Skip to Content

When to use a dog shock collar

5 uses for a dog shock collar

Treats and clickers are the norm in dog training these days, at least for your average pet dog trainer. This is absolutely fine. Most dogs thrive on praise and rewards. They don’t necessarily need a “leash pop” correction, although it certainly wouldn’t hurt them, either.

I prefer to be open to a variety of training methods. Not only is every dog different, but every situation is different. You bet I’m going to scream, “Hey! Knock it off!” at my dog a few times per year. I’m absolutely going to step in front of him to “body block” him from going after a burrito on the ground. I’m going to look him straight in the eyes so he knows I’m serious when I tell him “no” or “wait” or “quiet.”

Dog shock collars for training

While I’m generous with praise, treats, toys and doting on my dog, I have no problem using choke, prong or shock collars (also called e-collars or electronic collars) in certain situations. I’m not all “positive.” Of course, no one is.

OH MY GAWD, shock collars?! If this is your reaction, then this post is not for you. This post is also not a guide on how to use a shock collar. If you need help with that, I recommend you work with a professional trainer in your area.

This post is simply meant to show dog owners that there are a variety of training tools available – Gentle Leaders, bark collars, no-pull harnesses – and there are situations where all of these tools can be extremely helpful to the right dog/owner pair. I wish that dog owners would not be personally attacked just for mentioning a shock collar. I wish that people could stop being emotional over a valuable tool and focus on the real task – training the dog. We all know what is best for our own unique dogs.

5 possible scenarios where a shock collar could help with dog training

1. Teaching a dog physical boundaries.

My parents’ dogs (pictured) have always been trained with dog shock collars to remain within the boundaries of their yard. The dogs initially received a few weeks of training where they learned the boundaries and literally received one or two corrections. Not bad when you consider the years of off-leash freedom the dogs have had since then.

A physical fence is just not always financially realistic or visibly attractive if you want your dogs to have access of the whole yard, especially on a lakefront, tree-filled property.

When I first brought Ace to my parents’ house, we decided to use a shock collar to teach him the boundaries as well. That way, when my parents took care of him for weeks at a time, they could feel comfortable leaving him outside with their dogs. While Ace is one of those dogs who chooses to remain close, you just never know what could cause any dog to bolt from the yard and into the street.

My dog received a single shock during his initial training and one shock or two after that. Now, almost seven years later, he still remembers the boundaries when we visit my parents’ house. I have absolutely no regrets using a shock collar to teach him where he can and can’t wander. It’s made his life more fulfilling, and it’s increased our bond because we’re able to spend more time together.

2. Teaching a dog not to bark.

I don’t recommend a shock collar as the first option to stop a dog’s barking. First, I recommend the owner makes sure the dog is receiving adequate exercise and interaction. The dog should also receive obedience training so the owner can call the dog when necessary and put him in a down/stay position, for example. Obedience training will also help give the dog some structure, so hopefully the barking will naturally decrease.

Of course, there are situations where an anti-bark collar might be the best or the only option. It’s unfortunate when people rule them out or start judging dog owners for using these tools. For example, what if the dog’s owner is facing eviction warnings due to the dog barking at every single noise when left alone? Leaving a dog in a kennel or crate won’t always quiet him down. Hiring a dog walker or taking the dog to dog daycare is not always an option. These services are expensive. Using a citronella spray collar is a possibility, but these are much milder deterrents and won’t always work.

Dogtra dog shock collars to stop a dog's barking

3. Teaching a dog to stop chasing something dangerous.

Again, it helps to think of all possible scenarios. For some situations, a shock collar is not appropriate. If a dog is attempting to chase cars, for example, maybe it’s best for that particular dog to remain on a leash at all times. On the other hand, what if that dog happens to slip through its collar or bolt out the door? Wouldn’t it be better if the dog has already been trained not to chase cars?

Or, what if your newly adopted dog just can’t seem to stop staring at or chasing your cat? It might be best to re-home one of them. Or, perhaps a correction or two along with some positive reinforcement to reward the right behavior is all the dog needs to learn the cat is not for chasing. Sure, you could spend months and months using treats and praise. Or, you could use a shock collar and possibly train the dog much faster. It’s not for all dogs, but it’s one possibility.

4. Controlling a dog from a distance.

Hunting dogs and other types of working dogs are often trained on dog shock collars. Some of these dogs need to do their jobs several yards ahead of their owners – flushing, retrieving, searching, etc. –  and their owners need to be able to communicate with them. They don’t all use shock collars, but these collars are one possible training tool.

5. Stopping unwanted behaviors.

There are just certain behaviors that can’t be stopped without some type of correction. A friend emailed me earlier this year asking if I had any suggestions on how to train a dog to stop eating its own poop. This dog’s owners were at their wits end, and nothing seemed to be working. Maybe they hadn’t tried enough food options to find something the dog valued more than poop. But regardless, positive reinforcement just wasn’t working.

Why not try an e-collar with a remote? I asked. A few corrections would take care of the problem. The owners could even stand inside the house to watch the dog in the yard. That way, the dog would not associate the owners with the correction.

A few months later, I asked how the dog was doing. They had decided to use a shock collar, and it had worked to solve the problem.

