Shock collars are useful tools in dog training as well as in correcting undesirable behavior in canines. However, owing to its very nature of delivering some form of electricity to the body of our pets, it is a very controversial gadget. In the hands of a skilled and dedicated canine trainer or handler, an electric dog collar can be an invaluable tool. Unfortunately, this strength somehow diminishes if one doesn’t fully understand the true implications of such a device especially in terms of the correct circumstances where its use can be considered to be the last resort. This is why we’ve talked with experts on the matter to share with you their views on this controversial device and how you, too, can find the confidence to use it judiciously. And we’ll start off with a presentation of the 10 best shock collars we’ve reviewed and tested for your pooch this 2017.
Dog Shock Collar Buying Guide
Buying a dog shock collar can be quite a headache. There are a lot of things to ask yourself first even before you start picking the best one for your pooch. For many newbies an understanding of what dog shock collars are for is crucial to making a buying decision. Equally important is an understanding of how these gadgets work as well as the different types of electric shock collars available in the market. Only then can you start mulling about the various considerations for buying such a device for you and your pooch.
What are Shock Collars Used For?
Despite repeated warnings from animal experts as well as animal rights groups against the use of electric dog collars, a lot of people still do actively search for such devices. According to the Humane Society of the United States, shock collars are doggie contraptions that are pretty much similar to a standard collar worn around the neck of a dog and are typically used in dog obedience training and behavior modification therapy for problematic canines such as those with nuisance barking.
But why would you want a dog shock collar? Here are some of the more common uses of shock collars.
- Pet containment
If you don’t want your pet dog to be wandering beyond your property line, a shock collar can be quite useful especially when used together with an invisible or electronic fence system. These gadgets deliver a stimulus to dogs as they get near a pre-designated off-limits zone. You no longer need a physical fence to keep your pet well within your property.
There are some devices that deliver a correction every time a dog barks. These are typically embedded with a sensor that allows it to identify the bark of the dog wearing the collar and not any other dog that may be near. If the dog continues to bark, the device delivers more forceful, longer, and even more frequent corrections until the dog stops barking or until a preset time has been reached.
- Dog training and behavior modification
As we have already said above, the main use of these devices is in the training and the modification of behavior of dogs through the process of aversive training. It is typically used in off-leash dog training where the pooch is let off the leash to roam around and pay attention to verbal cues or commands issued by its master. It is also used by pet owners in correcting behavioral issues in dogs like aggression towards other dogs and even food aggression. What it does is that it delivers the correction at the right moment to put a halt to the aggressive behavior of the dog. Understand however, that this does not address the reason behind such problem behaviors. It only stops the current behavior at that instant.
- Training about canine safety
Many hunters as well as outdoor adventurers use shock collars to train their dogs to avoid dangerous objects and animals. For example, they are taught to avoid rattlesnakes by conditioning them to the sound of a rattlesnake. A caged rattlesnake is often used in such trainings and the dog is shocked quite hard once it gets near the caged rattlesnake. It then associates the shock with the sound of the rattlesnake so that when it is outdoors and it hears a rattle, it will not go to that area where the sound emanates.
How Does a Shock Collar Work?
We’ve been talking about shock or electric collars for dogs. But how do they work exactly?
As the name implies, shock collars are devices that deliver an electric stimulus to the body of dogs to startle them and stop them from whatever it is they’re doing. Depending on the type of collar, these devices always have an electronic unit that delivers various kinds of stimulation such as visual, auditory, vibration, and static electricity. When a preset threshold is met, the device is activated. For example, if it is an anti-bark collar, then it delivers the stimulus only when the correct trigger – your dog’s bark – is registered in the device’s sensor.
Dog training collars typically combine an electric unit on the collar and a remote control transmitter held and operated by the person. If a given command is not followed by the dog or if it gets distracted from its training by other objects or circumstances, the pet trainer can activate the device using the remote control unit. The device then delivers a preset stimulus to either correct the pooch or to have it refocus on the task at hand.
