Dog e collars and anti-bark collars: The pros and cons

The issue of dog e-collars, electric collars, or anti-bark collars splits opinions.

As someone who’s trying to prepare for life as a dog parent, I think it is useful to get an understanding of what e-dog collars do. I’ll aim to explore the pros and cons of using an electric dog collar and consider if the conveniently called e-collar is something I would need to use with my dog.

Dog trainer teaching dogs

I found that the most valuable sources of information that can assist with making an informed decision about e-collars are likely to come from the point of view of dog trainers. Dog trainers are the practitioners who have the most practical first-hand experience about the realities of dog e-collars and whether these dog tech solutions have a positive or negative impact on dogs. Therefore, you’ll find that this page has a compilation of videos that present the pros and cons of e-collars from the point of view of several dog trainers.

What exactly is an e-collar or a dog shock collar

The e-collar essential comes as two parts. The first part is the radio-controlled actuator used to manage collar settings, and the second part is the radio-enabled e-collar that goes around a dog’s neck. The early versions of e-collar devices, according to Wikipedia, were used in the late 1960s and early 70s to train hunting dogs and were very high powered.

dog ecollar

The modern version of these devices no longer uses electric shock, but, because the early versions did deliver an electric shock, the name dog shock collar has stuck. The phrase e-collar and shock collar are used interchangeably. It should be noted, however, that the dog does not receive any form of electric shock.

The modern-day version of a dog e-collar devices emits a stimulation which, according to the Humane Society Of The United States, can range from a slight tickle to a painful shock, depending on what setting is applied to the remote control actuator of the handler device. Dog e-collars use electronic stimulation to activate a dog’s skin receptors, known as nociceptors, that detect pain.

Sporty Dog Walker explains that e-collars don’t cause pain or harm to dogs; rather, they stimulate nerves and sensory receptors through vibrations. These vibrations trigger feelings of annoyance and discomfort for the dog wearing the collar. This should be expected, especially as the purpose of the e-collar is to cause a dog to adapt its behavior in a way that stops the annoyance or discomfort being emitted by the e-collar.

My first thought about the dog e-collar or anti-bark collar is that it seems more like a reactive tool that’s used to get dogs to fall in line or get dogs under control. Why’s it needed? Have there been failings in the way that a dog’s been raised that now warrant getting the dog to wear an e-collar or an anti-bark collar?

Ok, let’s say that this is the case, and a dog parent now needs to curb or train a behavior out of a dog. Is an electric collar something that should be introduced to assist with this? At first glance, I would say no; that is until I saw a video of an out of control dog and the effects an e-collar had on the dog’s behavior.

How are dog e-collars being used in the field of dog training?

I’m by no means a dog trainer, although I would usually approach matters relating to dog behavior training by referring to my favorite dog trainer, Cesar Millan. I’d be interested to see his approach in the situation with a dog as out of control as Murphey, the dog in the video below.

After watching the video, it’s not clear whether Murphey’s behavior developed because of the way he has been handled by humans, or whether Murphey’s behavior is genetically hereditary. What’s clearly evident, though, is how totally out of control Murphey is and how the dog trainer has been able to eventually gain some control over Murphey’s wild and excitable behavior by using a dog e-collar.

The results speak for itself. The trainer has attributed the reason for being able to gain control over the dog to what he describes as an e-collar. The before e-collar and after e-collar behavior of Murphey is like night and day. One moment you have an out of control, excitable dog, then you slap an electric dog collar around his neck for a little while, and then, hey, presto, you have a gentle obedient canine buddy. One would think it was a completely different dog you’re seeing.

I must say that watching the Dog Whisperer Cesar Millan gave me some insight into the psychology of dogs. When it comes to dog behavior and humans, Cesar Millan’s propensity is to attribute the problem of dogs’ behavioral issues to humans. His exact words are “it’s never the dog,” meaning it is the dog parent or caregiver that has either caused the issue and is now responsible for fixing the issue of a dog’s bad behavior.

Unrecognizable woman holding her dog's paw in training

It’s fair to say that he makes a good point because he has proven that he’s able to successfully train and eradicate undesirable behavior in the worst-behaved dogs, and, to my knowledge, he doesn’t use e-collars or anti-bark collars.

Humans don’t think like dogs, and dogs don’t think like humans

Us as human beings, being a dominant species, like to ignorantly think that the human point of view and the way we interact with the world is the only correct way that the world/universe should be interacted with.  Human perception causes us to attach our methods, our reasons for actions, and reaction to our communication methods to dogs.

dog with an helmet on its head

I don’t want to baffle you with too many philosophies, but you may get what I’m trying to say by observing the actions of the dog owner in the video below. He decided to put an electric dog collar around his neck for test purposes.  Then he went into what I would class as extreme lengths to test a specific dog collar.  After watching the video, I couldn’t understand the message he was trying to convey.

On the first appearance, it seems like he’s trying to present the dog e-collar with a negative skew when he said that the electric voltage being emitted from the e-collar hurt him, only to then end his video by suggesting that the viewer purchases the e-collar. Hmmm? Ok.

