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Just Say NO to E-Collars

By Barbara Cannon

Dog training has evolved in the last 20 years as we learn more about how dogs are motivated to learn. We now know that positive reinforcement can be a powerful tool for training. In recent years there has been the development of many kinds of technologies to help us train our dogs. Some of these new products can be an asset in positive reinforcement training, but some new technologies seem almost archaic in their design and purpose: to use pain and discomfort to motivate your dog. As force-free trainers at BAXTER and Bella we truly believe that e-collars, specifically shock collars designed to cause your dog pain, discomfort, and fear, will not only NOT train your dog, but they may also create more problematic behaviors that can be difficult to change.

Systems such as an invisible fence boundary only work because your dog is going to get a shock if he crosses a line. Manufacturers claim that these systems don’t cause pain but frankly, they wouldn’t work otherwise. Some dogs are very resistant to this pain and very motivated to run so will risk injury just to get away with possible tragic results. And what happens when the dog returns and must cross that fence again? He may choose to not come back because he has learned that crossing that boundary causes pain. Sadly, shelters have been full of dogs wearing these collars.

But that’s not all. No matter how these devices are used, be it a bark collar or a GPS, some dogs will respond to the shock with serious behavioral side effects such as fear-based aggression, general anxiety, and aggression towards anything or anyone that the dog associates with the shock. Owners have reported that even collars that startle a dog with beeping can create behavioral issues. These dogs associate the beeping with pain and discomfort and suddenly the dog is afraid of microwave noises, beeping alarms, and beeping sounds on television. The owner may not even know the side effects until after the damage is done.

Manufacturers have insisted that these collars are safe. However, one such manufacturer that makes Pet Safe shock collar-based containment systems, has been sued in California courts for making allegedly false claims about the device’s safety. Hundreds of documented cases have shown that these collars can cause severe injuries such as skin ruptures, bruising, inflammation, burns and infections. These claims may also include the emotional distress and the resultant behavioral issues that dogs experience from the use of these products.

We at BAXTER and Bella are happy to discuss some of the wonderful new training tools available on the market today for force-free training that will make training fun and enjoyable for your dog and you. We truly hope that you will avoid using any adverse tools such as e-collars. We think the price may be too high to pay.

For information about boundary training without the use of shock collars, see our previous blog here about boundary training.

Happy training!

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I can vouch for the fact that e-collars can do more harm than good. We got our first dog in early 2021 and despite our best efforts, he did not get the socialization he needed in his first 3 months and was always barking and extremely excited every time he saw another dog, person, or a new thing he hadn’t seen before. Initially, we worked with positive reinforcement only trainers but we were renting an apartment back then and our landlord was not content with the extremely slow, sometimes non-existent seeming progress we were making and demanded that we stop the barking or we couldnt have a dog. We obviously did not want to lose our furbaby so we started…


What is the author’s opinion of using the Gentle Leader? It doesn’t teach my awesome LabraDoodle, Otis, not to pull but using it prevents him pulling my shoulders ”out of socket” and prevents him from pulling me down. He gets great free-rein exercise as we play ball a minimum of four times/day and three days/week we are at out farm where we hike and play ball off-rein.

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Thanks for your question! Unlike electronic devices that deliberately try to scare your dog into submission, tools like soft collars, harnesses and head harnesses are gentle ways to manage behaviors such as pulling. After a period of adjustment, most dogs learn to accommodate a head harness. Many service dog organizations will use a head harness such as the Gentle Leader whereas they would never use an e-collar or prong collar for training. As Amy points out below, there are many different ways to train your dog and some tools may work better than others, but we find that fear free training works best for more dogs. Since head halters do not use fear to change behavior, we recommend them. ~Barbara


I may have missed this in the article, but the e-bark collars are also a huge mistake for all the reasons in the article. Our girl really wants to bark sometimes. Fortunately, we are home and have been able to redirect her impulse so she does pretty well. Hard to expect a dog to just NOT do what their nature alert us to people or dogs outside.😉 Most of the time, she "moofs" her alerts and it is funny when she has a "bark fart" that she just can't hold in. Grateful to B&B for all of the positive training advice!

I had a friend who advised against invisible fence years ago. She explained that it may (or may…


Sep 19, 2023

Thank you for this article. We were thinking of getting an invisible fence as our Auzzie climbs up chain link fencing. Our yard is not set up to put up a fence so we are using a 30 foot wire on her collar but thought that an invisible fence would give her more freedom. We will continue as we have been with dog parks, walks and playing on the wire.


Unknown member
Sep 19, 2023

The invisible fence made it possible to own a dog. She never gets shocked because she is smart and can wander around our 1 acre property while we are home. I never leave her out if we’re not home because she might bark to get into the house like the neighbors dog does. For us it was a game changer. Otherwise she’d be running into the street to greet every person and dog. Yes she was shocked maybe twice during the training process 2 years ago. None since.

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