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What is Shock Training

What is Shock Training

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Shock Myths and Misconceptions

Shock Myths and Misconceptions

Electronic Fences  – What You Need To know

Electronic Fences – What You Need To know

Are Electronic Shock Collars Painful?

Are Electronic Shock Collars Painful?

Shock Free Coalition

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Shock Myths and Misconceptions
Shock Free Coalition

Shock Myths and Misconceptions

#1 — “The shock collar doesn’t hurt my dog. I tested it on my arm. it’s just a little vibration.”...
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Are Electronic Shock Collars Painful?
Shock Free Coalition
A New Study Reveals Some Answers By Sophia Yin, DVM, MS Trainers often debate about the use of electronic shock...
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Electronic Fences  – What You Need To know
Shock Free Coalition
Electronic Fencing What you need to know Written by Eileen Anderson. Sourced from Eileen and Dogs Electronic fences, e-fences, radio fences,...
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What is Shock Training
Shock Free Coalition

What is Shock Training

Is It Really Just A Tap? Shock Collar Training Explained Written by Eileen Anderson. Sourced from Eileen and Dogs   This...
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Shock Free Coalition

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Shock Myths and Misconceptions
Shock Free Coalition

Shock Myths and Misconceptions

#1 — “The shock collar doesn’t hurt my dog. I tested it on my arm. it’s just a little vibration.”

I know that it seems like the shock collar doesn’t hurt the dog, because when we test the collar out on ourselves, it might not feel so bad, but unfortunately it can be very painful and scary for dogs. In fact, if the shock is not painful or scary, it won’t work to teach your dog anything.

Dogs need motivation to do the things we ask of them — no different than us getting paid to go to work. We have choices as to how to motivate them: we can give or take away something the pup enjoys, or we can give or take away something he finds unpleasant, scary, or painful.
For example, we can give pups delicious chicken when we call them to us, to teach them that coming back to us is a REALLY good thing, or we can use a shock collar that hurts them until they come to us. One way or another, we have to give them a reason to come.

Curious to see how a shock collar feels on people? Watch these videos:


#2 — “My trainer says that I should never use food to train my dog. She says I should only use praise so that he learns to respect me.”

It makes a lot of sense when you hear it, right? But the reality is that there is a lot of misinformation floating around about dogs. The sad truth is that trainers who make this claim are not being transparent. What’s motivating the dog to stop jumping or barking or to come to you is the fact that the dog is trying to keep from being hurt by the electric shock — not the praise.

So we have a choice: we can give the dog something delicious like CHICKEN for doing what we ask, or we can hurt or scare him to do it. The chicken comes with the wonderful side effect of your dog loving you more for giving him something fantastic. The electric shock comes with the potential side effect of your dog becoming afraid of you, other people, and/or other animals and potentially biting someone.

#3 — “I don’t use the shock feature anymore. I only use the collar with the beep on now.”

If I pull out a gun, and I cock it, are you any less scared than if I fired it? If your dog does what you ask when he hears the beep, it means that he has learned that the beep predicts a painful shock, just like cocking the gun predicts a bullet hitting you. While the collar is no longer physically hurting the dog, it can still be scarring him emotionally.Co

#4 — “There is no other way I could walk my dog. He is too strong.”

Walking our dogs can be so frustrating — and even scary — sometimes. We’re asking these four-legged guys, who can be incredibly strong, to stick by our side and go at our pace, regardless of their natural gate or external factors such as a squirrel darting by or a dog park getting closer.

Old-school dog training methods used devices designed to cut off the dog’s air (i.e. choke collars) or hurt him (i.e. shock collars and prong collars) in order to teach him to walk politely. Thankfully, we have much better technology today that is designed to help dogs walk with a loose leash without hurting or scaring them.

Front-clip harnesses — such as the Sensesation Harness or the Freedom No Pull Harness — clip in the front of the dog (as you may have guessed from the name), to allow physics to take over and teach the dog to slow down. If he pulls ahead of the person holding onto the leash, the dog ends up turning around in the opposite direction than he wanted to go. The good thing that he wanted (moving forward toward something) was taken away from him. In order to be able to keep heading to that good thing, the pup has to slow down his pace.

#5 — “The electric ‘fence’ will keep my dog safe and happy.”

First, let’s talk about how electric fences work.

