Dog shock collars have been in use since the 1960s and have only grown in popularity over the decades. We can certainly see the benefit of using these collars. They can be used to suppress undesirable behavior from a distance and sometimes without the input of the owner.
Unfortunately, that is where the benefits end. And as dog lovers ourselves, we strongly advise avoiding traditional shock collars and instead investing in something more modern and humane.
Perhaps you are a new dog owner and you’re eager to raise a well-behaved pet. Maybe you have small children in the home and you want to know your dog will always behave in a family-friendly manner around the kids. I’ve personally been in both scenarios and one of my earliest considerations was a shock collar that came highly recommended from friends.
One of the best decisions I made was choosing a more reliable alternative. It was a decision that came after extensive research and discussions with my vet and other dog owners.
Ultimately, I chose to rely on a combination of training techniques including training whistles and mild vibration collars. But these are hardly your only options.
Now, let’s look at some of the top alternatives to shock collars for dogs…
Our Top 5 Alternatives to Shock Collars
Now that we’ve provided a basic guide on shock collars, their advantages, and their flaws, it is time to consider the alternatives. Some of these options are more advanced collars that include an electric shock function in addition to other training features. Others rely on more sensitive stimuli like vibration. Finally, some rely entirely on sounds and require a more hands-on approach from the owner.
1. Halo Collar
- Our Rating: 4.7 out of 5
The Halo Collar has cemented itself as the top-tier smart collar on the market today. It comes with a hefty price tag, but it’s also loaded with features that are useful for training any pup. The fact that it is heavily endorsed by Ceasar Milan helps add some validity to its effectiveness. There may be some cheaper smart collar options available, but none of them can quite compare to what Halo has to offer.
The first feature worth noting is the no bark shock collar option. As with other shock collars, this feature is useful for teaching your dog when barking is not appropriate. However, we don’t recommend leaving this feature activated at all times. It should be used in training situations and when supervision is available.
The static shock option also works alongside the smart fence technology. This is where the Halo Collar really shines. You are able to program up to 20 virtual fences and you can choose between them at will. The smart fence relies on GPS technology and internal logic rather than fence posts or any additional tools. It also means you don’t need to rely on Wi-Fi or cellular data to keep the fence active.
While static feedback is available for both of these training options it is not the only training feedback available. You can also choose audio feedback as well as vibration stimuli. Both of these are excellent choices if you would like to avoid the risks associated with static shock.
A few other features:
- 21-day training program
- GPS dog tracking
- App that monitors dog health and activity
Overall, this an excellent training tool. It can provide multiple feedback stimuli and serves more than one training function. The only complaint that we have is the large price tag. It is considerably more expensive than any of the competing smart collars. But if you’re interested in the best for your dog, then this may be a smart investment.
2. Vibrating Dog Collars
- Our Rating: 3.5 out of 5
You may not need all of the bells and whistles of the Halo Collar when you’re training your new pup. Or you might choose to use multiple training tools each with unique functions. This increases the number of training items you need to purchase but can still ultimately save you money. It also makes it easier to replace individual items if one of them breaks down. If you take this route, then one of the best items to consider is the vibrating dog collar.
The quality and effectiveness of these collars are often closely tied to the manufacturer. It’s important to carefully research the brand as well as the unique collar to ensure that there are no safety-related issues. Some of the big-name brands to consider include:
These brands run the full pricing spectrum. There are some very minimal collars that cost less than $30 and then there are more advanced, durable collars closer to $200. The more expensive collars may not include more features, but they often have a longer range, are waterproof, and may include additional collars per single remote.
Vibrating collars are an excellent alternative to traditional shock collars. Their main advantage is that there is no risk of harming the dog. There’s no chance for electrical burns or damage to the vocal cords. However, they may not be nearly as effective for larger breeds.
We recommend checking the recommended breed sizes for any vibration collar before making a purchase. Some are more powerful and specifically designed for larger dogs.
3. Citronella Training Collars
- Our Rating: 4 out of 5
As with the shock collar and vibration collar, the citronella collars utilize an unpleasant deterrent to keep dogs from barking as frequently. In this case, the collar sprays a light mist of citronella towards the dog’s nostrils. Citronella is derived from lemongrass and creates a mildly unpleasant experience. Most dog owners consider this a more humane option than a static shock and it can deliver identical results.
There is even some research that suggests a citronella training collar is more effective on average. There are some dogs who will continue to bark or jump even after receiving an electric shock. Those are cases where the owner might attempt to shock the dog multiple times, thus increasing the risk for harm. There have been very few instances where a dog was completely resistant to citronella.
The citronella mist can be so effective at first that the spray can later be replaced with something milder like water and the same results would be achieved. This happens because the dog is trained to fear the citronella scent and spray. Once they have reached this point in their training you can replace the spray without affecting the training routine.
There are still some considerations to keep in mind when investing in a citronella collar. It is possible for a dog to have an unfavorable reaction to the spray. If you notice any sort of adverse health reaction to the spray you should immediately stop use and find an alternative spray solution.
4. Training Clickers
- Our Rating: 2.5 out of 5
There’s no denying the usefulness of a training clicker. They are one of the most commonly utilized training tools by dog owners across the country. However, the effectiveness of the clicker relies on the trainer more than the device itself. Without proper usage, the clicker will have very little effect on the dog and may not prevent any negative behavior.
Perhaps the biggest difference between clicker training and using a shock collar is that a clicker is used for reinforcing good behavior while a shock collar is used to deter bad behavior. This makes a clicker less reliable when it comes to preventing habits like barking or jumping. On the other hand, it is an excellent tool for teaching a dog commands, which a shock collar simply cannot do.
