I’m not shy about my strongdislike for shock collars here at DogBarkStop.com
But despite my personal views, and those of many many other dog owners, vets, organizations and experts who feel the same way, plenty of people are still buying shock collars, or researching information about buying one.
Most dog owners are simply unaware of the potential harm that a shock collar can do to a dog, both physically and psychologically.
Very few people are out to purchase something that could hurt their dog in any way. But with the positive spin marketing behind most of these collars, in addition to a lack of awareness from manufacturers about potential risks, many people are simply mislead into thinking this is a great option for dog bark control when the truth is that shock collars are not a humane way to train a dog.
Punishment is not how to train a dog.
One of the big issues with these types of collars, besides the fact they use a shock as a form of punishment under the disguise of a “correction”, is that they can activate when the dog does not even bark, thus sending a shock to the dog who will be totally confused as to why he is being punished or “corrected” for nothing; or for good behavior!
Virtually every shock collar is known to suffer from this issue according to more than a few users who have had the distressing experience of seeing their dog shocked when the collar has activated despite no barking.
But even when an electronic collar works as designed, it’s nothing short of distressing for a dog.
So unlike my other big guides that I spend countless hours putting together to discover, research and present the facts to ultimately recommend useful and fantastic products for our dogs, this guide is a detailed look at the top shock collars people are currently purchasing and using on their dogs for either bark control or general training (or both).
I go in depth to find out what issues people are having with these collars, which ones might pose the most serious risks based on real experiences, and any which might be considered the “least harmful”.
Ultimately, I’m obviously not going to recommend the purchase or use of any of these, or any other, electric shock dog collars.
But what I will do is lay out the facts and evidence so you’re in a better position to make the most informed possible decision.
What Do The Experts Say About Dog Shock Collars?
Why should you listen to me, you might be asking. Good point. That’s why I’ve gone to such great lengths to find out the policies, opinions, recommendations and thoughts of real experts – vets and animal industry groups – to see what they think about shock collars.
Unsurprisingly, these collars are widely condemned by those who are at the frontline of animal health and welfare. And in some cases, they’ve been banned altogether.
If you only look at the marketing and advertising of the companies who sell these collars, you are quickly led to believe that they are humane, safe, wonderful “training tools” that any dog would be overjoyed to wear. Sadly, this couldn’t be more wrong.
Experts around the world, including vets, humane societies and animal welfare groups, are largely unanimous when it comes to their opinions (based on real evidence and science) that shock collars are cruel and unsafe for dogs and cats (or any animal). Let’s take a closer look at what specific groups, organizations and expert individuals have to say about using electric shock or so-called static correction collars on dogs for training or bark control.
In Wales, electric shock collars have been banned completely by law since 2010. The ban includes all electronic shock collars and devices, including those operated by remote control. The ban came about as a result of extensive review and consultation the animal welfare implications of both dogs and cats in the use of these collars, and the conclusion was that they are not humane, and therefore the use of shock collars in Wales is illegal. Vibration and citronella collars are not banned.
The Australian Veterinary Association, which is the peak body for vets in the country, has a policy page on their website dedicated specifically to denouncing shock collars. They clearly state in the first line that “Behaviour-modifying collars that use electric shock should not be used on animals and should be banned.” The AVA is adamant that positive reinforcement is the way to train a dog or to modify unwanted behavior, and shock collars are a form of negative reinforcement. The AVA states that e-collars (electronic collars: another name for shock collars) cause both short and long term stress to a dog which can bring about even more problematic behavior like increased anxiety. It’s clear: the Australian Veterinary Association is completely against the use of shock collars.
The RSPCA, the main animal welfare group in Australia, is also clearly against to the use of shock collars. Their policy states that the RSPCA is “opposed to the use of any electronically activated or other devices which deliver electric shocks”. The RSPCA considers electronic collars to be a form of punishment which inflict distress and pain on a dog.
In the UK, the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors (APBC)has a position that shock collars are inappropriate devices which rely on inflicting pain and discomfort, bringing about fear and anxiety in a dog, as well as risking the entire relationship a person has with their dog. The APBC only recommends humane, rewards based behavior modification training, and not punishment.