As we have explained in the preceding section, a shock collar doesn’t only deliver static electricity. It can also provide other forms of stimulus such as light, tone, and vibration. The mechanism is still the same, though. The dog performs an undesirable action, the device senses it or you notice it, and a stimulus is applied to correct the behavior or stop your dog from whatever it is doing. The static training mode of these devices should only be used when all other modes have been proven ineffective or are no longer working.
Types of Shock Collars
There are three fundamental types of shock collars currently available in the market. These are often related to their primary use.
- Training collars
As the name implies, these types of shock collars are primarily used in the training and sometimes behavior modification of dogs. These deliver static stimulation to dogs to either correct their actions or to modify their behavior.
One of the most crucial aspects of training that training shock collars address is time. Many pet owners understand the need for canine training. Unfortunately, conventional training methods whereby you use a blend of stimulus-response-positive reinforcement looping often take time. Even the most seasoned dog handler can find training a pooch to be especially challenging and will require several weeks up to several months to get the dog to do what it is being trained to do. However, a dog trainer is a professional who devotes most of his time in the training of pooches. Ordinary pet owners simply don’t have the luxury of time. It would already be great if they can spend an hour or so walking or even playing with their dogs. Now, if you include training, then you’re looking at additional time that they have to get from time they should spend for themselves and their families.
A dog shock collar can substantially decrease the time needed to see results from pets. And it is these faster results that really appeal to dog owners as well as aspiring handlers.
Training shock collars are used in off-leash training and as such have to provide ample coverage for optimum control. Generally, the range is about 1000 feet to 500 yards, although it’s not unusual to see some products further extending the coverage. What this simply means is that you can deliver corrections even from afar as long as it is within the range of the product.
- Anti-bark collars
As we have already described above, these are dog collars that are often used to control barking. It is natural for canines to bark as it is their way of communicating something. But if you’re already tucked in bed and your pooch suddenly feels the urge to bark, would you rather go out and check what it is your pet is barking at? For most pet owners, shouting at their dogs to shut up is a lot easier than getting up and checking what’s wrong. Unfortunately, we all know that this is not the correct way to address canine barking. As such, when you’re simply glued to your bed, you’d be glad that an anti-bark collar is working to stop your pooch from barking.
- Invisible fence collars
These types of shock collars can actually be considered as a training collar except that the trigger is an invisible fence that constantly sends signals over a pre-determined area. When your pooch goes near this area, the signal sends a message to the receiver on your pet’s collar which effectively triggers the application of the correction. It can be in the form of a beep. If your hound ignores this, then the device vibrates. If your pet still ignores this and decides to keep on going towards the invisible fence, then a static stimulus will be delivered.
The thing about these types of systems is that they’re more expensive than other types of electric collars as you are also talking about wires to be placed under the ground. Good thing there are other models that you can choose that don’t require any digging. However, they will still cost you somewhat higher than other systems.
Things to Consider When Buying a Dog Shock Collar
Looking at the market for dog shock collars today it is quite easy to get lost from the multitude of models and variants. There will always be products that stand out. One way you can determine the best one for you and your pet is by considering the following things before you even begin narrowing down your options.
- Multiple signaling modes
In addition to the shock mechanism, many products also include 2 to 3 more signaling modes. These can include light, tone, and vibration. The ideal progression is to always start with training modes that are less threatening to your dog. In such cases, you can start with light or tone modes before you apply vibration stimulation. Like shock stimulation, tone and vibration stimulation can be fine-tuned to different levels, further extending the usefulness of the device in training your dog or even in correcting its behavior. It is thus, important to look for products that can provide you with the most number of different types of stimulus so you will not have to instantly resort to the application of static electricity.
- Levels of Stimulation
One of the most important advances in today’s electric collar technology is the integration of processors and sensors that allow the user to dial in or customize the level of intensity of the shock that is delivered. For example, a device can have 100 different levels of increasing intensity using static electricity alone. This can actually go a long way towards training your pooch. Let us say that your dog can typically acclimatize itself to a particular setting every training session that you have. Then this essentially means you have about 100 training sessions before you are going to use the maximum level of static electricity. And if you happen to train 3 times a week, then you’re essentially looking at about 33 weeks of use before you have to apply level 100. Of course, this is just hypothetical. The point is to get a device that allows you to fine-tune the intensity of the stimulus being delivered.