The dog wears a shock collar which beeps to tell him he’s approaching a sensor wire buried underground. If he starts to cross over the wire line, he receives a shock to the neck to get him to move away. If he doesn’t find the shock annoying, painful, or scary, there’s no motivation to stop him from barreling through.

Must be more motivating – Shock collars only work to keep the dog on the lawn if the discomfort from the collar is more meaningful to him than the squirrel or bike or soccer ball or dog going by on the other side of the “fence.” Many dogs find the world outside of the containment system worth the pain they will endure to cross the line, and once they are off the property, they can run into traffic or encounter other animals who could hurt them. Sadly, when these dogs try to return, many fear the painful shock and can’t get back home.

People and other animals have free access – Because there is no physical barrier, people or other animals can freely come onto your property and harm your dog. Sadly, it’s not uncommon to read stories about other animals such as coyotes attacking pups who are outside alone, in a yard with an electronic containment system.

Dogs can become fearful of and aggressive toward passersby – With any aversive training device such as a shock collar, there is always a risk of “fallout behaviors” developing. Say your Border Collie, Marcus, is outside every afternoon when the kids next door play soccer on their lawn. Sometimes the ball rolls over to the edge of your property, and when Marcus chases after it, he gets shocked for attempting to cross the containment line. If the boys are right there to collect the ball when Marcus gets shocked, he could associate the pain with the kids and become fearful of children. And when dogs are scared, they use their sharp teeth and powerful jaws to defend themselves, so the odds increase that Marcus will bite a child.

Dogs can become afraid of sounds – Because the shock is preceded by a beep, dogs can develop a fear of similar sounds, which can make life in our highly techie world difficult for those pups and the people around them. The dogs might tuck tail and flee in terror every time an iPhone beeps, for example, or a certain frequency plays on the TV or radio. Sound phobias are extremely difficult for animals to overcome, often requiring assistance from a veterinary behaviorist and medication to help them cope.

Dogs can become afraid to go outside – Some dogs learn to associate the lawn with the pain from the shock and become too scared to go outside or step off the front porch. They were absolutely happy to trot out onto the yard to pee before the collar, but now they won’t step foot onto the grass.

To overcome this newfound fear, we use a process called “desensitization and counterconditioning,” which takes a great deal of time and patience to work. This issue can also become quite expensive, as most people need help from a qualified trainer or behavior consultant to do the training correctly.

Basically, we figure out what location the dog is comfortable starting at (maybe it’s inside the doorway that leads to the front yard, or it could be somewhere on the front steps), and then we give him a party of delicious foods at that spot. When he learns that that location predicts tasty treats, we move a little bit closer to the grass, but once again, only to a spot where he feels safe and comfortable. This is a simplification of the process, but it can, at least, give you an idea of why it takes time and patience — and an advanced ability to read the dog’s body language — to help a pup overcome fear.

#6 — “There is no other way I can train my dog to avoid snakes than to use a shock collar.”

We would like to direct you to a webinar conducted with The Pet Professional Guild and Pamela Johnson on shock-free snake safety which will thoroughly answer your questions about how dogs can learn to be safe around snakes without the use of shock.

This webinar will provide details about the training process.  We will also share with you the most common question we receive about shock-free snake safety is, “how do you stop the dog from going to a snake when their person is not with them?” This is trained as a cue transfer. You first train the dog to move away from the snake/toad/insert other threat, with a learned cue. Then, you transfer the cue to be the sight/scent/sound of the snake. So, when they see the snake, they are to move away.  But also remember that dogs left unattended always run the risk of running into something that may be of danger to them.



Are Electronic Shock Collars Painful?
Shock Free Coalition

Are Electronic Shock Collars Painful?

A New Study Reveals Some Answers

By Sophia Yin, DVM, MS

Trainers often debate about the use of electronic shock collars. Some trainers find these collars unethical and unsafe. The pro-collar camp takes a different stance. Some say it just distracts the dog, calling it “tap technology” and others say it may be painful at the instant but then the dog learns to behave and there are no lasting negative effects.

In 2003, researchers from the Netherlands, Matthijs Schilder and Joanne van der Borg, assessed the short and long term behavioral effects of dog training with the help of shock collars. They wanted to know three things:

  1. Do shock collars cause pain and fear or just cessation of bad behavior? This could be evaluated by looking for signs of fear and pain when dogs receive a shock.
  2. If the shock collars cause pain and fear, do the signs of fear fade afterwards such that the dog is completely normal or do signs of fear and anxiety persist? For instance, if dogs have received shock on the training ground do they show more signs of fear during non-training times in the same area when compared to dogs that have not been shocked?
  3. And lastly, the researchers wondered if they could distinguish shocked from non-shocked dogs by fear/anxiety responses outside the training grounds. That is, are dogs who have been shocked more fearful in non-training locations? If so, it indicates they associate the handler or being given commands with the reception of shocks.

