Shock Collars for Dogs: Humane or Insane?

Shock Collars for Dogs: Humane or Insane?

Dog training is easier said than done; sometimes despite your best intentions, a dog can get the best of you! It is best to nip undesirable behavior in the bud, before it can become engrained in your dog. If you let the behaviors persist or if you have a particularly stubborn pooch, it can be very hard to counter the behavior. One training tool you may think about trying are shock collars for dogs, but are they effective, and more importantly safe and humane?

Dog shock collars are highly debated, with firm believers on both sides of the spectrum. I have used an electric collar on my dog with success, and am confident that it was not in any way detrimental to him! A normal, canvas flat collar can be more dangerous!


Oliver wearing shock collar

Oh, how shocking! Let’s talk about the shock itself. In the automatic dog bark collars, the shock is delivered near instantaneously with the bark and is of very short duration (and only the dogs own bark will trigger it, no need to worry about other dogs or noises shocking your pet!). The shock feels like a static shock and wouldn’t be described as pleasant. I’ve actually tried numerous shock collars, on all the intensity settings and none have truly hurt, but they definitely got my attention, and I laughed after each one! I prefer the shock to being pulled on by my neck! Shock collars are not intended to hurt or frighten the dog, but to divert their attention with the element of surprise and a bit of discomfort. If you don’t believe me, look on youtube for videos of people trying them out!

For the more novice dog owner’s among us, using an electronic dog collar for dog barking control is the best thing we can do. You have a window of under two seconds to get your dog to associate your correction, whether verbal or leash correction, with their action. Most of us just can’t deliver! For instance, if you come home after being out and see that your dog had an accident, trying to correct the behavior is useless. Maybe your dog will end up thinking that when you walk through the door it gets punished, or maybe they will associate the correction with a nearby object; either way, they will not be able to connect the dots and figure out the correction was for the accident they had an hour ago.

If your dog is aggressive towards other dogs when you are outside, a shock collar can be the answer. I started using the collar on Oliver because of his on-leash anxiety with other dogs. After one bark and correction per walk, he would end up walking confidently at my side, no longer tempted to bark at passing “friends”. After using the collar for a few weeks, I weaned him off of it, and now he rarely exhibits that behavior. Oliver is a Norfolk Terrier and weighs sixteen pounds, showing that you can successfully use shock collars for small dogs!

When you are shopping for a collar, I recommend getting one with a few levels. The brand we have used is Tri-Tronics; I chose them because they were recommended to me and they are a company that has been around for years. I would start the setting in the mid-range (so on a scale of 1 to 5, start at 3). You don’t want to start at the lowest setting because it might not pose a good enough distraction for your dog; all you would be doing is slowly increasing his tolerance. If your dog is responding well to the shock at the mid-level, you can turn it down bit by bit (over the course of days or weeks) to wean him off. If you find that your dog is still barking at the mid-range, increase it a level or two to help him get the picture.

Shock, what shock? Another important thing is to make sure you don’t react yourself. When your dog barks, especially for the first few times, he will definitely react. When Oliver got shocked for the first time, he did a little yelp, and didn’t know what to think of it. Over time they will realize, “gee, if I bark, I will get this unpleasant feeling… I better stop!” The last thing you want is for them to think you are in any way privy to the shock! Don’t pay any attention to their reaction; act as if you didn’t notice!

There are other kinds of shock collars which can be used for training beyond bark control. These are equipped with a wireless sensor and allow you to control the duration, intensity, and timing of the shock. I believe these are best left to the professionals. Using a collar incorrectly and timing the shocks wrong will result in a fearful dog. Just like other reinforcement methods, you have to deliver the shock within two seconds of the behavior.

For the most part, these collars are a humane way to control your dogs barking. That being said, this is a tool that has the potential to be used wrongly. Never leave the collar on while unattended. If the dog sees a predator (whether squirrel or human) outside of a window, it is only natural for him to bark to protect his home. You wouldn’t want to discourage that behavior or frighten him further. Also, consider your dog’s temperament when selecting the correct type of collar you use for training. If you have a naturally fearful, skittish pet, this is probably not the right training tool. Timid pets can be easily corrected with other methods; it is the more pig-headed, obstinate dogs that require the additional distraction!

If you need help selecting the right size or brand for your dog, or want to talk about training with electronic collars, send me an email, I would love to help.

Related Posts:

6 Responses to Shock Collars for Dogs: Humane or Insane?

  1. jackie says:

    I see that you said the shock collar works for your 16 lb dog, but I am worried about my 6.0 lb dog. The collar just shocked him for the first time and he literally wept it scared him so bad.
    He is an absolute fool when we go on walks bc he barks so much. Any suggestions?

    • Cas says:

      Hi Jackie!

