The words Shock Collar make me cringe

Yes, it is a true, those two words, Shock collar, don’t sit well with me. Not because I’m opposed to electronic collars, but because they further a perception that is inaccurate.

I recently gave a presentation for Scott Mueller and 16 of his students at Canine Workshops in Columbus, OH. Early in the day I directed students to this blog but made an apology for it’s title.


shock collar



The words “Shock collar” bother me too but the title of the blog was born out of necessity.


Until people are better informed on the versatility of electronic training collars it takes continual effort to educate about all the none painful ways they can be utilized. Remote training collars are what you make of them, they are no more shocking than a medical professionals TENs Unit. If you turn it up too high, they are certainly uncomfortable and can cause a significant startle response. Used appropriately the stimulation is at worse a mild aversive and at best a unique sensation that can be associated with any number of meanings.

That is what I set out to demonstrate to my fellow dog trainers during our time together. We talked about my belief that there are only 3 true levels on any of the remote collars on the market: too low (the sensation is undetected or does not gain the dogs attention) too high (the sensation startles or disrupts the dogs ability to learn) and Just Right (the sensation gains attention and enhances the dogs ability to learn).


The words “shock collar” apply when we are “too high”. That is a level we are encouraging people to avoid.


Instead of frustration with a dog’s behavior sending one running to the store to purchase a “shock collar” to punish a dog for doing “bad” we talked about the critical step of understanding HOW to TEACH the dog what attention getting sensation means. Teach the dog how to respond and have control of it. The feedback the dog gains is much like the child’s game of Hot and Cold and it is why the learning is so rapid when a remote collar is properly applied.

We talked about the use of rewards, proper timing, how body language influences, how to work in drive for more flashy performance.

I had a wonderful time. Thank you to Scott for hosting me and thank you to all who attended. I hope that the overall theme became apparent to everyone who was there. Our perception of the tool is what influences how we utilize it. I hope we choose wisely. Electronic training collars can be used to teach or it can be used as a “shock collar”


  • First time writer-in, long time reader. I enjoy your writing and this is one instance I heartily agree with. The words we choose to describe things matter, both in how we perceive those things… and how we use them. If you think of an e-collar as a shock collar then the only thing you’ll use it for is to teach the dog never to approach snakes, not the flexible and subtle way you and other trainers well-versed in its use do.

    It’s the same problem I have with the term ‘choke chain’ rather than check chain. If your dog is choking, you’re not using it correctly — it’s meant to check the dog’s action, to be applied briefly, at the right time, and to cause the dog to check back with you. Many, many years ago I got a night-and-day revelation when I first used one: I’d thought you were supposed to apply constant pressure and that eventually the dog would choke itself into behaving. For my troubles, that GSD hauled me all around town with his tongue hanging out blue and not yielding an inch. Then I learned how it should be used and the same dog, same leash, same collar walked nicely on a loose lead. It’s led me to always seek to understand the proper use of a training tool. Any time I hear about a training tool, my questions are where does it come from, how is it used, what is it good for, how does it fit into what I know already? I try it on myself if possible.

    I don’t use an e-collar at present, but that’s because it’s something I’ve not yet had anyone teach me. On my bucket list, once I have a dog again. Keep up the wonderful work.

    • Thank you for the kind words. I agree with you wholeheartedly regarding the use of words and how we wield them. I’m also a big advocate of questions, the more we ask, the more we can hear and then sift through and use what works for us. 🙂

    • I know this is an old thread but Laconic’s remarks about how he misused a choke collar (or check chain) primarily due to its name and a lack of training resulted in an epiphany of sorts for me. The “positive only” school of training absolutely insists on calling remote collars “shock collars” because they think that using any other term is euphemistic. However, their insistent use of this term may very well be encouraging abusive treatment by those not trained in the appropriate use of a remote collar. The average dog owner goes to a store, buys a remote collar off the shelf, slaps it on their dog and proceeds to “shock” them with high stim levels because they think that’s what you’re supposed to do with a “shock collar.” People use it the way the name (that they’ve made popular) implies.

      They may very well be doing more to harm dogs with inappropriately high stim levels than anybody else in the training community simply because they insist on using a shocking name for the device. I respect their right to be against the use of remote collars, but I really think they need to rethink their stance on the name because it’s likely having an adverse impact on their cause.

  • Why is it that certain folks INSIST that the correct term for this device is a “shock collar” and anything else (remote training collar, e-collar, etc) is a euphemism to “trick” people that the collar does not hurt dogs?

    These same people are usually fans of the “easy walk harness” and “gentle leader” which could be “more accurately described as “chest tightening harness” and “annoying snout rubbing loop”

    My dogs find both of those tools more aversive than a remote collar by a large margin.

    • It is sad that too often the profession of dog training is similar to religious fanaticism. Anything that doesn’t correspond to ones personal viewpoint is labeled “wrong” or more likely labeled “abusive” 🙁
      Every training tool works because of some level “pressure” be it physical or psychological. In fact I’d say pretty much everything we move toward or away from in our everyday lives is because of some sort of pressure. We put on a coat because we are getting cold, we eat because we are getting hungry, we go to work because we want to get paid rather than fired. It is just part of life. But because remote collars are “electronic” many have a pretty strongly ingrained fear they have been conditioned with.

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