The Study Group

Schilder and van der Borg used Malinois, Malinois crosses, German Shepherds and one Rottweiler from a group of dogs being trained for their official (IPO ) certificate as police dogs as well as dogs being trained for standard watchdog training for a comparable (VH3) certificate, which is the highest possible in this type of training. Because these were working dogs they differ from the general population of dogs in that they are higher energy, higher drive, and have a higher tolerance for the correction-based training for which they are bred.

The 32 shock-collar group dogs (S-dogs) received shocks during training. The control group received no shocks but did receive other harsh methods including choke chain corrections, pinch collar corrections, other physical corrections (C-dogs). The researchers had no influence upon the methods and aids used, rather they just observed the trainers during the routine training sessions and “free walking” sessions in which the dog was not being trained or given corrections.

Overall they observed 32 shock collar-group dogs receiving 107 shocks and 16 control dogs who received other types of corrections instead. They evaluated control and experimental dogs in three situations:

  1. First a free walk on the training grounds in which the dog was walked on leash but no orders were given to the dog. This was to see if there was a behavioral difference between the non-shocked vs the shock collar dogs and whether the type of correction had a lasting effect outside of the correction-situation.
  2. An obedience work session on the training ground which included the following commands—sit and down in motion, heeling in slow, normal and fast walking speed with changes of direction, and recall to the handler. This situation was to determine whether the S-dogs showed signs of fear or pain when corrected.
  3. A protection work session on the training round in which the dog performed a number of exercises such as search for criminal, hold and bark at criminal, escape and defense, followed by attack by the criminal, and finally transport back.
  4. They also filmed the dogs during a “free-walk” session at a park (a new location) and then an obedience session at the park. This was to see whether there was a difference between control dogs and S-dogs and whether S-dog associated the shock correction with the handler.

The Affects of Shock-Collar Corrections on Body Posture

The study found that in the 32 dogs that received a total of 107 shocks, there was an immediate direct effect in which the dogs most commonly:

  • Lowered their of body posture (22 of 32 dogs)
  • Gave high-pitched yelps (17 of 32 dogs)
  • Gave tongue flicks (18 of 32 dogs)
  • Lowered their tail (13 of 32 dogs)
  • Squealed (13 of 32 dogs)
  • Turned their head down and to the side to avoid the shock (7 of 32 dogs)
  • Moved away (avoidance) (14 of 32 dogs)
  • Gave a barking scream (5 of 32 dogs)
  • Crouched  (6 of 32 dogs)

Dogs also lifted their front paw, lowered their back, jumped, licked their lips, circled, trembled, and sniffed the ground. All of the listed behavioral responses are signs of fear, pain, or anxiety and stress. Seven dogs showed no reaction.

The Effects of Previous Shock-Collar Corrections on Behavior at the Training Ground

Dogs that had been shocked previously showed more signs of anxiety and fear then the control dogs during free-walking on the training grounds as well as when they were being trained. During the free-walking and obedience work, S-dogs exhibited significantly more lip licking and lower ear positions indicating lasting effects of shock on overall fear and anxiety. During the protection work they showed more paw-raising.

The Effects of Previous Shock-Collar Corrections on Behavior in a New Setting (The Park)

Dogs that had been shocked previously showed more signs of fear and anxiety in the park situation than the control dogs. They showed a higher frequency of low ear position during the free walk than the control dogs and lower ear position and tongue flicking during obedience exercises in the park.

Behavior on the Training Ground Vs the Park and When Being Trained Vs on Free Walk.

Dogs that had previously been shocked were more frightened on the training ground than in the park. They carried their tails lower on the training ground than in the park and lifted their paw more. They were also more frightened during training than when being walked—ears and tail position were lower when being trained. However, non-shocked dogs also showed more signs of fear when being trained than when being walked.

