The question is: what is the difference between an e-collar and a shock collar? Is there a difference? Read along to follow the history of these devices and their purpose, as well as a guide to help you decide which type of training device is best for you and your dog(s).
`The training of your dog is a special time to get to know your new pup, or enhance your relationship with your old dog. Training can be done in your own home, and can also involve a trainer at a training center either through personal lessons or with a group. Either way, there are many devices on the market to aid in the training, and each works in a different way. It will do you well to study each of these types and compare them to your ability, the time you have, and your preferred style of teaching. Some devices require your eve-presence, for example, and some require only that you set up the system and then can be hands off.
Some devices include electricity to deliver an electrical sensation to your dog and these devices carry with them lots of controversy. The controversy mainly stems from the terms used to describe the actions of these devices, as well as misuse, and misunderstanding in their purpose and the way in which they work.
Following is a guide to help anyone looking into training their pup and desiring more information in order to decide what methods they want to include and to help them process the role they would like to play in their dogs’ training, and further, the relationship that they would like to build with their dog through training him or her.
The most popular and most controversial dog training device is sometimes known as the shock collar. Here this device will be known as the electrical stimulation device. This sounds big and scary, but in an attempt to rule out words that do not correctly define their object, this term will suffice. We will also use an ES collar in it’s reference.
- 1 What is a “shock” collar?
- 2 What is electronic stimulation (ES)?
- 3 What is an electronic stimulation collar?
- 4 Punishing “bad” behaviors
- 5 ES collar reviews:
- 6 SportDOG Brand 425X Remote Trainers – 500 Yard Range E-Collar with Static, Vibrate and Tone – Waterproof, Rechargeable
- 7 WOLFWILL 100% Waterproof Rechargeable Humane Remote Dog Training Collar 1980ft Blind Operation with No Shock Tone Vibration Light Electric Collar Dogs(22 to 88lbs)
- 8 Dog Training Collar – Rechargeable Dog Shock Collar w/3 Training Modes, Beep, Vibration and Shock, 100% Waterproof Training Collar, Up to 1000Ft Remote Range, 0~99 Shock Levels Dog Training Set
What is a “shock” collar?
A term commonly and incorrectly used in reference to electric containment systems for pets is shock collar. This term is decreasing in its use due to underlying references to abuse and trauma to pets as inferred by the word shock. Therefore, use of other terms such as electronic stimulation collars and corrective device are increasingly in use. Some terms in continued use today which all refer to and will be referred to in this paper as the electronic stimulation (ES) collar include e-collar (short for electronic stimulation collar), shock collar, electronic training collar, static collar, and bark collar.
What is electronic stimulation (ES)?
Electronic stimulation (abbreviated ES) is an electric current (IEC) that artificially stimulates live tissues. Recently developed electronic collars artificially stimulate sensory receptors and nerves by delivering an electronic stimulation to nerves transcutaneously (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, or TENS). TENS is used often by physical therapists as a pain management treatment, and does not cause injury. TENS is used by attaching two electrical contact points to the skin, less than 60 millimeters apart (the ECMA, or Electronic Collar Manufacturer’s Association, requires that these contacts never be placed further than 60 millimeters apart from one another in order to protect the body). The electrical stimulation is then sent through a TENS unit through the contact points, and this current stimulates nerves within superficial tissues.
Electronic stimulation helps to manage pain by activating skin receptors called nociceptors, in the area local to the pain. Nociceptors usually detect pain in the body, convert thermal ranges, chemical signals, or pressure into electrical signals which are then transported to and interpreted by the brain. Different nociceptors detect different stimuli, and different stimuli are interpreted by the body differently. Low electronic stimulation levels generally confuse nociceptors called high threshold type A-delta to respond, or send the brain a signal, and medium electronic stimulation levels confuse the nociceptors of the A-beta threshold type to respond. The brain then receives this general pain signal from the nociceptors as a specific tingling sensation, and so understands this sensation to not be painful. While neither low nor medium level electronic stimulations are perceived as painful by the brain, high-level electronic stimulations are perceived as pain and so the event is often considered by the body to be emotionally and physically distressing. High-level electronic stimulation is not associated with damage to any tissues because it utilizes a very specific type of nociceptor, the type C nociceptor, and so the translated pain is considered to be physiological. Pain that follows an intense injury is pathological, and can persist, unlike physiological pain.
