Risks and Concerns

Incorrect Association

A dog’s ability to learn from positive punishment is compromised if the shock is not delivered at the correct time. Amateur dog trainers (the vast majority of dog owners) in particular are not skilled at determining the appropriate time for shocking. To facilitate an association between an undesired behaviour and the punishment, the timing of the punishment is vital (Blackwell and Casey 2006). When dogs don’t associate the pain of being shocked with a behaviour that they can control, they become anxious, fearful and/or associate the pain with other stimuli present at the same time. Error in timing may cause a dog to become fearful of the setting in which the shock was encountered (Polsky 2004). In the case of boundary-activated collars, a dog may become fearful of the backyard or visitors approaching the property. Similarly, remote-activated collars may cause a dog to become fearful of its owner.


Incorrect Intensity, Timing, and Duration

There is no way of knowing the optimal shock to suppress an undesired behaviour. Too high of an intensity and/or too long a duration can result in emotional reactivity that will interfere with a dog’s ability to learn (Polsky 1994), in addition to causing unnecessary pain. Pain is the primary eliciting stimulus for aggression (Johson 1972) an can result in a dangerous, unpredicted dog.



Electric collars, particularly remote controlled controls are so easy to misuse.  Inappropriate punishment can be administered via the remote collar: In a state of anger and frustration owners have been seen to continuously shocked their dog(s) for performing an undesired behaviour even after the behaviour has ceased (Blackwell and Casey 2006). In addition, shock collars can very easily be used an abusive tool for individuals that have a sadistic pleasure in being cruel to animals.



Lesions can develop on the neck if a collar is too tight or has been on for too long. The lesions result from the mechanical abrasion of the electrodes rubbing the skin (Polsky, 2004). In abusive cases severe burns from high intensity electric shocks are possible.

Damage from a boundary-activated collar

An injury from an abusive case of a remote shock collar


Owner-Dog Relationship

Incorrect associations caused by shock collars can have long-lasting and devastating effects on the relationship between an owner and his/her dog. The use of electric shock during training is a painful and stressful experience and dogs can learn to associate their trainer with those shocks, even outside the training context (Stafford 2007).


Equipment Malfunction

Shock collars are subjected to mechanical failure. For remote control collars this can be a problem if the owner has become dependent on the shock stimuli to control his/her dog’s behaviours. It can be a serious problem for boundary-activated collars if they fail to work because dogs can escape and are then exposed to a number of dangers (i.e. traffic, getting lost or stolen etc.).

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