My point, though, is that we, as humans, cannot expect to have the same emotional response to e-collars as dogs do. The reason for this is because we are simply two different species of mammal, with two different ways of reasoning and interpretation.

I’m sure anybody who really loves their dog would not want to put their dog through any type of physical pain intentionally. In the case of out of control dogs, however, the question that I would like readers to ponder over is this – if you know you have a dog that is completely out of control, and let’s suppose you’ve run out of options, then you’re suddenly presented with the opportunity to resolve your dog’s behavioral issues with a dog e-collar would you use it?

One dog trainer’s argument against the use of dog e-collars

The dog trainer in the video below, who says he will never use an e-collar on his dog, is keen to explain his belief as to why he thinks that the effects of any type of e-collar are negative.  I think he is making the use of an e-collar comparable to how he would feel, which goes back to my point about humans making a comparison with the way humans and dogs experience the world.

The video above has made me consider the possibility that e-collars serve as a form of punishment that could suppress a dog’s behavior, and also highlights the fact that the suppression of the dog’s behavior takes away the responsibility of the dog’s caregiver to try and understand the reason for the behavior in the first place.

If this is the case, in that e-collars trivialize punishment, then I should also question will the applying of continuous e-collar triggers, which essentially are an indirect form of punishment, degrade the relationship between my dog and me? Can the continuous use of the e-collar make my dog afraid or wary of me or mistrust me? Can the excessive use of e-collars triggers desensitize my dog? What happens if a dog then becomes desensitized to e-collars? These are just some of the concerns I have about this type of dog technology.

Scared dog sitting in owners

In my opinion, I think that most people who decide to care for a dog may have little to no experience with dogs. Furthermore, if they have had prior experience caring for a dog in the past, then there is a likelihood that these individuals have accumulated some bad habits in the way they train and care for dogs, and subsequently, resort to the use of e-collars as a way to short-cut training bad behavior out of a dog.

K9 heights, a dog training business based in Detroit, emphasizes that dog e-collars are mainly used as a training aid for dogs. They explain on their website that dog e-collars are extremely valuable and versatile tools that can be included in a dog’s training regime. k9 heights also recommend that e-collars are tools that should be used to facilitate dog training, and should not be a substitute for putting in the work and effort to train a dog.

The e collar is an extremely versatile tool. It can be used to help catch an aggressive dog’s attention before they reach critical mass and explode.


Automated anti-bark dog collars and dog spray collars

Anti-bark dog collars are a form of e-collar that is set to initiate sensory stimuli in the form of discomforting sensation whenever a dog barks. This type of collar can almost be used as a set and forget solution for dog owners who have to work during the day, and have problems with their continuously barking dogs.

The concerning thought I have about this set and forget approach is the possibility of how this will affect my dog when I’m not around if it’s not monitored. Try to picture it for a second. Ok, so you’ve had complaints from your neighbors that your dog barks thought the day when you’re at work. So you decide to set the mode of the device to auto, then off to work you go. Suppose this device decides to malfunction one day because of some type of frequency interference.

Barking dog behind fence

Or suppose you have multiple dogs in your home, or your neighbors have dogs, and one bark triggers another dog’s collar to go off.  The poor canine will start to think about what he’s done now.  He’s probably thinking something along the lines of “You shocked me when I bark and when I don’t bark. Do I bark or not bark – give me a break.” Seriously though, by placing an automated anti-bark e-collar around your dog’s neck, you really cannot know how a device you’re not monitoring is impacting your dog when you’re not around.

What are your thoughts about electric dog collars, and would you use one on your dog?

My biggest takeaway from this discussion is that, by using an e-collar,  anti-bark collar, or any other type of behavior- induced trigger collar, the dog’s behavior is being suppressed rather than being addressed. This means that there is a likelihood that what is being suppressed will manifest in other ways.

There is a risk that some dog owners could use an e-collar as a shortcut to training their dog. A lazy, inexperienced dog owner or dog parent with limited-time can potentially use a collar to get fast results. The effect of the misuse of the collar may be damaging to a dog’s personality, which is the most significant risk that’s associated with the use of this technology. If the settings are too high, then it can have a long-term negative impact on the personality of the dog.

Dog with e collar around its neck

On the other hand, however, some dog trainers that support using e-collars advise that it is used as a complement to other methods. The recommended approach that trainers suggest is associating a dog’s caregiver’s voice and commands to the use of the e-collars vibration, which will, in effect condition the dog to respond to the caregiver’s voice when the dog hasn’t got an e-collar around the neck.

Final Thoughts

Whichever way the debate is approached,  e-collars are here to stay. For those that think that dog e-collars shouldn’t be used, my advice is that you should find the best dog trainers and begin training your canine buddy from an early age. Understand the kind of dog that you have and the temperament that your breed of dog possesses.

For those who think that e-collars are acceptable, I’ll say that all dog breeds have different temperaments and different specific needs. A dog’s needs will vary from breed to breed; therefore, understanding the needs of your dog through education is important. To add to this, socializing your dog at an early age, then understanding and satisfying the mental, physical, and emotional needs of your dog throughout its lifetime are factors I believe should be addressed by both wannabe and experienced dog owners before any form of e-collar is considered.


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