What Do Electronic Dog Collars Feel Like?

 Electronic Dog Collars: “Will it hurt my dog?”

The question of what do the electronic dog collars feel like comes up a lot. Or at least speculation about it comes up a lot! I’ve heard people make statements, usually negative ones, about what they imagine the collar to be and how it feels. Then those statements are typically followed with emotional assertions that they would “never use one on my dog!” So I’d like to share a true story from today. If you have a negative idea of what an electronic dog collar feels like, I hope you’ll ponder this.

shock collar
Ms. D’s first day back in the water 2012

I took my dog Diva swimming today. I didn’t really plan on it, we just headed to the park for a walk and a couple tosses of the frisbee. But when she saw the ice was no longer on the water….she wanted in!

It is March 15th in Iowa and the weather we are having this week is record breaking, in the 70’s actually. It is crazy, just less than 2 weeks ago the pond was iced over. That means the water is not a whole heck of a lot above 32 degrees Fahrenheit right now.

and my dog wanted to swim.

and swim and “toss the floppy disk again mom”….

That temperature water would of put me in the hospital (if I had survived it) but she didn’t seem to mind. When I finally said “Let’s go”, she got out, shook herself off and trotted down the trail with a contented look on her face.

Now what has this story got to do with how electronic dog collars feel? Well, it just got me thinking…How logical is the oft heard comparison some people make that if they find a particular level on an e-collar “painful” then it is of course also painful to a dog?

Since when do we perceive things the same way as our dogs do? For that matter, when do we perceive things the same as all other humans? I, for one, am not a big fan of Rap or Heavy Metal music…doesn’t mean that others don’t find it relaxing and enjoyable.

There are those who can not fathom the possibility that a Just Right level of stimulation is nothing more than a tap on the shoulder for the recipient dog.

Which is fine. Those folks can continue existing in that paradigm.

But, if someone is going to live by the credo “how it is to me, is how it is to my dog”…well, then I suggest they sample a mouthful of cow patty and explain that “this tastes bad Fluffy” to the dog who is grinning from ear to ear with it.

Or please explain to Diva the water was utterly unbearable today. 😉


  • This is an excellent analogy, Robin. I’m not sure what is so complicated about the fact that dogs, cats, and pretty much every animal there is have different sensitivity levels than we do. They have to or they most likely wouldn’t survive. Even so, some folks will still prefer to, as you put it, exist in a different paradigm. Ideology trumps reality for such people.

  • Viatecio,
    Thanks for your comment. As I mentioned in my post, I am upset that my local training club endorses choke and prong collars, but forbids e-collars. I agree, the handler must know how to use their training equipment correctly. I have NO PROBLEM with trainers who use choke or prong collars as long as they have open minds about e-collars. In my medical opinion (and it is just an opinion) I feel utilizing choke and prong collars even for “a fraction of a second” result in more discomfort and anxiety than e-collars for all the reasons I mentioned in my post. All I was trying to accomplish is to have people think a little differently about the various training collars including e-collars. I wasn’t trying to portray choke and prong collars as evil. When properly used, they have years of research support showing their effectiveness. We all need to continue our crusade to remove the negative feelings associated with e-collars so they can be publicly accepted like choke and prong collars.

  • I thought the comparison was Brilliant!!. I have just acquired a Newly Adopted dog.
    Very Very well behaved, Fully trained, With all the Standard commands, That I know.
    Which gets me to think about my other two dogs. Up until now I thought they were well behaved. Now I have seen the light and realized that they were only moderately trained and need lots of work.
    I was considering a Shock Collar Leash with the control built in to the leash.
    Is that something they make, or even practical?
    Please Help.

    • Hello Aaron,
      I have heard of the leashes that activate stim when the dog pulls/produces tension. I have not personally used them so I not comfortable recommending them at this time. Personally I see way more versatility in using and training with a remote collar because it can function weather the dog is attached to you or not. If the only control a person needs/wants is for leash walking their are many other less expensive alternatives to solve that problem.

  • Great post Robin. I couldn’t agree with you more! In your post, you made the comment: “Since when do we perceive things the same way as our dogs do? Heck for that matter when do we perceive things the same as all other humans?” As a surgeon, I have plenty of experience seeing humans perceiving pain differently. I will do the same operation through the same incision on two different people. The next day one person will be ready to leave the hospital while the other is experiencing a tremendous amount of pain. Why? No one is really sure, but as you stated in your post, it is how we “perceive” pain. We can’t predict what is going to be “painful” for people, so why would we think we could predict what is “painful” for dogs.

    But from experience, I can predict how people act when they are unable to breath. Breathing is a fundamental and instinctual drive in all living things. Without oxygen we will die. When people can’t breathe due to choking, drowning, airway swelling, pneumonia, or any other airway issue; they all have they same reaction. They become increasingly anxious, their heart rate and blood pressure increase, and their bodies see a surge of cortisol and epinephrine (the “flight or flight” hormones). All living animals are built to fight for every breath of oxygen.

    So it is scary to me to see my local dog training club endorsing prong and choke collars, but adamantly saying e-collars are the work of the devil. The name says it all…choke collar! I can’t predict what “hurts” humans or dogs, but I can predict that choking a dog will cause the same anxiety provoking reaction as I see in humans. Why? Because as I said above, breathing is instinctual and fundamental in all living things. Choking, even for a second or two, results in a massive change in normal physiology. Think about the last time you felt like you were choking…it’s scary! So I think those who believe in only using choke or prong collars should really look at what it is doing to their canine friend. In the meantime, I will keep using my e-collar at a level that is “Just Right”.

    • Anyone who is using a training collar to intentionally cut off a dog’s airway is not “training” their dog. Including those who put training collars on the dog’s neck and let the dog continue to pull on the leash as it strains and hacks. It is not “training.”

      As the saying goes, what is the difference between a choke collar and a training collar? The person using it. Same goes for the difference between a shock collar and a remote electric training collar.

      I will continue to use my training collars in addition to the e-collar. I too am familiar with the medical field (both human and veterinary), although not in the sense you are, and completely agree that they all handle the same procedure differently.

      As an aside, your argument about breathing being a “fundamental and instinctual drive,” perhaps you would be more ahead to put your efforts into educating people about brachycephalic dog breeds and the torture some go through each day to draw a breath, rather than the mere fraction of a second of sensation (and I wouldn’t even describe it as a “choke”) a dog in traditional leash-and-collar training experiences.

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