3 Alternatives to Shock Collars: Humane and Effective Options

Filed in Dog Training on April 10, 2022

alternatives to shock collars

Although shock collars are used often for dog training, there’s evidence that they’re harmful to our dogs. In fact, many countries ban their use besides the U.S.

While they can be effective for dog training, this comes as a cost, including potentially causing even more problems.

Thankfully, there are alternatives to shock collars that are humane and just as effective without the negative consequences involved.

In this blog post, I’ll discuss these other options to train your dog effectively such as no-shock collars, clicker training, and long line training.

Downsides to Shock Collars

Like other aversive training techniques, shock collars can have many negative consequences for your dog, including causing increased stress and anxiety[1], making your dog see you more negatively[2], even when you’re not in the process of training, and physical issues like burns and lesions.

With all of these negative results of using a shock collar, you would hope they at least work. However, it doesn’t appear[3] that shock collars are any more effective than positive reinforcement training.

In fact, using aversive techniques like shock collars may cause your dog to have more problems[4] than not using them.

Thankfully, there are some very good alternatives to shock collars, even if you want to train your dog remotely or work on behaviors like good recall.

My 3 Best Alternatives to Shock Collars

1. No-Shock Dog Collars

dog training collar

Just because shock collars aren’t good for your dog or associated with better training outcomes doesn’t mean that all remote collars are problematic. No-shock collars can be highly effective for training, especially remote training.

By the way, I wrote an entire blog post on the best no shock training collar, if interested.

No-shock collars can beep and/or vibrate in order to communicate with your dog. This can be a great way to get your dog’s attention at a distance.

Dogs that have a hard time focusing on recall, especially highly focused dogs like scent hounds, may have an easier time noticing and responding to a beep or vibration.

These collars are invaluable when it comes to training deaf dogs that otherwise may be unable to hear you calling to them.

One excellent technique when using no-shock collars is to tie a beep or vibration to a reward like a treat or a favorite toy. Simply “load” the beep or vibration by creating the stimulus and then giving your dog a reward immediately.

By doing this over and over again, you’ll cause your dog to think about the beep or vibration as an indication of good things to come.

Then, you can use the beep or vibration to reward something that your dog is doing that you like, like coming when you call. Your dog will understand that the reward is forthcoming after they hear the beep or feel the vibration.

2. Clicker Training

Another great alternative to shock collars is clicker training. It was pioneered as a technique for training marine mammals, but it’s been found to be highly effective for training all sorts of animals, including dogs.

It seems to be so effective because it ties a reward to a very clear signal: the clicker. It’s useful for all sorts of behaviors, including remote behaviors. When dogs are trained at a farther distance, a specific whistle or other loud noise can be used instead of the clicker.

To clicker train your dog effectively, you will “load” the clicker by associating it with a reward, typically a treat, but sometimes a toy or praise.

Then, whenever your dog hears the clicker, they will associate it with a reward and know that they have done what you want them to do.

Note: a no-shock collar can serve the same function as a clicker if you tie the vibration or the beep to the reward. Whistles are also very effective.

Although the same kind of training can be accomplished with a verbal cue, it’s often more effective to use a mechanical sound like a no-shock collar, a clicker, or a whistle. This is because these sounds are completely consistent, whereas your voice varies dramatically.

3. Long Line Training

long line training leash

My last alternative to shock collars is long line training. It involves attaching a very long lead, usually at least 20 to 25 feet long, to your dog’s harness or collar and using it to control and communicate with your dog at a distance.

If you would like to train your dog at a slight distance from you, a long line can be very useful.

It allows your dog to behave somewhat independently while also protecting them in case they should decide to ignore your commands.

Being on a long line teaches a dog that they have no other option than to respond to you.

This can be very useful when training impulsive dogs that try to chase something tempting or wander after a smell during training.

Long line training doesn’t mean that you should use leash corrections. Instead, you can use a gentle tug on the long line to “nudge” your dog to pay attention to you, at which point they can perform the desired behavior and receive a reward.

When using a long line, it’s extremely important to not let your dog run to the end of a slack line, as this can result in a very painful and even serious injury to your dog.

Instead, carefully feed out the line so that you have control over your dog and can prevent them from lunging to the end of the line. Most trainers don’t advise using retractable leashes for this purpose.

This is because they can be prone to failure and more likely to cause your dog to get to the end of the line without your realizing it, resulting in a painful or dangerous pull.

Furthermore, if you should drop the retractable leash, it will bounce along after your dog, likely causing your dog to run from it. By comparison, a handheld long line, if dropped, can be picked up again relatively easily.

Conclusion on Alternatives to Shock Collars

Shock collars may seem like a quick fix for behavioral problems. However, they can do more harm than good and can result in serious problems for your dog and the relationship you have with them.

Alternatives to shock collars like no-shock collars, clicker training, or long line training are a much better way to get the desired behavior from your dog while also developing a strong bond with them.

Let me know if you have any comments below.

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