So, what’s the difference? Electric shock is an electric current applied to an organism so suddenly and for so long that it produces a thermal or convulsive effect (IEC) that can cause injury to the exposed area. Electronic shock usually happens when a current is conducted from a main system, through the human or animal, and back to the earth.
What is an electronic stimulation collar?
Electronic stimulation is used in combination with three different types of dog training devices; one type is manually operated using a transmitter controlled remotely, and is known as an e-collar, (inappropriately) shock collar, or more professionally electronic stimulation collar or ES collar, as it will be known here. Another type of ES device operates automatically as a response to a dog’s bark. These devices are known as bark collars, bark e-collars, and bark ES collars, as they will be known here. The third type is activated when near and crossing a pre-set boundary line or wireless fence, and is known as an e-fence or (inappropriately) shock collar, or as it will be known here, Electronic Stimulation or ES fence collar. Each of these systems include a dog collar with a box attached to it encasing a battery and circuitry through which electronic stimulus is sent via two electrodes on the collar that rest against the dog’s neck. The electrical stimulus is different in different brands of collar, and depending on the system (ES collars versus ES fence collars since ES collars are run via a remote and ES fence collars by being near or at a programmed boundary line), the stimulus might be delivered at different pulse rates. Some collars beep as a warning before the electronic stimulus is delivered. In all, the stimulus generally lasts from one-one thousandth of a second to thirty seconds long, and of up to many thousand volts of potential difference.
An ES collar finely sends electronic signals from the collar nodes to nerve pathways in the dog’s neck skin that then carefully translate the sensation along the nociceptors and to the brain as a tingling or pulsing sensation rather than direct pain. At the low and medium settings, an electronic stimulation is sent to the dog’s skin receptors and the dog translates this sensation as a prick or tingle similar to a bug bite. At higher levels, the dog may interpret the sensation as pain though there is no damage caused to the nerves, skin, or brain. It does take practice and skill to use an ES collar properly, and directions for use should always be included in the manual of every product. ES collars do not deliver stimulations that burn the skin nor translate as shocks in the brain.
Do electronic stimulation collars hurt dogs?
Electronic stimulus training device use is a controversial subject, and the two sides contend over whether these devices cause suffering to dogs or not. Wales and some other European countries currently ban their use, though other United Kingdom countries accept their use.
Pros of ES device use to train dogs:
Those in support of their use value their aversive-based training technique which helps correct self-rewarding behaviors that the trainer wants to encourage, such as hunting and chasing. ES systems supporters also advocate that the devices are less likely to cause long term well-being problems than alternative punishment methods, and that electronic stimulation collars do not deliver any sensation stronger than a tingle, vibration, or pulse against the skin—a sensation quite different they argue, than a shock. And this argument further addresses the misuse of the term shock, that the often-used term shock collar is incorrect.
It is believed that modern ES collar do not cause any harm. Researchers conclude that since epidemic quantities of pets are not showing up in veterinary clinics related to the use of the device, there is no basis for the out-ruling of it, and that the majority of anti-collar propaganda is based on opinions and not facts. Further research continues and currently holds the conclusion that the collars are useful and beneficial to the training of dogs, and are not harmful, given they are used under the correct operations as written in the manuals. They were initially manufactured for the enhancement of pets’ well being by increasing the clarity of teachings, resulting in faster learning. Since some organizations’ objections to their use are simply philosophical, the science of their use must be considered moving forward in the determination of their ongoing use.
