Last Updated/Info Checked on October 21, 2023 by Linda Michaels
Shock collars come in great variety these days. However, more than their functions, one must understand their use first.
They are not supposed to be used to punish dogs at all. As a trainer, I plead with my clients to not do that at all.
That’s because the dog may run into the following unwanted shock collar side effects:
- It may cause perforations in the skin.
- Instills fear that causes anxiety.
- Affects the bond between you and the dog.
- Unnecessary use can stress your dog to the point of PTSD.
- It can impair the dog’s normal functioning such as reactive barking.
Shock collars are supposed to act as a safety devices. Therefore, I recommend that you use them sparingly.
The Negative Aspects of Prolonged Use
Shock collars correct unwanted behaviors but you have to be careful not to use them too much for everything the dog does.
Your dog has a personality. It is bound to exhibit that. For example, it may bark at strangers, other animals, and many unwanted things.
But if you keep on zapping it for that, it may not bark at anything at all, fearing that it may receive the zap.
I’ve seen some folks use the collar excessively, especially the zapping or shocking function to the point that the dog experiences the following negative aspects.
Before you jump to the points I’ve mentioned below, watch the following video by Dr. Peter Dobias (DVM) to understand the negative effects of a shock collar and what they recommend as an alternative to these collars.
1. Perforations in the skin
The contact points of a collar target the skin of the dog and transmit benign electric shocks.
On every remote of a collar, there are some levels of shocks needed to be adjusted before the shock is administered.
Now, in my lifetime, I haven’t gone above level 3. Some remotes come with a level 100. Would you use it? No.
However, some people go overboard with it. That’s when the damage starts happening. The electric shock keeps on burning the flesh until there are perforations of the size of the contact points.
2. Fear and Anxiety
Being frequently zapped, a dog loses its confidence. If it were counter-surfing before you zapped it, it won’t do it anymore.
But one behavior after another corrected for a long time until the dog’s personality is overshadowed by fear and anxiety is plausible.
When I’m training dogs, I only correct over-destructive behaviors.
For example, counter surfing has to be corrected, but it can chew on unnecessary things. The moment it starts chewing on the sofa, I apply a mild correction.
All in all, my method is like telling the dog what he is allowed to do and what not.
3. May Affect The Bond Between You and The Dog
Relationships based on fear and punishment have never worked.
Not in the human world, and certainly not in the animal world.
If you electrocute your dog excessively, it’s going to destroy the love the pup has in its heart for you.
Without the collar, it may become more aggressive on you. No matter how much you try, your relationship could stand ruined for the rest of your dog’s life.
4. Unnecessary Use Can Cause PTSD
PTSD in dogs has the same symptoms as in humans.
The causes may differ.
In dogs, continued stress could lead to PTSD. Using the shock feature of the collars for extended periods could lead to that just like that – without you even noticing it happened.
There’s definitely no use crying over spilled milk. So, why not avoid this when there’s still time?
5. Impairs Your Dog’s Normal Functioning
The barking, yelping, growling, and other sounds a dog makes mean something.
Obviously, you have to correct separation anxiety where the dog barks incessantly. However, correcting reactive barking could lead to fear.
When you use the collar every time the dog barks, you’re potentially interfering with his normal functioning.
During my time training dogs with separation anxiety, car aggression, or dog aggression, I tend to correct only those.
As I said, you should stop meddling with the dog’s behaviors that do not cause harm.
If it doesn’t bark when a burglar enters your home, who’s to be blamed? Similarly, if it doesn’t react to a bear lounging beside your pool, isn’t that abnormal?
Should You Use The Collar?
You should definitely use it sparingly whenever a damaging behavior is causing stress for your neighbor, yourself, or anyone around you.
Living in the woods could mean your dog barking at every shadow it sees from the backyard. You know that’s useless barking. So, you put on a collar.
The Shock Collar Modes and Their Tips
However, before zapping the same dog, consider buying collars that have more than one operating mechanism.
Modern ones come with as many as three different correction methods:
With the help of their dedicated buttons, you could first try the sound or the beep, then the vibration, and as a last resort, the shock.
1. Keep The Shock Intensity Low
Some collars come with shock levels ranging from 1 to 100. This is partly a marketing gimmick because level 100 is sometimes beyond the capacity of a dog.
Whenever you try a collar on your dog, first try it on yourself and see that the level you’re applying is not too great to cause skin or psychological damage. If you think it’s fine for you, simply introduce it to your dog as well.
2. Do Not Leave The Collar On For Days
Heck, do not leave it overnight as well.
You should use the collars and its zapping option only when you’re going outside, or the dog’s enjoying its freedom to run in the backyard fence.
Inside, only use it to correct behaviors such as couch chewing, biting, howling, or barking.
3. Check The Skin
Keep an eye on the condition of your dog’s skin.
If there are slight indications of perforations that tell about the contact points digging into the skin, stop using the collar at once.
4. Opt for Silicone Contact Points
Silicone-covered contact points are benign. They do not penetrate as metal ones do.
Also, they are mostly used to send vibrations to the skin rather than shocks.
Shock Collar Side Effects – Conclusion
While there are many good uses for shock collars, using them excessively like everything else could cause harm to your dog.
Those harms could include perforations, psychological distress, and many other things discussed above.
Therefore, I suggest you use the vibration and sound corrections and only use the shock when there’s a dire need.