The Take Home Messages

Overall the researchers concluded that even when compared to working dogs trained using choke chain and pinch collar corrections, dogs trained with electronic shock collars showed more fear and anxiety behaviors than those trained by other traditional police dog and watchdog methods. They concluded that:

  • Avoidance behavior and fear postures during the shocks indicated that the shock elicited both pain and fear and therefore were not just a distraction or nuisance.
  • The fact that the dogs showed more fear than control dogs both in the non-training situations in the familiar training grounds as well as in the park indicates that dogs are learning to associate the shock, not just with the unwanted behavior, but also with the location/environment as well as the trainer. The researchers found some evidence that some dogs had also learned to associate commands with shock. For example they state that one dog, shocked immediately after getting a “heel’ command, yelped after getting the next “heel” command without being shocked. The authors point out that the dog was not given a chance to respond after given the “heel” command, rather the command was immediately followed by the correction, hence increasing the likelihood that this type of aversion association would be made.
  • The researches state that in the presence of the handler, the dog has learned to expect something aversive. “The enormous rewards the dogs experience during training i.e. chasing down, catching a criminal and winning the sleeve, do not counter the negative effects of getting shocked. This is in spite of the fact that handlers of non-shocked dogs admitted that they use prong collars and that their dogs experienced beatings and other harsh punishment, such as kicks or choke collar corrections.”
  • Both dogs trained using electronic shock collars and those trained with other traditional coercive methods (choke chain, pinch collar, physical punishment) showed more signs of fear and anxiety when being trained than when on a free walk.

Interestingly, the results did show that 7 dogs out of 32 (22%)  showed no signs of fear or pain while actually receiving the electronic collar shock which indicates that some dogs bred for high drive and to withstand the demands of the coercive-type training appear to have no pain or fear of the shock. The study does not indicate whether these 7 dogs failed to show fear and anxiety in the other test situations though.

Their final thoughts—it would be interested to see whether the shocked dogs also show more signs of fear with a different handler and the next step is to compare protection and guard dogs in a more “friendly” way.

Schilder, M., Van der Borg, J., 2004. Training dogs with the help of the shock collar: short and long term behavioural effects. Appl Anim Beh Sci, 85, 319-344.
Sourced January 31st 2011


Electronic Fences  – What You Need To know
Shock Free Coalition

Electronic Fences – What You Need To know

Electronic Fencing What you need to know

Written by Eileen Anderson. Sourced from Eileen and Dogs

boundary flags for electronic pet containment fence, e-fence, shock fence, or radio fenceElectronic fences, e-fences, radio fences, Invisible Fences™, pet containment fences: they all amount to the same thing. A system where your dog wears a radio controlled electronic collar that shocks him whenever he crosses a certain perimeter, sometimes marked (at least at first) with little flags. If you are considering this kind of fence, there are some things you need to know that the people who market them won’t tell you. The fences and accompanying collars are marketed as safe, painless, and foolproof by the companies that make them and the stores and individuals who sell them. And they seem to offer a simple solution for situations where it’s hard or not allowed to put up a real fence. Unfortunately, invisible fences are not safe, they are not foolproof, and they are certainly not painless. But you don’t have to take my word for it. There’s plenty of evidence, and it’s not on the side of the salespeople. I’ve got no vested interest. But the fence companies and installers do.

Table of Contents

  1. The Warm, Fuzzy Image
  2. About Electric Shock
  3. Problem #1: Your Dog Is Not Safe
  4. Problem #2: The Shock Can Easily Be Associated with the Wrong Thing
  5. Problem #3: Your Dog Can Still Get Out: Then What Happens?
  6. Problem #4: The Collar Can Malfunction or Be Set Incorrectly
  7. Problem #5: You Could Be Liable
  8. “Freedom” for your Dog?
  9. Resources

The Warm, Fuzzy Image: It Sounds So Safe and Harmless!

