue that you can replicate even when they have no collar.


Still, have some questions? Here are some details about commonly asked questions.

What Level Should I Set My Shock Collar?

When you conduct shock collar training, put the collar on the lowest level. For most models, this is the tone or beep setting. If the tone-setting is not enough to interrupt their attention when you issue a command then increase the level by one. After the tone-setting the next level is vibration. Higher levels involve static correction. Keep raising the level until you find one that gets your dog’s attention.

Spend some time teaching them that the tone or low static correction is a sign for them to look at you for a command. Train them to understand the tone or static correction just like you would a training clicker. You’ll need to press the remote button to create a tone or correction, wait for them to look at you, then treat and praise. Repeat this and they’ll quickly learn that a tone or vibration on the collar means to look over at you for a command.

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white chihuahua and shock collar in front of white background

How strong is the shock?

A low setting only emits 0.000005 joules of energy, which is thousands of times lower than the shock you’d feel from something like an ab toning machine.

Are electronic collars safe?

Yes, according to The Humane Society of the United States, they will not cause physical damage when properly used.

Are shock collars waterproof?

Check your device’s description carefully, but most should be.

Dog using radius shock collar on hike

How do you pick a collar?

Select one with plenty of intensity, shock, and vibration settings, then choose one that matches your dog’s size and weight. We recommend the DOG CARE Dog Shock Collar (click to view on Amazon). It’s one of the best remote collars for training and works for most dogs. 

If you have a small dog less than 15 lbs see our full guide on shock collars for them here.

DOG CARE Dog Shock Collar - with Remote, Dog Training Collar with Beep, Vibration, Static Modes, Keypad Lock, 0-99 Adjustable Shock Levels, Long Remote Range, for Large Medium Dogs (1 Count)

Are shock collars good for training dogs?

Research from the Companion Animal Welfare Council examined over 60 dogs and found shock collars worked just as well as treat based training.

Shock collars are an effective training tool when used alongside owner input. However, they are not good at training dogs if you just put the collar on your dog, set it to shock them when they bark or leave the yard, and ignore them.

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Improper shock collar use just ends up stressing your dog and making them anxious without actually teaching them anything.

When should you start shock collar training?

Technically, it is safe to put a shock collar on a dog starting at 10 weeks of age. However, it might not actually be that useful.

According to experienced breeder Matthew Wilson, a shock collar typically is not advisable for puppies because they cannot understand it and just get scared and get stressed during this critical development stage.

Normally a shock collar only helps with training once your dog is old enough to realize that the shock is linked to their behavior.

Usually, dogs have to be at least six months old before they can actually understand what’s happening and learn to adjust their behavior.

Are prong collars good for training?

A prong collar has bluntly pointed metal that pinches your dog’s skin lightly when you pull on the control loop.

The strange metal shape can make it look a little freaky, but it is designed to just surprise your dog, not harm them. This makes it a good tool if your dog is a puller that makes any walk absolutely exhausting for you.

However, you do need to keep in mind that the potential for misuse is a little higher than a shock collar. If you do not have the perfect fit or leave your dog tied up, the prong collar can be very damaging.

Are shock collars cruel?

The idea of causing your dog pain definitely seems cruel, so we understand why so many people try to avoid them. However, when used properly, a shock collar should never be cruel.

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A shock collar should be set up simply to get your dog’s attention, not to severely punish them any time they do something you dislike.

Here are some tips to follow to make sure your dog stays safe.

  • Never leave the collar on your dog for extended amounts of time.
  • Regularly clean the contact points that touch the neck of your dog.
  • Rotate the collar every three to four hours to avoid pressure sores.
  • Don’t use random, strong shocks as a form of punishment.
  • Always start with the lowest possible setting and only increase gradually as needed.
  • Don’t use a shock collar when you are not able to monitor the results.

how to use a dog shock collar for training