As another example, you could use a shock collar with a remote to stop a dog from digging in the yard or to stop the dog from eating certain types of plants. I’m sorry, but all the positive reinforcement in the world is just not going to stop certain behaviors.

Safety tips to keep in mind when using a dog shock collar


  • As with any training tool, you need to make sure to use a shock collar properly. Don’t hesitate to seek help from a professional.
  • There are often other training methods that can be just as effective as a shock collar. Try to use the tool that is best for the situation.
  • You only want to use the shock collar to train one behavior/concept at a time. You don’t want the dog to be receiving corrections for barking, jumping, stealing garbage and leaving the yard, for example. That would be very confusing and stressful! Work on one concept at a time.
  • All training tools should only be used when the owner is calm. No training collar should be used when the owner is angry, frustrated or afraid.


Have you used a shock collar to train your dog?

Sign up to receive additional content in my bi-weekly newsletter:


Saturday 27th of January 2024

I'm glad I read this. I have a 7 month old Rottweiler, my 4th Rott, and this one is dead set on eating any plant she can find. I've already had 2 vet visits bc not only does she dig to get out under the fence and eat neighbors plants but our bushes that live the fence to prevent the dogs from getting out. I'm going to try this so every time I see her digging or sniffing around a plant she learns that plants and digging under the fence means a zap. I have been trying to use positive reinforcement for 4 months but I think some dogs are just really headstrong and bad/dangerous behavior needs to be addressed with a bad association. Just like all kids don't have the same learning style, dogs don't either. I believe it will actually save her if she gets into a neighbors yard and nobody wants to meet a rambunctious teenage Rottie alone on the street.


Wednesday 6th of January 2021

I know this post is a few years old, but I'm glad to have read it! I've always had dogs, never ever had any behavior issues that we couldn't handle, but now we have an 8 month old Pittie/Plott hound mix and wow her energy! She does so well with all her training (she even dances) but she barks at the fence. It became a game before I realized to not call her right after a bark. We've tried all the things. She doesn't bark constantly, but she does bark at people and jump at the fence (totally not aggressively..). Pedestrians don't help because some of them, because she's so darn cute, actually reach over the fence and pet her! My neighbor, however, seems to be scared when our pup stands on the fence to bark at her (although her husband reaches over and pets our Poppy). So For the first time after Many dogs, we're considering a shock collar. The way I look at it? I've seen how puppies play, and I've certainly seen mother dogs correct their pups. A quick little shock that isn't high enough to cause pain, but to literally shock their attention, is most certainly comparable to the corrections they'd receive from their own mothers. For their own safety.

I do not want my neighbors to be scared, and I worry more because of the negative stereotypes toward pitt bulls. They just have SO much energy! I loved your article on ways to give your dog a job to do.

So. As a mom, and also a dog mom, I'll be using a shock collar for my pup. Oh, also, the things my puppy has done, like, fall 4' off the porch, or run full speed into a parked car, or slip on the ice, and all those types of things and she just continues on, happy as can be like nothing even happened. I've felt the shocks from a shock collar, I'll say I'd much prefer that than knocking my head on the concrete, or running full speed into a parked car. Dogs (especially certain breeds) have a super high pain tolerance, and it sometimes actually requires that shock to get the dog to think, "Oh, hi, forgot you were there calling for me!".

Gary Gregg

Wednesday 29th of July 2020

I have Belgium Malinois who is intent upon killing cats. There is no positive reinforcement that could possibly dampen his desire and I will not allow him to kill any animals on my farm. I am very kind to my animals and am going to be kind enough to use a shock collar to stop this behavior. There is no grace period in rural areas for a dog that wants to kill chickens sheep goats cats whatever. My dog would get shot by a neighboring farmer the first time he killed one of their animals. My dog is incredibly intelligent and I am pretty sure it will only take one or 2 shocks to get the message through to him. It will save his life and for that I make no apologies and I know that I am doing the right thing in this particular case.

Lindsay Stordahl

Wednesday 29th of July 2020

I hope it works! It didn't work for a weim I wanted to adopt. I felt her prey drive was still too strong around my cat. But I'm hoping it will work for your situation.


Saturday 11th of February 2017

After a few years of successfully training many commands to my mastiff the problem continued the be that certain situations just over-rode his training (eg his perfect recall was nonexistent when a biker/bunny/etc went by). I started working with a trainer and his recall is 100%reliable now and I only ever use the vibrate to correct him. I used the actual shock twice. However, I quit working with this trainer when she was using the ecollar to correct my dogs guarding of toys and he squealed and cowered. When she handed me back the remote it was set at 100% when his working level was 25. Shortly after he bit my other dog over a toy. The collar had been sitting in a drawer until recently I found a lot of success in using it to stop him from jumping on visitors or on the fence when people walk by. I'm considering using it to teach him to not chase my cat who has been living entirely separate from him through site-swapping.


Saturday 4th of February 2017

I just want to say that citranella collars are not kinder, or somehow a lesser correction. Dogs have very sensitive noses, and while the "shock" collar shuts off immediately after the correction, the smell of the citranella continues to correct your dog with no break for hours.

Lindsay Stordahl

Saturday 4th of February 2017

That makes sense, thank you.