Here is the product description for one of the well-known electronic fence setups, quoted here for purposes of critique. “The “Famous Brand” wireless fence pet containment system is a revolutionary concept that provides the safest, simplest form of pet containment ever. Plug in the transmitter somewhere inconspicuous in your home. The transmitter emits a 17.5 kHz radio signal around your home. Your pet wears a lightweight receiver collar that “listens” for the signal. While the collar is receiving the signal your dog is free to run and play in your yard. When he approaches the boundary of the signal area he receives a warning beep. If your dog does not return he receives a static correction which is startling but not harmful. With a little simple training your dog will quickly learn his boundaries. The training of your pet is a key element with the “Famous Brand” wireless fence. Follow the easy instruction and training manual that is included.” I hesitate to reproduce this here because it is quite effective persuasive writing. With words and phrases like, “safest,” “simplest,” “inconspicuous,” “lightweight,””free to run and play,” “static correction,” “not harmful,” “simple training,” and “easy instruction,” it paints a picture of something benign, humane, and easy to use, that works consistently. Here is a rewritten version, omitting the warm and fuzzy language and using complete descriptions of the processes involved. “The “Famous Brand” electronic fence system uses a shock collar connected to a radio transmitter with the goal of keeping your dog inside a chosen area. Electric shock has been used in laboratory experiments for decades for behavioral studies to put animals in a state of stress or fear and is also linked to increased aggression. Plug in the transmitter in your house. The transmitter emits a 17.5 kHz radio signal. Your pet wears a shock collar that will be triggered by a change in the signal. The collar must be fastened tightly on the dog’s neck so that the probes will poke through the dog’s fur and press firmly into his skin. Even when not generating a shock, the collar is likely to be quite uncomfortable. While the collar is receiving the standard signal your dog is safe from shock. When he approaches the boundary of the signal area he receives a warning beep. If your dog does not return, or goes through the boundary, he receives a shock to his neck that can range from a tingle to very painful, depending on the setting you choose. The instructions describe how you will test the shock on your dog when you adjust the settings, but there is no objective way to tell exactly how much it will hurt him, or whether it will effectively stop him at the barrier when he is excited. Also, if he triggers the shock by going through the boundary, he will end up outside the designated area and free to go where he wants. He will probably not cross the boundary again to return to the yard. The instruction manual describes how to train your dog to stay inside the boundaries. However, the “Famous Brand” electronic fence system can not be guaranteed harmless or reliable, nor does it have any way to prevent other animals or people from entering your yard. That sounds like a different product, doesn’t it?

About Electric Shock

shock signalIn order to make an informed decision about using an electronic fence, you need to understand a bit about the effects of electric shock on animals. The shock collar and e-fence industries go to great lengths to make the shocks induced by collars seem benign, calling them “stims,” “taps,” “sensations,” or “pressure” but they are inarguably electric shocks. In experimental psychology and animal behavior studies, electric shock is the standard laboratory method to scare or hurt an animal and put it into a state of stress. In Seligman’s classic experiments on learned helplessness, inescapable shock was the mechanism by which both rats and dogs shut down and stopped responding. Shocks are sudden, painful, and usually unlike anything the animal has ever felt before. There are studies of dogs trained with shock collars, including with trainers experienced with the method, that show longterm negative behavior changes centering on fear and stress. The shocking mechanism of collars for electronic fences is the same as that of other shock collars. The two most recent studies of shock collars showed that shock collars are detrimental to dogs’ welfare. This article summarizes the findings of the recent studies along with some previous ones, and also has links to the studies themselves: The End for Shock Collars? Shock collars used for electronic pet fences can likely cause all of the problems referenced by the studies. In addition, there is often no human supervising the dog. (That’s a major reason for having a fence.) That absence increases the chance of the dog associating the shock with events in the environment and causing the problems delineated above, and means that there is no one to help if the collar malfunctions. There is one study specifically addressing electronic fencing systems:

>Can Aggression in Dogs Be Elicited Through the Use of Electronic Pet Containment Systems? –Richard Polsky.

The answer to the question posed in the title is that is sure looks that way. Dr. Polsky is appropriately conservative about making broad generalizations but his data are strongly indicative of problems. He analyzes five cases of dog-to-human aggression specifically associated with being shocked by an electronic fence and charts the situations and specific behavior of the dogs. He cites previous research that has shown that shock-induced aggression is typically intense and vicious, with repeated bites. (It should tell us something that shock is also used in laboratories to induce aggressive behavior in animals.) In addition, aggression induced by shock tends to be without the warning signals that dogs usually give when prompted to aggression by external events, and this was borne out by the dog attacks associated with e-fences. Dr. Polsky’s final statement is as follows:

…manufacturers need to acknowledge the risks involved and make consumers aware that the systems are not foolproof and that some dogs could attack a person as a result of having received electric shock.

Following are some of the problems that can easily befall dogs whom people try to contain with an electronic fence.

