E-collars and bark collars
Let’s face it: puppies and teenage dogs can be a huge pain in the butt. It can be tempting to want to just reach for a remote that could stop your puppy from doing all sorts of nasty things.
Shock collars are sometimes suggested for use to stop puppies from chewing, barking, biting, or behaving aggressively.
But using a shock collar can have unpleasant side effects, especially for a puppy. Here’s why:
- Shock collars (or e-collars) operate by passing electric current into the neck of your dog. This is often called a stimulation. It’s meant to be a deterrent – this means it will range from irritating to downright painful.
- Some will claim that shock collars aren’t meant to be punishment. The fact is, if something reduces your dog’s likelihood to repeat a behavior, it’s punishment. If your puppy’s behavior isn’t changing, then what are you doing?
- Some claim that the stimulation of a shock collar is meant to mimic the nip/correction of a mother dog. The fact is, mother dogs very rarely bite their puppies. This statement is meant to make you feel better because a shock collar is “natural.” But watching videos of mother dogs interacting with puppies will quickly show you that’s not the case.
- Shock collars don’t tell your puppy what TO do. Sure, you might stop the unwanted behavior (because the shock hurts, startles, or is uncomfortable), but it doesn’t teach your puppy how to behave instead.
- “Misbehavior” by your puppy is probably normal puppy behavior. It’s prudent to teach your pup how to behave using positive reinforcement techniques such as treats.
- Bad timing with a shock collar can create fear or even phobias. In a young puppy, this might mean a lifelong fear of other dogs because you shocked him too hard when he jumped on another dog, and now he’s scared of them.
- Improper setting of the shock collar can really hurt or scare your puppy if it’s too high. Set the collar too low, and you might accidentally train your puppy to gradually ignore the shocks.
- For more research on e-collars, see the studies by Sylvia Massen (2018) and Emily Blackwell (2006).
Modern e-collars often come with up to 100 different levels of stimulation. That sounds great – you don’t have to zap your puppy! But remember that in order to be effective, the shock collar must at least be irritating or startling.
These issues with e collars don’t go away with age. However, the problems with creating phobias are much more serious when a puppy is still undergoing socialization.