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Why I use a shock collar on my dog

My Lab mix Ace has never needed a shock collar (e-collar), but I had no hesitations using one with him as a safety precaution on my parents’ property.

When I was in high school, my mom and dad started using an electronic fence for our golden retriever. This was an underground “invisible” fence system where our dog wore a “shock” collar.

I never felt bad about the electronic fence, because I saw how much freedom the system allowed our sporting dog. (See my post on when to use a shock collar here.)

It would’ve been much more expensive to install a physical fence around that much land. Plus, we later got a second golden retriever who could climb right over a fence.

black Lab mix wearing shock collar

Training our dogs on an ‘invisible’ fence

I was involved with dog obedience training in high school, just as I am now. As a 14-year-old, I was familiar with different training methods.

It made sense to me to patiently teach our dogs the boundaries of the yard.

I’d walk the perimeter, giving them a warning beep with the collars and the command “get back,” followed by lots of praise. They learned very quickly that the tone meant “get back.”

[quote_center]A small price to pay for a dog’s lifetime of off-leash freedom.[/quote_center]

Later, they would receive literally one or two actual shocks when they tested the boundary, followed by more praise for “getting back.” A small price to pay for a dog’s lifetime of off-leash freedom.

So when I later adopted my first dog, it made sense for me to train Ace to also respect the boundaries of my parents’ new yard in Wisconsin.

English springer spaniel and golden retriever in the snow

The right choice for my individual dog

My dog is the type to stick close to his people. I highly doubt he’d ever run off, even if left unsupervised.

However, it’s nice to have the added safety of that “fence.” My dog gets to be out more when we visit my parents. There’s basically no chance he’ll cross the boundary into the road. It’s a win for all.

[quote_right]If you don’t like’m, don’t use’m.[/quote_right]Over the years, Ace has spent hours upon hours enjoying off-leash time at my parents’ house. They’ve taken care of him for up to 3 weeks at a time while I travel. I imagine that yard is his favorite place on earth.

So to hear people attack others (you know how dog people can get) just for suggesting a shock collar in various situations makes me sigh.

I can’t get involved in the arguments for or against any collar. I don’t really care what type of collar anyone else chooses to use.

If you don’t like’m, don’t use’m.

But every dog is different, and every situation is different, and some types of collars (whether it’s a shock collar or a Gentle Leader) can improve a dog’s quality of life.

It’s about making a smart and fair and humane choice for your individual dog.

You are the best advocate for your own pet. I trust you to make the best choice as I have done with Ace.

Have you ever used a collar or training method that someone else told you was wrong?

Let me know. I’d love to hear your thoughts. I also hope you’ll sign up for my email newsletter here.

Additional posts on this topic:

Is it time to stop using choke collars?

Yes I use shock and prong collars

Does a no-pull harness work?

Remote collar as a positive training tool? (from Oz the terrier)

madelyn garner

Wednesday 28th of January 2015

Verry interesting article, but these collars are not shock collars. As far as I know there is no electrical current being discharged. I’ve always called them E-collars or remote training collars. I have nothing but high praise for these collars. I wish people would stop calling them shock collars.

I actually become a little defensive on this subject because I’ve gotten into heated arguments with people about this topic. But my best counter argument is my very well behaved dog, Lucy. Out of all my family and friends, I have the best behaved and well heeled dog. Using the collar, I’ve taught her to heel, not to pull on our walks and the leave it command. Out of my group of family and friends, mine is the only dog that can safely go off leash and will come back when called.

Whether you use an e-collar or some other reward based training system, I find that a lot of people have unrealistic expectations when it comes to their dog’s behavior and or training. There is no way to have an obedient and or well behaved dog without time and training. Just like children, we must teach our dog boundaries and the things we expect from them. This not only results in a dog that is pleasant to be around, but a confident dog who is less likely to react out in fear-based aggression.

Thanks for letting me vent! :) I"m interested in what others have to say on this topic.



Monday 19th of January 2015

Our family dog had a shock collar setup (the kind of radio unit that transmitted a circle range). I used the collar myself (on my hand), and while it definitely was shocking, I wouldn't call it painful at all.

I loved using the shock collar because it meant we could let our dog outside without worry. He had the whole yard to explore, and I loved seeing him out sniffing around and enjoying the wilds. I think the only time these systems can go wrong is when the owner doesn't bother training the dog. If the dog doesn't understand how the system works, they can end up terrified and traumatized. However, with proper training, it's the perfect thing. I'd do it again with my next dog too!

Lindsay Stordahl

Monday 19th of January 2015

Great example! Nice to hear your thoughts on this. I think it depends on what system you go with, too. I used a pretty cheap version of what you described once, and it just wasn't reliable.


Thursday 15th of January 2015

We installed an electric fence when Haley was young and the key to its proper use lies in the training, not so much the fence itself or shock collar. Some people have a negative view of these products, but all too often dog owners don’t put in the training time and tend to rely on the collars to teach the dog where the boundaries are. Even I shortened the training time with Haley, because she seemed to catch on quickly and it does take some time to do the training.

Haley wore her shock collar for about six months and then I decided she knew where her boundaries were and she hasn’t worn it since and reliably stays in our yard. I think she only felt the vibrations from the collar on a few occasions during that six month period.

For us, the electronic fence and shock collar made sense and I have no regrets in installing and using it. However, in retrospect, I think I could have trained Haley without the fence or collar just as well, as she’s very easy to train and listens well.

I don’t think electric fences and shock collars are right for every dog. The biggest take-away from your article is that every dog is different and what works for one dog may not be the best option for another dog. For people that choose the electric fence and shock collar, please don’t skip out or shortcut on the training process.

Lindsay Stordahl

Thursday 15th of January 2015

Good to hear your thoughts on this!

Ace didn't need to wear the collar either after a short time. We put it on sometimes in case, but I know he didn't need it. My parents often leave the collar off of their golden as well. Their springer, on the other hand, does need the collar on when she's out.


Wednesday 14th of January 2015

Every dog and situation is different. We would never use an electric fence because Mom doesn't like them or trust them, but for many it works great. We sometimes use choke collars, have considered a shock collar but not tried one. Have tried a spray collar. It is really up to the individual situation.

Lindsay Stordahl

Wednesday 14th of January 2015

Good to hear your thoughts, Emma. I probably wouldn't install an electric fence either. Although, as you said, I guess every situation is different.

Rachel @ My Two Pitties

Wednesday 14th of January 2015

I agree that any collar if used properly can be right for a dog. I actually feel bad for some dogs that clearly are so uncomfortable in their gentle leader, that they would be much happier in a prong collar. I think e-collars are fine too. Especially when working on long distance off leash stuff like you explained. People don't realize that dogs feel very differently than we do...heck look at how they play with each other! I doubt that hunting dogs are traumatized when they are signaled to come back. But I obviously think they should be used right. Dogs need to know exactly why they are feeling it and what the right response.

Lindsay Stordahl

Wednesday 14th of January 2015

Ace really shuts down when I first get out his Gentle Leader. I often feel bad if I use it because it's like he can't even enjoy himself. So, you made a good point about that. I think some dogs would do much better in a prong collar.