A dog is standing with an e-collar on it.

Key Arguments For and Against E-Collar for Your Dog 

6 min read

Everyone wants to have a trained and well-behaved dog, especially if it’s not just a pet but also an emotional support animal that is supposed to go with you to public places like airport and plane. And different people choose different ways to achieve this goal. Some hire a professional dog trainer, some google training recommendations and follow them themselves, and some decide to use special training devices with the most popular and the most controversial of them being an e-collar.

E-collar stands for “electronic shock collar” and it’s exactly what it does — shock your dog when it’s not following commands to train it. There are also anti-bark e-collars that are sensitive to sound and those called “electronic boundary fences” that activate when the dog crosses the territory it’s not supposed to cross. Even though it already sounds like a pretty weird way to train an animal, there are quite a lot of e-collar supporters that regularly use them in dog training, and some of them are even professional dog handlers.

To better understand why e-collar is not the best way to train a dog, we’ve collected the most popular myths and arguments for using an e-collar and tried to bust them. It’s always for you to decide how to handle your ESA or a pet but it’s better to learn the pros and cons of every given method before you started using it, isn’t it?

E-collars for Dogs: Myths and Reality

A woman is walking a dow with an e-collar.
There are a lot of myths regarding the e-collars that we will bust below.

Myth: E-collars are effective.

Reality: Well, they might be, but at what cost? E-collar supporters tend to tell that devices do no harm to the dogs but it’s only based on their personal observations which might be (and are) wrong: sometimes, you see what you want to see or you are just not attentive enough to notice important changes in the dog’s behavior. The fact is, science is on the side of e-collar opponents. According to one of the studies, e-collar can actually make dogs more aggressive and fearful as well as to result in learned helplessness — the condition when the dog becomes unwilling to avoid unpleasant shocks after it experienced it too many times.

Myth: It’s not painful, you can test it on your skin.

Reality: Dog's’ skin is different. You can try to use an e-collar on yourself or on your friends (you may even ask them to bring you a coffee, then shock them when they refuse, and ask how they feel), and more likely, those feelings won’t be too painful. Our skin is much thicker than dogs’ (10-15 cells comparing to 3-5 cells) which means an e-collar will hit a dog at least two times harder than you. It still won’t be an unbearable pain but believe us, it’s rather uncomfortable to experience even once, let alone regular shocking.

Myth: Dogs learn faster with E-collars.

Reality: It’s not about the speed. E-collars might seem to work faster in dog’s training than other options but it’s only because the dog is in fear and pain so results will be more on the short-term side than the permanent one. The same study we already mentioned shows that in most cases, e-collars are activated for owner’s convenience i.e. the owner is too lazy to spend more time on training a dog and feels that it’s better and faster to just hit a button and get an immediate result which sounds quite unfair, to tell the truth.

Myth: E-collar will do no harm in the right hands.

Reality: Your hands might not be the right ones. E-collars are not the torturing mechanisms for animals, even though they used to be when they were just invented. Now, as the technologies moved forward, it’s possible to adjust the shock power, put it to the minimum, and use in professional training with relatively no serious harm for the dog but are you sure you are the professional dog handler who knows when exactly it’s reasonable to hit the “on” button and when it’s better to abstain? Statistics say that more than 70% of e-collar users did it with no professional advice meaning most of the e-collar users have no idea how to use the device properly and not to hurt their dog.

Myth: E-collar is a must for service dogs working in police or military.

Reality: It’s not. Even though the job of police and military dog has its specifics, it doesn’t mean that these dogs should show random aggressive outbursts and be scared of their owners, handlers, and partners in work. These dogs can be effectively trained by other means and even show better results without the use of e-collars.

Alternatives to E-Collars

A dog is lying in the field.
Giving your dog a reward for completing tricks is more efficient than punishing for not doing them.

E-collar is not the last resort when it comes to dog training as there are many more effective methods and tools. Here there are some of them:

  • Behavioral training. This is the basic thing you should learn before getting a dog and use regularly if you want to get a trained and happy animal. Behavioral training is using positive reinforcement instead of negative one which means giving your dog a small reward or a treat when it follows your command instead of punishing it when it doesn’t.

  • Safer collars. If you want to use some kind of a training collar nevertheless, you can opt for the ones that beep, vibrate, or spray citronella oil (which dogs don’t really like) instead of shocking an animal.

  • Normal fences instead of electronic boundary fences. If you don’t want your dog to leave the territory of your yard or playground, you can install regular fences or consider getting a playpen. It might require a little bit more investments but it will pay off by a healthy and positive dog.

The Final Word

A dog is standing on the grass wearing an e-collar.
E-collars are forbidden in a lot of countries as they are proved to be harmful for dogs.

E-collars are legal for use in most of the countries but they have already been banned in England and it looks like more countries will join any time soon. As for now, no one can block you from using the one on your dog so it’s your decision only. We, on our side, can only recommend learning more about other training methods before you decide. If you still think that e-collar is the right option for you, please contact a professional dog handler and get professional advice to minimize the potential negative effects of the device.

by GetESA

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