Cons of ES device use to train dogs:
Those opposed to the use of ES training devices are concerned that the collars unnecessarily inflict pain and this aversive stimulus causes undue suffering. It is also considered that ES collars are easily misused, and this unpredictability may lead to the dogs’ heightened stress responses, such as anxiety. Dogs might also mis-associate events with the stimulus that were not intended to be associated, and this could lead to aggression which is not the goal of the use of the ES device. There have been considerable cases of owners using the device out of anger, and abusing their dog. Finally, opposers consider the use of ES training devices an “easy fix” for behaviors that could otherwise be addressed through a better understanding of dog behaviors and theories of learning, and lead to better resolutions of the undesired behaviors. Those primarily opposed to ES device use due to the complications of the dogs’ well-being associated with their use include veterinarians, behavior and welfare organizations. A popular proponent of dog well-being, Kennel Club in the UK has campaigned against further use of ES devices.
Since in the UK there is substantial controversy over the use of electronic stimulation training devices for dogs, the topic has been well-researched. Results show that not many dog owners do use ES devices to train their dogs, and the variety of ES and alternative methods used does not necessarily correlate with the severity of undesired behaviors in the dogs. It is interesting to note however, that the gender of the owner and whether they did or did not attend a training class, and this suggests that the attitude of the owner and the suggestions from trainers seem to play the biggest parts in the type of training aid chosen. Dog owners who use training methods that are based on reward methods report more successful training than those who use ES training devices.
A recent publication by the Companion Animal Welfare Council reviewed studies of ES collars and did not use the term shock because the council understood this term as associated with personal opinions of bias and connotations that played on the emotions of those biased opinions.
What is a shock collar?
Since the 1970’s, ES collars have been available. The devices reportedly used to be fairly “primitive,” and this may be the origin of the term “shock” in reference to their purpose—even though the currents delivered by the collar were still not shocks. The term has never been appropriately applied in the context of ES pet collars. The term has evolved as has the development of newer systems, and our understanding of animal’s learning abilities and behaviors related to correction.
Websites tend to use the term “shock collar” when promoting the welfare of animals, and when discouraging the use of ES collars. This position is enhanced with strong terms such as “will absolutely” to communicate the terrible (yet false) effects of ES collars, like the case that they will cause burns, distress, convulsions, and that overall, these devices are ineffective and used only by those lacking compassion. These statements are proven as scientifically erroneous. A well-known animal welfare association, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), states its opposing stance on the use of ES collars due to misuse. The website’s use of the term “shock,” and the association’s stance in general on the use of ES collars does not communicate a balance of legal evidence concerning the device, of which is a federal court ruling in Australia against the RSPCA. The case considered the lawful ability to manufacture ES collar products, and the lawful use of them.
ES collar training
Proponents of dog training with the use of an electronic stimulation device report that they have noticed their use to, above alternative training methods, change aggressive, problematic dogs into dogs that are confident, problem-free, and obedient.
The use of an electronic stimulation collar is based first on teaching your dog to follow your commands, and second, on teaching your dog to avoid anti-social and unruly behaviors like inappropriate barking, growling, nipping, chewing on things, or jumping on people.
ES collar mini educator training
All training methods, whether or not an electronic stimulation collar is used, involve reinforcements and punishments. Here is a breakdown of these two definitions:
Positive punishment is the application of an active consequence when the dog behaves badly, so that the likelihood of him behaving this way in the future is decreased.
Negative reinforcement avoids or removes an uncomfortable or aversive stimulus in relation to a specific behavior, resulting in that behavior occurring again in the future because of the previous good experience.
Similarly, positive reinforcement also encourages a behavior to happen again, in this case because when that behavior happened in the past it was met with an active reward.
Negative punishment is meant to decrease the likelihood of a specific behavior occurring again by taking away a perceivably rewarding stimulus when that behavior happens.
When in practice, these reinforcements and punishments naturally co-occur—positive punishment and negative reinforcement are aversive-based techniques that often occur together, as do positive reinforcement and negative punishment, which are reward-based techniques.