The brand of the clicker is far less important compared to training collars. A clicker only ever has a single function: to produce a specific sound. Different brands may feature different designs and materials, but the clicker should ultimately work the same.
5. Dog Training Whistles
- Our Rating: 2.5 out of 5
Dog training whistles fall into a similar category as clickers. They also have only one function, which is to produce a specific sound. This is a high-frequency whistle that is only audible to dogs and other animals with sensitive hearing. Once again, the manufacturer will have very little impact on the tool’s effectiveness, but it can affect its lifespan and how comfortable it is to use.
The major difference between a clicker and a whistle is when you use them. A clicker is best used after a dog has performed a certain command. It lets them know they have performed well and are about to receive a treat or praise. Meanwhile, a dog whistle is used to signal to a dog that it is time to perform a certain command. It immediately grabs their attention and is nearly impossible to ignore.
One of the advantages of using a dog training whistle is the consistency in the sound it creates. Verbal commands can easily fluctuate depending on your mood and various other factors. A dog whistle, by comparison, should always create the same sound. Consistency is extremely important when training any dog.
Reasons You May Want to Consider an Alternative to a Shock Collar For Your Dog
It’s easy to see why so many people choose to rely on shock collars for their dog training needs. There are even some fringe cases where the collar may be a useful addition to the training routine. However, for the most part, the cons of the training collar far outweigh the benefits that they provide. These negatives may take months or years to become visible and can be nearly impossible to reverse once they occur.
1. Potential For Serious Harm?
A shock collar that is operated as intended on an animal of the target size presents minimal risk for harm. Unfortunately, accidents can happen and misuse of the device is more common than one might believe. Electrical burns ranging from mild to very severe are a common occurrence as is damage to the dog’s vocal cords.
Using these devices with the utmost care will help avoid these problems, but the best way to avoid them is to rely on an alternative training method altogether.
2. Potential Increase In Stress Levels
Cortisol is a hormone that is produced in both dogs and humans as a result of stress. This chemical accumulates in the body and can lead to a variety of serious health conditions. It is one of the reasons that stress is considered a serious health problem. It can increase the risk for depression, heart disease, high blood pressure, hair loss, and even cancer. It can also result in serious psychological and neurological damage over time.
3. Counter to Normal Behavior
Many people invest in shock collars because they want to train their animals to avoid barking. Excessive barking can be problematic in some situations, but the truth is that it is a very natural behavior for dogs. A dog may bark for any number of reasons both good and bad. Attempting to eliminate barking entirely counters their natural behavior and can lead to psychological problems that are much more difficult to diagnose or treat.
Why Do People Use Shock Collars – Do They Work?
The big question that most pet owners will have is “do shock collars work?” and the answer is “sometimes”. There is no definitive guide or solution that will apply to every dog. Each animal is unique and its behavior may have a variety of causes. This makes relying entirely on a shock collar a risky gamble. You may be punishing behavior that is not necessarily bad while having no way of providing positive reinforcement for good behavior.
That being said, the average dog owner who follows the instructions carefully may not be putting their dog in harm’s way with the occasional use of a shock collar. If every shock collar was considered absolutely inhumane then they would very quickly be pulled from shelves across the country. But they are actually fairly common and are used with success by many pet owners.
RELATED READING: Halo Collar Review
One way that a pet owner can still benefit from a shock collar without relying too heavily on it is by investing in a collar with multiple functions. This can also be combined with other alternative training techniques to create a complete package. What is important is that they do not rely entirely on static electrical shocks each time a dog barks or jumps. This “one size fits all” solution a bad practice that often leads to the types of harm previously mentioned.
There are several brands on the market today that strive to be as humane as possible. These brands tend to include more than just one function with their collars. They may have vibrating or other non-shock training options that still alert the dog of a negative behavior without risking burns or damage to the vocal cords. We’ll cover a few of these options further along in this guide.
Shock Collars vs Other Options: Which Choices Are The Most Effective?
Before moving on to new options let’s take a moment to compare the advantages of a traditional shock collar to the advantages of some of the alternatives.
- Variable Intensity
Most modern shock collars provide owners with complete control over the intensity of the shock. If it seems to cause too much harm they can easily be adjusted to a threshold that alerts the animal without risking damage. This flexibility may not be present in some alternatives like a spray collar, which sprays an unpleasant substance up the dog’s snout rather than provide an electrical shock.
- Long-Distance Training
One of the primary advantages of a shock collar is that the owner doesn’t need to be present to administer the training. Once the settings are in place, the collar can continue to work even if you are away from home at work or visiting with family. Of course, this can also prevent some risks if the collar malfunctions and you are not around to remove it before causing harm.
- A Cheap Buy
Most traditional shock collars are fairly cheap. They don’t need a plethora of features to perform their most basic tasks. However, the most advanced alternatives on the market like the Halo collar come loaded with advanced features. These features are very useful for training but are going to add to the final cost of the collar.
Summary: Tips For Picking The Best Options For You
Which of these shock collar alternatives is the best investment? If you’re willing to spend the money, then the Halo Collar is always a great option. It allows you to deter negative behavior with electricity, vibration, or programmed verbal commands. It is an excellent tool for putting a stop to bad habits.
The citronella collar stands out because it performs a function that most other smart collars, including the Halo Collar, cannot. Many dog owners consider it more humane and prefer it over electricity and even vibration. It is a great alternative to shock training if you are trying to deter bad habits.
Finally, if you’re more interested in training commands and reinforcing good behavior, then a dog whistle and training clicker are both great selections. And if you want a complete package then we recommend both of these positive training tools in addition to Halo Collar. The additional GPS tracking technology and smart fence settings are only icing on the cake.