Are Electronic Collars Cruel? Setting the Record Straight

I’m probably going to lose a lot of friends writing this article, but that’s okay. I’m not here to make friends. I’m here to help people overcome dog behavior challenges.

What’s this Electronic Collar you speak of?

First of all, if you are not familiar with an electronic collar (otherwise known as an e-collar, remote collar,remote collar electronic collar or shock collar), I’ll give you a brief description. An e-collar is a two piece (neck collar and remote control) remote controlled collar that sits on the dog’s neck. The operator can give the dog an electric shock from long distances anytime he presses a button on the remote control. Much like your television’s remote control, the remote control of the e-collar is wireless and some have a range of up to one mile.

The collar features two (one positive, one negative) metal sensors that touch the dog’s skin when the neck collar is applied. The operator can then adjust the level of shock. Each brand and model e-collar has their own range of shock strength going from low to high. The lower level shocks are similar to the sensation one would get from a static shock from a carpet (I’ve tried it on myself) whereas the higher level shock is more similar to that of a police taser.

Sounds Cruel Right?

I like to think of e-collars like pain medication. Morphine, for example can be used to relieve pain and help people heal from injuries and other damage to their health. But in the hands of a drug addict, morphine can be quite damaging to their well-being.

The same is true for e-collars. In the hands of a trained professional or a dog owner who knows how to operate it, the electronic collar can be a both humane and effective training tool that can teach your dog to stay by your side, come when called, and ensure that he never runs away.

Conversely, in the hands of a sociopath or a well intentioned dog owner who doesn’t know how to use it, the e-collar can be abusive.

So How does it Work?

  • After charging the electronic collar, turn the collar (and its corresponding remote control) on.
  • Then, simply attach the collar (could be a belt collar or a snap collar depending on the make and model) to the dog’s neck.
  • the collar should sit snug on the dog’s neck
  • Move the collar left to right to get the hair follicles out of the way so the sensors will make contact with the dog’s skin.
  • Once everything is activated (refer to your manual), wait for the dog to commit his favorite sin (for example: ignoring the ‘come’ command, playing with trash, or harassing other people.)
  • Once misbehaves, give him a verbal correction (ie. ‘Stop!’, ‘Come!’ etc…).
  • Give him 2-3 seconds to heed your command.
  • If he listens, don’t touch any buttons on the remote
  • If he ignores your request, hold down on the ‘constant’ button of the shock collar and slowly turn the dial from zero to higher.
  • When the dog reacts to the shock (he will often jump sporadically), you will know that you are at the right level of shock for training your dog.
  • Each dog’s threshold is different depending on the dog’s strength and ‘mental toughness’.
  • Most shock collars come with two types of buttons ‘nick’ and constant’
  • The ‘nick’ button will give your dog a split second shock
  • The ‘constant’ button allows you to hold down on the button for ten seconds in case you need to adjust the level mid-shock.

The Truth About E-collars

Although I want to tell you how mean and cruel it is for your dog, the annoying truth is that it works. and it works really really well.

It is the single most effective way of getting your dog trained minus the headache. And it goes without saying that no conclusive studies have shown that e-collars have any lasting physical or psychological effects on dogs who have worn them.

Conclusion

So when people ask me if electronic collars are cruel, I usually respond by telling them that it depends who’s operating them. E-collars have been the subject of much debate amongst animal rights activists who successfully lobbied provinces like Quebec to outlaw them. Although I think that was a big mistake on Quebec’s part as many French Canadian dog owners will never be able to enjoy total off-leash control of their dog,.

If I was president, I certainly would not outlaw a tool that works so well at creating well behaved dogs. Remember, some of these dog’s behavior was so bad that they would have been given to the pound or euthanized if it weren’t for the remote collar. However, I may consider compelling dog owners to pass an ‘e-collar crash-course’, to obtain ownership, much like a driver’s license. And just like a driver’s license, a remote collar’s results, be they positive or negative, all depends on who is behind the wheel.

was this post helpful? Feel free to comment below.

David Sidman is a certified professional K-9 trainer with a specialization in training military and Police working dogs. Sidman qualified as an I.D.F explosive detection dog handler and was certified in Police K-9 Training by the Eastern States Working dog Association (ESWDA)

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