Shock collars can be useful tools for some behavioral issues. I am not against them, but you must learn to use shock collars responsibly.

It is wise to purchase a shock collar that has a sound-only function, vibration-only function, and varying degrees of shock. Most dogs can learn to respond to the sound and vibration without use of the shock function.

Train your dog to respond by using the following steps: 1- start with a beep and reward him if he stops the behavior. 2-If he doesn’t stop, vibrate once and reward him if he stops. 3- If he still doesn’t respond to the beep or the vibration, shock him at a medium level (3ish) and reward when he stops the behavior. By doing things in this order, you will train him to listen and respond to the beep first. Once he realizes what the shock feels like, you should turn it down to a 1 or 2; just enough to break his focus and get him back in-tune with you. If he doesn’t respond to a level 3 shock, do not turn it up. Go over to him and correct him using other means to make him understand that the shock means “listen to me”.

It is IMPERITIVE that you use the shock collar as your dog is ABOUT to do the unwanted behavior. If you wait until he’s already at level 10 or if he’s already fixated on the bird, or if he’s already got the piece of poop in his mouth, etc, he will be oblivious to the shock. Do not use a shock collar if your dog is in a fight with another dog. It’s too late at that point. Also, remember that your dog has a 10 second memory span. You must catch him right away or he won’t realize why you’ve disciplined him.

Remember to follow-thru. Reward your dog when he obeys you. If he doesn’t respond to a shock, go over to him and give him a further correction (leash, touch, make him sit or lay down) so that he will take you seriously.

Shock collars are useful for the following behavioral problems: long-distance corrections, setting boundaries off-leash (“that’s as far as you can go” type), working on your “come” command off-leash, and corrections in the home (going into the bathroom, jumping on the couch, counter-surfing, etc). Just remember to correct (using the varying degrees of intensity) as he begins to do the unwanted behavior.

Do not use a shock collar to correct your dog for barking. Your dog was made to alert the pack when an outsider is approaching and for you to discipline him with a shock collar goes against his instincts and will not work (we’ll talk about barking in a future post).

Finally, stay calm and show your dog how you want him to behave.