Problem #1: Your Dog Is Not Safered sign for a "Pet Stop" electronic fence

An electronic fence may keep your dog in but it can’t keep anything else out. Electronic fences leave your dog unprotected from humans, animals, or anything else that comes by your house or into your yard. The electronic fence offers your dog zero protection over being teased, harassed, or stolen by humans, attacked by other animals, or ingesting or interacting with anything inappropriate that someone tosses into your yard. The boundary of your yard may not even be clear to passers-by. Unlike with a physical fence, there is absolutely nothing between your dog and the rest of the world. Even if you have the biggest, most imposing dog in the world, it is still vulnerable to harm in this situation. That’s a dealbreaker right there, before we even get to the harm of the actual shock.

Problem #2: The Shock Can Easily Be Associated with the Wrong Thing

sign for Invisible Fence, electronic pet containment fence, e-fence, shock fence, or radio fence

Dogs (and humans) learn by association. We see this all the time. Dogs pay attention to what things might predict other things. Your getting out the clippers means they’re about to get their toenails clipped. Your picking up the leash means they are probably about to go for a walk. They develop emotional responses accordingly. This means that your dog can very easily come to fear and/or aggress towards people and other dogs due to the fence and collar, because if he sees anything that excites him and causes him to run across the boundary, either to flee or aggress, he will get shocked. If that pattern gets repeated just a few times: see mail carrier, get shocked, the appearance of the mail carrier will be associated with bad things happening. There is also the possibility that if you have more than one dog enclosed in such a way, they may become aggressive to each other as a result of receiving shocks. This could happen because of association, if a dog comes to associate the shock to proximity to its yard mate. Or it also could be simple redirection, where an animal aggresses towards something present and convenient if it can’t reach the thing that is scaring or bothering it. Even if you have set up a visible boundary for your dog and followed the training instructions for the electronic fence, that training can never be guaranteed to “stick” during every possible situation. While your dog is calm and just hanging out, he may well stay within the perimeter to avoid being shocked. But if something catches his interest and gets him excited, he may well forget about the perimeter entirely or not notice the warning sounds. This is a terrible thing to happen to a dog who is already afraid. For instance, he fears the UPS truck. When it comes he tries to run away, crosses the perimeter, and gets shocked. Now the UPS truck is even scarier because it has come to predict sudden sharp pain. Equally tragic is what can happen to a friendly dog. Let’s say you have a retriever mix who loves kids. He gets really excited whenever he sees them. Here come some kids. Maybe they are even carrying a ball. Your dog rushes forward to greet them, hits the perimeter, and gets shocked. That doesn’t have to happen many times before your dog comes to associate kids with being hurt. You may have lost your dog’s friendliness forever, and he may become aggressive. You will have no power over what your dog associates with the shock. Electronic fence collars are automated electronic devices and do not care why the dog is approaching the boundary. The dog will get shocked no matter what. Bad experiences like this increase the likelihood of the dog developing fears and even aggression.

Problem #3: Your Dog Can Still Get Out: Then What Happens?

boundary flags for electronic pet containment fence, e-fence, shock fence, or radio fence

What is the situation after the dog runs through the perimeter and gets shocked? He’s outside the fence, in the presence of whatever triggered him to dash through the perimeter, and he has just received a painful and startling shock. Unless you are right there to take action (and if you were always there, you wouldn’t need the fence) one of the following things will likely happen.

  • Your dog will keep running and get lost;
  • Your dog will attack the thing that was associated with the shock (leashed dog, kid with ball); or
  • If your dog hasn’t been poisoned towards kids yet, maybe the friendly kid will try to lead him back to your house. And make him cross the perimeter and get shocked again while he is walking with the kid, who may even be touching his collar. What do you think your dog will do then?

Veterinary behaviorist Dr. Karen Overall reports that there are cases of humans being bitten when they pulled dogs over the boundary of an electronic fence. [Manual of Clinical Behavioral Medicine for Dogs and Cats, 2013, p. 108-109] The thing you would hope for, that the dog would wait calmly just outside the perimeter, waiting for you to get home and turn the fence off or remove his collar, is not likely to happen. You got the fence because you didn’t figure the dog would stay in the yard in the first place. Once the dog is outside the perimeter, you are pretty much in trouble.

