The Shocking Truth by Jan Casey Copyright 2013

Courteous Canine Inc and The DogSmith Tampa

When we consider modern dog training methods, there are three areas which should be considered: the effect on the dog’s physical well-being, the impact on the dog’s mental health, and the ethics of using shock on an animal that must depend upon and trust us to fulfill its needs. The use of a shock collar is detrimental to the animal on all three levels.

Shock collars are marketed to pet owners and trainers for specific purposes including: “training” for obedience, recall, and hunting.  Shock collars are also used for containment (electronic fences) both inside and outside, and to correct “problematic behavior such as barking as seen in the use of “bark-collars.”  Due to the physical and psychological problems resulting from the use of shock collars, they cannot be recommended for any of these applications.

How They Work

Mechanically, a shock collar is designed to deliver varying levels of electrical shock to a dog. Jim Casey, a mechanical engineer with more than 35 years of experience, describes how they work:

“In the collars, there are two terminals that contact the animal's skin. When the circuit is activated, one terminal is energized. The ‘load’ is the animal's flesh and the other terminal provides the ground return path. Note that even though the two terminals on the collar are only a few centimeters apart, the electricity follows the path of least-resistance. If the skin is dry and non-conductive, the voltage in the collar is high enough so that the electricity can spark through the skin into moist, conductive tissue underneath that is full of nerve endings.  If the unit fails to work when the remote button is pushed, the operator may increase the intensity and the dog receives a highly-intense shock rather than a gradual increase. The effect of the shock on the dog will vary. There is no way to determine how intense the shock will feel  because of variables such as the individual’s skin thickness  and coat, moisture on the skin, whether the skin is broken or split and the level of electrolytes in  bodily fluids.”


How They Are Marketed


Marketers like to use neutral euphemisms to disguise the harsh reality of shock collars. They are often called “e-collars,” “remote collars,” “training collars” and other benign terms. In a similar way, the painful shock delivered to the dog is referred to as a “tap,” a “tingle,” “stimulation,” “e-touch” or  anything to obscure the fact that an electrical shock is being sent  through the skin and nerves of the body.

Physical Concerns

It is also possible for a shock collar to cause  burns on a dog’s neck. If the electrodes of the shock collar do not fully contact  the skin, a spark may be produced and vaporize a small portion of tissue. In addition, the electrodes themselves are problematic — they may cause pressure necrosis and are often made of metal that is not hypoallergenic, causing contact dermatitis, or allergic reactions.

Note the pointed style of the electrodes on the model pictured (below right). Having these push into a dog’s soft neck produces discomfort, especially when worn for long periods of time.

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