For example, if you want to teach your dog to walk beside your heel, the pressure you apply on her collar with the leash is a positive punishment that checks her pulling behavior. Then when she stops pulling, you stop applying collar pressure and this negatively reinforces her behavior of walking beside your heel. Similarly, when you give your dog rewarding attention when he sits to greet people, this positively reinforces his sitting and the lack of attention when he does not sit to greet negatively punishes him for not sitting to greet.
Both aversive- and reward-based training techniques are used by trainers. The use of electronic stimulation and pulse collars for training fit under the aversive-based training technique category.
Training your pup to follow your commands:
Some of the most effective lessons a dog can learn with an ES collar are to sit and to stay. The collar is used when the dog does not follow your command. If you say “stay,” if your dog gets back up, you can use your ES collar remote to deliver a corrective electronic stimulus, or pulse. When she does stay and does not get up, praise her with your voice and pet her and maybe give her a treat.
It is important to use your body to teach your dog. Do not let an electronic device do all of the correcting for you. By using your body, you reinforce your relationship with your pet. When he does well, give him affection by speaking kindly and petting him. For example, if you want to teach your dog to sit, say “sit” and place your hand on her back, just above her tail, and push her rump down until she sits. Congratulate her once she gets into the sitting position. Do this a few more times, each time lessening the amount of pressure you place on her back until eventually you don’t have to touch her back at all—you only use your voice to ask her to sit. If she does not follow your command to sit, use the collar to correct her and try again with more pressure from your hand on her back. This lesson uses both the negative and positive behavioral reinforcement techniques, since the stimulus from the collar sends the message when she disobeyed that disobeying is uncomfortable, and your congratulations when she does obey sends the message the obedience is comfortable. Eventually she will get it!
For any other commands you teach, only when your dog does not obey does the correction from the collar come. This is where your inner moral compass will guide you. A question to ask yourself here might be “when am I okay with allowing my dog to experience an uncomfortable consequence? And is there ever a time when I can justify his not following my direction?”
Reinforce good behaviors
Some professionals at doggy daycares choose to use alternative methods rather than electronic stimulation devices to train dogs. A top alternative device is the clicker, which is used to create a sound that the dog learns to associate with an incoming reward. Daycare and training professionals cite research in psychological operant conditioning as their credible source in support of the device’s use. Some behavior modification methods work the same for dogs as they do for people.
The dog begins to understand that the clicker is like a trigger. Initially, the clicker is simply a sound she hears after a certain behavior, and it sounds pleasing. Soon she learns that after this clicker trigger comes praise or a treat, and so she is ever willing to repeat this behavior in response to commands.
Punishing “bad” behaviors
The opposite of operant conditioning is a strategy known as behavior-modification, and this is seen in the use of electronic stimulation devices such as the ES collars and fence collars. Instead of receiving a reward after a positive behavior (like walking to heel), the opposite of that behavior (like pulling at the leash) is negatively reinforced with an annoying sensation from the collar.
ES collars emit an electrical current that the dog finds annoying to their skin. In the case of an ES collar, the electronic stimulation was delivered by the dog’s owner, who was nearby with a remote to see that the dog misbehaved and so initiated the stimulus. In cases using an ES fence collar, the owner or trainer may be out of sight when the electronic stimulus correction occurs. This is a passive training strategy that does not require interaction with the dog from it’s trainers. For this reason some countries ban the use of electronic stimulation dog training devices, especially for the possible misuse in which the dog receives the stimulus without reprieve.
As with any training method used, consistency is key to learning. Because they are unfailingly consistent, electronic stimulation fence collars are used by some trainers. If an alternative method is used, it is up to the active presence of the trainer to ensure that behaviors receive consistent responses. If even one correction is missed, the training might be compromised. It is best to involve all family members in training, and for each member involved in the training to use the alternative device the same way, just as it is important for everyone to use the same command terms for each different behavior.