Problem #4: The Collar Can Malfunction or Be Set Incorrectly

Don’t forget that, as with any electronic device, the collars can fail. I know of at least once case of a dog who was under continuous shock because of a short in the collar. You can see a shock collar injury from an e-fence collar in one of the links below. The DEFRA study that is referenced in The End for Shock Collars? found several of the collars purchased for the study were faulty, including one that repeatedly got stuck with the shock on. There’s a more subtle problem as well. The methods that the instructions describe to decide the setting for the individual dog depend entirely on the dog’s response to the shock. In general, you are instructed to experiment on your dog, starting with a very low setting and raising it until you see a reaction. Unfortunately, a response from the dog is not an accurate way to calibrate how much pain they are experiencing. We all know dogs who are very stoic about pain (as well as some who appear to be very sensitive). And the dials of many shock collars do not have equal gradations, so, for instance, the difference between 3 and 4 can be the difference between annoying and terrifying. So it is guesswork. Guesswork with your dog’s life and wellbeing at stake. In addition, the pain experienced by any dog can vary with changes in the environment. The humidity and even your dog getting a haircut can change how well the prongs in the collar conduct electricity into his body (this was also confirmed in the DEFRA study).

Problem #5: You Could Be Liable

By co-author Karen Peak, West Wind Dog Training If the first four reasons didn’t convince you, consider this. If someone comes legitimately onto your property and your dog harms them, you could be held liable. As discussed in Problem #1, e-fences provide no safety to your dog. They also provide no safety to others from your dog. Your dog already may have an increased propensity for aggression due to previous shocks. As described in Problem #2, he can come to associate the warning signal with scary things in the environment, again because of previous shocks. So what happens when the utility man comes onto your property? In most communities there are provisions for delivery people, mail carriers, utility workers, and meter readers to legally enter your property. They are not trespassing. They probably can’t even see a boundary. So when someone comes on your property and startles your dog (already easily stressed and startled because of his history of being beeped at and shocked by the fence), what if he bites them? He can get right to them without danger of shock because there they are, right inside the boundary with him. Veterinary behaviorist Dr. Karen Overall reports that there are “numerous reports of human injury under exactly these circumstances.” [Manual of Clinical Behavioral Medicine for Dogs and Cats, 2013, p. 108-109] I am not a lawyer and don’t play one on TV, but it doesn’t take much legal knowledge to realize that in many communities you will be held liable. Your community will probably consider your dog, who is not subject to a physical restraint system like a fence or a tether, out of control. The utility man had a right to be on your property and expect safety. If you had had a physical fence, he would have had to ask you for entry, but why should he if he doesn’t even see a boundary? (And just try putting up a “Beware of Dog” sign if you have no fence.) So now you are facing fines, and your dog has a bite history and has been designated dangerous. How is your insurance company going to feel about continuing to cover you? And what are you going to do about your dog now? No rescue will take him, and it probably isn’t ethical to rehome him. No electronic fence company, or individual who sells them, has any control over what comes into your dog’s environment. But you are responsible for what happens there.

“Freedom” for your Dog?

The marketing materials of the electronic fence companies often feature photos and videos of dogs romping on huge, lush green lawns without a care in the world. They promise “freedom” for your dog, over and over again. We (USA folks in particular) are practically wired to have a positive response to that word. But frankly, is a dog alone in a yard, with an automated electronic shock collar strapped tightly around its neck, really free?

It’s a myth that [electronic fences] provide dogs with more freedom. In fact, these devices violate three of five freedoms that define adequate welfare for animals: • Freedom from pain, injury, and disease • Freedom to express normal behavior • Freedom from fear and distress–Karen Overall, Manual of Clinical Behavioral Medicine for Dogs and Cats, 2013

I know that many, many people who install electronic containment fences have their dogs’ best interests in mind. The salespeople have told them the collars don’t really hurt the dog. They may figure in any case that a little “tap” once in a while is worth it for their dog’s safety. I hope I’ve shown you here that the pain is probably not trivial, and the safety is definitely illusory.

All photographs courtesy of and copyright John Stawicki. Thanks John!



What is Shock Training
Shock Free Coalition

What is Shock Training

Is It Really Just A Tap? Shock Collar Training Explained

Written by Eileen Anderson. Sourced from Eileen and Dogs


This question is answered below in this article written by Eileen Anderson. Thank you to Eileen for kindly allowing us to use her wonderfully written articles as part of our Shock Free Coalition.

Shock collar trainers have several names for the shocks that they administer through the collar. A tap. A stim. A nick. A page. Static. Application of pressure.  It sounds like something short and relatively benign. Even the word “shock,” although it has much more negative connotations (which is why shock collar trainers usually don’t use the word), sounds like something brief. If you get a shock from scuffing your feet on the carpet then touching metal, it is unpleasant but over in milliseconds.What many people don’t realize is that in many types of shock collar training, the electric shock is on for much longer periods. In the initial training sessions it is turned on and left on until the dog figures out, sometimes with very little effective information from the trainer, what she is supposed to do to get it to turn off.