- Maximum effective range
As much as possible you would want a device that allows you control of your pet over greater distances. This should give you the chance to try out your pooch’s mastery of the recall. As we have pointed out in the previous section, many dog shock collars typically come with a range of about 1000 feet although there are those that extend this to 500 yards or even further. Technically, it all depends on the location where you’re going to train or ‘control’ your dog. If you’re looking at a hilly terrain, then maybe you’ll even need a device with a mile range. Otherwise, if you are only going to use it in your neighborhood, the usual 330 yards should suffice.
You might want to get a shock collar that is fully weatherproofed. This is especially handy if you have a pooch that simply loves the water or even playing in puddles. But, if you’ve got a pet that doesn’t really want to get its feet wet, then you can skip this one altogether.
There is a buzz in the canine world saying that really expensive devices can guarantee safer ‘shocks’ for your pooch. Unfortunately, there really is no way we can gauge just how ‘safe’ the shock is since no manufacturer has ever published the actual voltage ratings of their products. That being said, it really doesn’t matter if you get a cheap $25 device or a really expensive $200 unit as long as you can be sure that it allows you the ability to fine-tune the stimulation being applied and possess a greater number of varying stimulation.
Will the Electric Stimulation from a Shock Collar Hurt My Dog?
Here’s the thing: there really is no way to gauge whether the electricity delivered by such devices will hurt our dogs. Unfortunately, there is also no objective evidence that shows it will not. Perhaps ‘hurt’ is not the proper term.
Electricity, no matter how miniscule, can lead to tissue inflammation and injury. That is why one of the most common concerns, and one that is duly acknowledged by dog shock collar manufacturers, is the occurrence of electrical burn injuries especially in areas where the electrodes come in contact with the dog’s skin. This typically occurs if the shock collar has been used more frequently than necessary or that it is worn by the dog for an extended period of time. Unlike chemical or thermal burns, electrical burn injuries are quite difficult to diagnose since the tissue injury happens very fast and over a diffuse area. Also, the affected tissues are located much, much deeper. What this means is that your dog may not have any burn marks on the area where the electrodes touch its skin, but the damage may already be forming deeper in the skin and underlying tissues.
It is for this reason that many do not actually recommend the use of shock collars. And if you have read a majority of manufacturers’ recommendations, they strongly advise the use of static correction only as a means of last resort. Even companies are saying that other signaling modes be used first before the delivery of shock. While they don’t openly admit it, what these manufacturers are saying is that using the static shock mechanism alone can result to tissue injuries secondary to electrical burns. That is why they strongly recommend using the tone and vibration functions first. And if they do recommend the static correction, it will always be at the lowest setting.
Will the electric stimulation from a shock collar hurt your pet canine? Of course! The only problem is that we really cannot gauge just how much ‘hurt’ your pet is getting for every level of static correction it is receiving. Just because it is not whining or crying doesn’t mean that it doesn’t feel anything.
Are Shock Collars Safe?
As an extension to the above section on whether the electrical stimulation from a shock collar will hurt your dog or not, the obvious answer to the question whether shock collars are safe or not is ‘no’.
Shock-only dog collars are never safe for the simple fact that they still deliver electric current to your dog. Also, don’t fall for such words as “humanely” because there really is nothing humane in passing electricity down the body of a dog.
However, if you use the tone and / or vibration correction modes of the device, we’d say it is perfectly safe as your dog only gets startled. There are no tissue injuries that occur with vibration and tone modes.
The use of dog shock collars for training and canine behavior modification purposes is a deeply emotional one. Even manufacturers indirectly admit that shock correction is not the best way to train dogs; otherwise they would have made their products as shock-only devices. This doesn’t mean that it is not useful, however. There will always be problematic dogs that will never be responsive to traditional training and behavior modification strategies. In such cases, the aversive nature of dog shock collars can very well be the only answer.