Variety in positive rewards
For not every occasion is it appropriate to give a treat to the dog as a reward. As with using a clicker to train, or even an electronic stimulation device, it is still important to use positive reinforcements, and these might include a variety of choices, such as praising the dog verbally, giving pats or belly rubs. In some cases it is appropriate to give a treat, but be sure to use treats only on occasion and only those that have a balance of nutrients, vitamins and minerals—in affect, they are healthy. The dog will learn that after a good behavior, she can anticipate a positive response from her trainer. Since the responses are varied, she will have rapt attention to the training because she is interested in finding out what reward is coming her way this time. This encourages her to stay tuned to the training and gives her confidence in learning the new behaviors you are teaching her.
Training stress awareness
Dogs can experience high levels of stress when their training is heavily negative-reinforcement-based, as is typical with ES device training. For example, some dogs might develop stress every time the ES collar is on his neck, and after feeling the electronic stimulation a few times, might stress out in anticipation of training time.
Stress can lead to chronic mental and physical problems with extended collar use. Professionals recommend the dog wear the collar only for short stints of training for this reason.
Correcting behavior that seems uncontrollable:
There are many ways to teach new behaviors and undo behaviors in dogs without the use of an ES collar, however if you choose to use an ES collar then remember that your goal is in training not causing pain to your dog. That said, the correction of a habit that might cause injury to your dog must be met with a correction that is as if not more bold. For example, if your dog has a habit of chewing on an electric cable, he might be shocked by that cable. Your ES collar correction when he chews must be a stimulus as strong if not stronger than the shock he would receive from the cable. This is so that the annoyance of the correction will overpower the joy of chewing to him. Similarly, if your dog has a problem of digging in the yard, your use of the collar must be relative to his passion for digging. Consistency too is important. For the first few days of your training, you must go outside with him when he goes outside, so that you can monitor when he starts to dig and correct him when he does. This consistency will reinforce the good behaviors (not digging) even when you are not around to correct him.
3 ES collar tips for rapid behavior modification:
Even though electric stimulation collars can effectively modify your dog’s behavior, the improper use of them might make your dog scared, distrusting, or aggressive. The line between cruelty and training is blurred by misuse. Here are three tips to help you avoid misusing the ES collar:
1. Help your dog get used to wearing her collar for a couple of days before actually using it. Correction collars are not to be worn all the time, but only during training.
2. Use the low settings whenever you can.
3. Use the collar remote when your dog can’t see you doing so.
Are ES collars cruel?
Even though electronic stimulation collars do not cause pain, a dog might interpret the sensation delivered as pain depending on their temperament and the level of the collar setting. This raises ethical concerns for some, and poses the question: “what pain is the right kind of pain to allow a dog for behavioral training?” “How much is too much?” ES collar users consider these questions to deal with the trainer’s moral compass, and that is different for everyone. Some trainers argue that simply positive behavioral reinforcements are as or more effective than using an ES collar to bring distress or pain. On the flip side, negative reinforcements have also been shown to compel a dog to avoid negative behaviors. It is up to the trainer to decide what method of training follows their morals and supports their dog’s wellbeing.
ES collar reviews:
SportDOG Brand 425X Remote Trainers – 500 Yard Range E-Collar with Static, Vibrate and Tone – Waterproof, Rechargeable
This electronic stimulation training collar is recommended due to its wide range and plenty features. Considered the top of the training collar list for hunting dogs, this device reaches up to five-hundred yards and fits dogs weighing eight or more pounds, which is two pounds more than other collars of its type. The collar also fits necks up to size 22 inches. The electronic stimulation delivered by the collar can be adjusted by a remote control, from level one to level seven. Since it is very important for a hunting dog to be able to travel in all weather and all terrain, this collar is made waterproof and weatherproof by DryTek technology, and can be submerged up to twenty-five feet deep. A con to this collar is that the battery does not last long, which means on extensively long hunting trips a second battery or a break for charging will need to be had.