Here is what that training can look like. (This video uses a stuffed dog as a demo.) Since with many actual shock training videos you can’t tell when the shock is applied and how long it lasts, I have shown that pictorially in the video.

This method uses what is called negative reinforcement. Negative reinforcement is in play whenever you are trying to get an animal to do something by using something painful or uncomfortable. (This is in contrast to positive punishment, which is used to get the dog to stop doing something. Shock training is used for that, too.) When a shock collar is used in negative reinforcement training, the shock is turned on, and left on, until the dog does the desired behavior. Some common applications are for recalls, crate training, platform training, and taking and holding a retrieve item. Negative reinforcement is also called “escape and avoidance” training. In this case the animal is working to escape or avoid the shock.

Science tells us there are two ways to get repeated behavior. One is to add something the dog likes after she does it. (Dog sits, and gets a treat.) The other is to take away something the dog doesn’t like after she does it. The handler pinches a dog’s ear until she grabs and holds the dumbbell in her mouth, then the handler releases the ear. There is no “neutral” way to get behavior to repeat. Behavior is driven by consequences. If you don’t see something either pleasant or aversive influencing the dog’s behavior in a training session, you haven’t looked hard enough. (Hint: it’s usually not praise.)

“Dog training using remote training collar by BigLeash”

(This is not a stuffed dog but a real beagle being trained, in case you would rather not watch. The actual training starts at about 1:40)

So when the shock collar trainers say that the shock doesn’t hurt–that’s not true.  During the initial training period, it must be painful, uncomfortable, or frightening, or it wouldn’t work. It has to have some unpleasant feeling that is robust enough to get the dog to work to make it stop. An example of a dog exhibiting absolute misery during his first session with a shock trainer is on my page Shock Training Session Video Analysis.

It’s true that after the initial stages of training, the shocks can be shorter and at a lower level. Sometimes just having the dog wear the collar, or using the vibration function only is enough to get compliance. Being trained with shock leaves a history of pain and discomfort behind it.  And the possibility of it never goes away as long as the dog is wearing the collar. The dog understands this from experience, because she has already learned the consequence of not responding immediately. The consequence is pain. As Kelly Blackwell, a well known shock trainer, describes the dog’s understanding of shock collar training: “If I don’t do it, they can and will make me do it.” You can see her videos on my Shock Collar Training vs Force Free Video Examples page.

“Stanley, come!”

(Beagle/rat terrier mix trained without force, doing two quick, responsive, happy recalls)

It is even possible to manipulate collars so the dog doesn’t know which collar delivers a shock. A trainer can thus get compliance from a dog who is not even wearing a shock collar. Also if the dog associates the shock with the trainer, the dog may comply without wearing the collar. In both of these cases, the threat of shock is still there to the dog.

That is how you train behaviors with a shock collar. Leave the shock on until the dog complies, then release it when she does. If that level of shock does not work, raise to a more painful level.  Once the dog understands how the system works, most dogs will comply at lower levels of pain or just the threat in order to avoid the escalation.

Video Comparison

One of the advantages claimed by shock trainers is that their dogs can be off leash.   Which of these dogs in the following videos appears to be enjoying his freedom more: the one who just learned to come when called because otherwise he will be shocked, or the one trained force free, doing a long distance recall, and who was called away from sniffing, to boot? Watch the body language.

More Comparison and Analysis

Three new resources:

Shock Collar Training vs Force Free Video Examples. This is a resource page that contrasts videos of dogs being trained with shock and videos of training the same or similar behaviors force free.

Shock Training Session Video Analysis. Some very generous trainers from the Observation Skills for Dog Training FaceBook group helped me do a second by second observational listing of the body language of a dog undergoing his first shock training session. There is also analysis and commentary on the training techniques used.

Training Your Dog with a Shock Collar: How Will You Decide? An article written for a lay audience in plain language on the risks and damage caused by shock collar use. There are links to scholarly resources and statements by credentialed experts to back up the statements made.

Thanks for reading. Please pass this along to anyone who may be considering using shock or hiring a shock trainer because they have heard that the shock is “just like a tap on the shoulder.”

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Advocacy Division

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