In a sign of how serious the experts take this matter, the British Veterinary Association (BVA) and the British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA) in 2016 called for a total ban in the UK of electronic training collars. Acknowledging that these collars are a form of punishment which the associations point out have numerous welfare concerns. The BVA says that electric shock collars have a painful and negative effect on dogs which cause them unnecessary suffering. Like all experts, the BVA and BSAVA advocate positive reinforcement training.
The respected COAPE Association of Applied Pet Behaviourists and Trainerspresents extensive evidence on the terrible effects of the use of e-collars on dogs, and clearly state their opposition to these products based on real world, and very alarming and distressing examples of what can go wrong with the use of shock collars. A must read article.
Electronic collars do however still seem to be more widely used throughout the USA, where little to no regulation exists surrounding their use unlike in some locations in the UK, Europe and Australia.
A University of Lincoln study in the UKin 2014 concluded that “electronic training collars present welfare risk to pet dogs”. Their research determined that stress and anxiety resulted from the use of shock collars. Both negative physical and behavioral changes were noted during the study on dogs who had worn electronic shock collars, indicating adverse effects that were in line with pain and aversion reactions. The researchers determined that “the routine use of e-collars even in accordance with best practice, as suggested by collar manufacturers, presents a risk to the well-being of pet dogs”.
I could of course continue on listing more authority sources and their research, opinions and policies of dog shock collars. But I think we get the idea.
But what about citronella collars? It’s true that some of the above sources also advise against the use of spray collars, and this should absolutely be the case if a person is going to use a spray collar as a means of punishment and as a sole attempt to stop a dog from barking without any form of training. That’s not what a spray collar is designed for. It’s a deterrent that causes no pain, and when used properly can be an effective part of a much wider training and behavioral modification plan that focuses on positive reinforcement.
PetSafe Basic, Deluxe & Elite Bark Control Shock Collars
PetSafe is a known and trusted brand. I certainly have nothing against the PetSafe brand. They make some good spray collars for bark control and training as well as countless other useful products for our dogs and other pets. But they also make “static correction” shock collars which are top sellers.
Reports of the shock mechanism not shutting off, resulting in dogs being constantly and repeatedly shocked.
Manufacturer states that the collar shouldn’t be used to control aggressive behavior, however interpreting barking as a sign of aggression or not is not always possible, especially in the early stages.
If the collar is not safe to use for “aggressive behavior” then one has to wonder why (most likely because getting a painful shock is going to make a dog more aggressive), and what makes it safe to use for any other type of behavioral issues.
There have also been numerous reports of this collar malfunctioning after only a few weeks (or less) of use, raising the alarm that it’s a low quality product.
These are just the most popular and top selling shock collars out there. The products detailed in this guide are no worse or better than any other bark control collar that uses a “static correction” or shock mechanism to try and stop a dog from barking, or to undertake other training. Due to the huge amount of “white label” type collars out there, which are all very much the same but just branded differently (and alarmingly, many which have provided incentives to customers to write positive reviews), it is pointless to list and talk about each and every one as they all rely on the same basic functions.
In fact, it’s the cheap, generic, unknown branded collars that you should be steering clear of the most. The origins of these collars is usually not known, and as a result they won’t have been through any sort of quality control as brands like PetSafe and other established companies undertake. So despite the fact I’ve listed the “best known” collars in this guide, the absolute ones to steer 100% clear of are the unknown brands, re-labeled, white label, generic electronic dog collars that are simply imported in bulk from China and rebranded by countless sellers.
These generic collars are often sold by fly-by-night sellers who are not accountable to customers, and rarely offer decent customer service in English; if at all. Buyer beware.
My intention in writing this guide is to steer people away from shock collars as much as possible – I don’t deny that, and while my opinion would be controversial amongst the many people who are happy to use these types of collars on their dog, I continue to stick by my view that they are high risk, cruel, inappropriate products for a dog to wear. Any risk of distress or injury is too much – so why would you take the chance of hurting, frightening or causing deep anxiety to your dog by using shock collars, when there are far better and more humane options out there for stopping excessive barking and training your dog?