WOLFWILL 100% Waterproof Rechargeable Humane Remote Dog Training Collar 1980ft Blind Operation with No Shock Tone Vibration Light Electric Collar Dogs(22 to 88lbs)
This collar is an alternative to electronic stimulation training devices, as it does not deliver an electric stimulus but vibrates instead. Those who do not support the use of electronic stimulation training devices support this product as one of the best alternative methods, and they report that is more “humane.”
The WOLFWILL is at the top of the list for vibration-only training collars. First, the collar is rated IPX7 (the International Protection delivered by the toughness of the casing that keeps water out) waterproof, can be recharged by a charging cord rather than having to remove the battery, and is remote controlled—the basics needed to train a dog with the use of a vibrating collar.
Bonus features of the WOLFWILL include the ability of the collar to be up to one-thousand, nine-hundred and eighty feet away from the remote and still perfectly transmit light and tone warnings. The wireless remote is multifunctional, able to control two collar receivers at the same time (the package comes with one collar, so if you have two dogs that you would like to train using the same remote, purchase the extra collar). The remote display uses LCD lighting and toggles three training modes, including tone, one through sixteen levels of vibration, and light warning.
This collar fits dogs weighing from twenty-two to eighty-eight pounds.
Downsides to this collar include the poor transmissions through exceptionally heavily-coated dogs, and the disregard aggressive dogs tend to have for the light and vibration modes of this collar. However, after the purchaser has tried this collar out for up to thirty days, it can be returned for a full refund.
- Educator E-Collar Remote Dog Training Collar
As many electronic stimulation training collars reach only up to one half mile, The Educator collar is a top pick as it reaches as far as one mile, which is a strong benefit for someone looking for a tanning device for a hunting dog, or they live on large acreage where the dog may roam.
This collar’s receiver has the capability of delivering either an electronic stimulation or an intense tap vibration. A stand-out feature of the Educator is a tracking light that allows the owner to more easily follow the dog in the dark.
The Educator’s signal range reaches up to one mile, is waterproof, the battery rechargeable, includes a one-year warranty, and the electronic stimulation levels include a static setting ranging from one to one-hundred, and a boost stimulation setting ranging from one to level sixty.
This collar can be bought in a smaller version, called the Micro Educator, which is great for dogs weighing down to five pounds. Otherwise, the Educator is suited for dogs weighing twenty pounds or more. The Micro Educator collar transmissions can extend up to one-third of a mile, and weighs twenty percent lighter and stimulates twenty percent less than the Educator, and the contact points on this small version are closer than on the Educator, so as to accommodate smaller-necked breeds.
Cons to the Educator include the absence of tone and vibration settings and instead a tapping sensation; usually more expensive than other brands.
Dog Training Collar – Rechargeable Dog Shock Collar w/3 Training Modes, Beep, Vibration and Shock, 100% Waterproof Training Collar, Up to 1000Ft Remote Range, 0~99 Shock Levels Dog Training Set
This training collar by Dog Care is a durable waterproof device that includes three levels of electronic stimulation, termed shock, vibration, deep. These three are touted as great for controlling dogs who are big and strong and uncontrollable. The transmitter can support up to nine collars and the static levels can be adjusted for two dogs at a time. The transmitter works up to three-hundred and thirty yards away, and the batteries are reportedly long lasting, which is a major benefit to this device.
- PetSafe Elite Outdoor Bark Control:
This electrical stimulation alternative uses timed ultrasonic pitches to send a tone that only a dog can hear. These tones are annoying to the dog, which is the reason for the dog’s change in behavior at the sound. These devices are often used to stop a dog from barking. Reviewers report that this device is easily programmed, however a down side is that it must be placed within fifty feet of the dog in order to work, and must be kept dry. If it does get wet, users have reported being able to dry it and it begins working as normal again.
Finally, there are many choices ahead of you in training your dog. You are the biggest player in your dog’s wellbeing, and it is up to you where the moral lines are drawn in terms of what is right and wrong and permissible or punishment-worthy in your pup’s training. Tke training lightly, and give your dog plenty of encouragement through your tone of voice and gestures. A dog truly is humans’ best friend!