      Believe me, I know what it’s like to walk a dog who just won’t stop barking on walks. Before I tried the true static shock bark collar for my dog, I tried everything. Until I learned more about the bark collars, I assumed they were inhumane, but when used correctly they can be a life-saver!

      To be honest, the first time I used the collar on my dog, he had a similar reaction. The first/second time they get shocked, they are literally shocked! My dog also yelped and cried. I was confident that I wasn’t hurting him (be sure yours is made for a small dog), and I left it on. After that second slip, he really understood that he was shocked when he barked! We rarely had a slip again. The few times he did bark after that, he did not react so drastically. It’s the element of surprise that get’s them more than anything! I also knew how hard-headed and “tough” my dog is… if you have a skittish, shy, timid dog to begin with, a bark collar might not be right for you!

      If your dog is not progressing with the bark collar, or if he continues barking and being upset by the shock, you can try this vibration collar, or a citronella collar. Let me know what happens!!

    • coleen kearon says:


      The problem with my 7 pound dog is that he only barks while I’m not here, and drives all the neighbors crazy.

      If I can’t leave him unattended with the collar, what other options are there? We’ve tried the citronella and sonic collars and he barks right through the citro, not to mention training and prozac.

      Any suggestions are welcome.

  2. Chelsea says:


    I have 2 australian shepherds. One is 2 and one is about 10 months. My 2 year old, Ruby, is a great dog. Responsive, attentive, loyal, wants to please. My 10 month old (male) on the other hand is stubborn, ornery, and rebellious. I’ve accepted the fact that he has been a tough puppy from about 5 months (which is when we got him)… I have kept in mind that even Ruby was a difficult, handful of a puppy and she has turned into a great, amazing dog. But Dexter just seems to be something else….. He was returned to a breeder because the first owner “was moving” and supposedly in the military and could only have one dog. I began thinking this wasn’t actually the case after about a month. He has settled in well and is a sweetie/snuggler maybe 50% of the time. The other 50% of the time he is wrestling with Ruby or eating whatever he can find. (despite the fact that he has an endless amount of chew toys.) Ruby and I are apart of a flyball team and since Dexter became a part of our lives we have included him at our once a week practice as well. His progress has been slow, which i’m fine with. The problem I’ve been having is controlling him off leash at the dog park. If there is a another dog running the fence in the next door pen he will chase them up and down endlessly and they will eventually start fence fighting, which we highly frown upon. And unfortunately the owners on the other side of the fence have no idea that this is a very bad behavior and just think its great that their dog is running back and forth getting a bunch of exercise……. The problem is that Dexter is not phased by me or anyone yelling at him or trying to get in his way. He is not sensitive at home, if you punish him in the deepest voice possible and even put him in the submissive position when he is being stubborn, as soon as it’s all over he forgets what happened and waltzes around like nothing happened and he’s still your best pal. Today at practice I finally decided I am considering getting him a shock collar. I can’t control these undesired behaviors and I don’t want him to be the kind of dog I can’t take anywhere because I can’t control him. Any advice? It isn’t necessarily his barking I need to control by an automated collar…. I would need to be in control of it when he is absolutely not listening to me…. I have a feeling this might be the answer, and hope that maybe i could transition to a collar that just vibrates after he gets the idea….(who knows how long that might take.) I will mention, he has made great progress over the last 5-6 months… He came to us very insecure, almost fearful of being on out of the house, on walks. He would bark aggressively and even give warning chomps to strangers that would abruptly try to pet him. We couldn’t get his attention whatsoever at the dog park. Now he can sit and down at the park and listens to his name. (though it can definitely be a challenge sometimes.) He has gotten much better with strangers as well. I think his first family must have never got him out of the house, which could have had much worse behavioral outcomes for him, i think. He still doesn’t prefer seeing other dogs when we go walking, but usually I can coax him out of creating a scene. He also doesn’t enjoy runners surprising him. I’m working on building his confidence. I know his barking outbursts aren’t because he’s being mean, he acts as though he’s scared and doesn’t know what else to do about it but act as big and tough as possible.

    Thanks for reading.

    Any positive, helpful thoughts would be greatly appreciated :)

  3. Gerry Wood says:

    I have a Bischon-Poo aged 13, blind from diabetes, and always hungry because the food doesn’t always get into the bloodstream efficiently. Even though he eats a lot, his weight is steady or dropping slightly. (He’s now about 26lbs.) For about a year now, his barking in the kitchen area has increased substantially and he’s seldom satiated. Should we use a bark collar? If so, what kind do you recommend?
    Kindest regards,

  4. andrea says:

    Hi, I have a terrier. She is about 10lbs. What is the named of the shock collar you used to curb your dog’s barking? My dog constantly barks at my sister and I don’t know how to stop it. Thx for your help!

Leave a reply