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Are Shock Collars Illegal? Legality & Ethics Explained (Vet Reviewed)

Written by: Rachel Giordano

Last Updated on May 24, 2024 by Dogster Team

Labradoodle dog wearing bark collar training collar or Shock Collar

Are Shock Collars Illegal? Legality & Ethics Explained (Vet Reviewed)


Dr. Ashley Darby Photo


Dr. Ashley Darby

BVSc (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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The laws regarding shock collar legalities vary from state to state and even country to country. However, it’s crucial to note that shock collars, also known as e-collars, are illegal in many places. In some Australian states, shock collars are illegal 1. The British Veterinary Association (BVA) has announced that plans are in the works to ban the use of shock collars in England. Shock collars are legal in most US states, however, others are working on banning them. The New York State Senate has a bill to ban the sale of shock collars. Beyond the legal aspect, the use of shock collars is widely considered substandard.

If you’ve ever wondered if shock collars hurt a dog, the answer is a resounding yes. Scientific research has shown that these devices can cause a range of negative emotions and physical reactions in dogs, including panic, fear, anxiety, pain, stress, and even aggression.

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What Is a Shock Collar and How Does It Work?

Shock collars work by sending electrical currents through metal contact points on the collar, giving a dog an electric shock. The level of shock is typically controlled by the owner. The shock can range from a mild, tickling sensation to a painful shock. These collars have been used as training collars but are increasingly being removed from shelves.

Despite being used for training purposes, dog owners often misuse shock collars, which cause fear and, in some cases, aggressive behavior in dogs. For example, an inexperienced dog owner may use the shock feature if the dog digs a hole in the yard, even when the dog wasn’t caught in the act. Not only is this inhumane, but it’s also extremely ineffective because the dog will have no clue as to why they’re suddenly riddled with pain and fear, rendering the device ineffective.

The bottom line is that there are more humane and effective ways to train a dog without the use of a shock collar.

Labradoodle dog wearing bark collar or shock collar looking at the window
Image Credit: sophiecat, Shutterstock

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Safe Alternatives to Shock Collars

Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement is the most humane way to train a dog. It uses “positive” methods, such as rewards, treats, and praise, when your dog does something correctly. However, timing is crucial for success in order for positive reinforcement training to work. In other words, the reward must come immediately after the desired behavior so that the dog learns that the behavior is correct and acceptable.

Vibrating Collar

Although vibrating collars and shock collars are often used interchangeably, they are different devices. Vibrating collars are considered more humane and are usually permitted, whereas shock collars have become illegal or have had restrictions put in place in many states.

Vibrating collars are not meant to cause pain but rather to grab a dog’s attention. However, these collars are still not ideal, as they can nevertheless cause anxiety and fear in sensitive dogs. If you choose to use a vibrating collar, adjust the vibration to the lowest setting and gradually increase it until it grabs your dog’s attention, but not to the point of fear.

Dog with Electric shock collar on outdoor
Image Credit: Parilov, Shutterstock

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Can You Use a Shock Collar on a Puppy?

No, you should definitely refrain from using a shock collar on a puppy. Puppies are highly impressionable, and using a negative device like a shock collar may lead to behavior problems. If you choose to use a vibrating collar, you should wait until the puppy is at least 18 months old.

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Final Thoughts

The best way to train a dog is to use positive reinforcement rather than a shock or vibrating collar. Shock collars (and vibrating collars on sensitive dogs) can cause a dog to become fearful and even aggressive later in life. Shock collars are ineffective and inhumane. Remember that a dog should not suffer pain while being trained. Rewards, praise, and consistency are the most effective and safe ways to train a dog without the use of a shock collar.

Featured Image Credit: sophieca, Shutterstock

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