Behavioral Problems Caused By Punishment Collars

This type of collar is used to try to correct a behavior, but what it does is mask it and, incidentally, inflict fear in certain situations, which can result in aggression.
Behavioral Problems Caused by Punishment Collars

Pointed, electric, or choker collars have long been seen as effective tools for correcting dog behavior. However,  over time, it has been noticed that dogs wearing punishment collars do not improve, but develop new behavioral problems.

What are punishment collars?

Punishment collars are also called training collars. These collars are objects or devices placed around dogs’ necks that cause a negative experience  when they do wrong.

Electric collars, for example,  cause a vibration or electric shock when the trainer presses a button on the remote control  , or it is activated when the dog’s throat vibrates to bark.

Collars with metal tips have metal or plastic spikes attached to the animal’s neck. When the dog pulls the collar or is pulled, it feels pain to correct its behavior. Hanging collars, on the other hand, are movable collars that tighten without limit on the animal’s neck.

These collars have been used for many years in dog education. For a time it was believed that they were effective and that dogs who wore punishment collars learned to behave better, but today it has been proven that they are not only not effective, they cause new problems.

electric punishment collars

Currently, there are still many canine trainers who use these collars. However,  in many places they are prohibited by law: in many European countries they are illegal. In Spain, they are being regulated by autonomous communities.

Why do dogs wear punishment collars?

Therefore, there are many reasons why an owner can wear a punishment collar on their dog:  it is generally bad advice from someone who is not a professional dog educationr, such as a neighbor who has large dogs or a veterinarian who sees the opportunity to sell a new collar.

In general, owners put on punishment collars to try to solve a behavior problem: pulling on the strap, aggressiveness or excessive energy in the street.

However,  punishment collars are not a solution to behavioral problems: at best, what they do is hide the  initial problem. That is, the dog learns to prevent the irritating stimulus, such as the electrical discharge or the tightening of the spines in the neck.

This doesn’t solve the problem of behavior: it just hides it. The day the owner discards the training collar or the dog’s discomfort increases, the problem that worries the owner so much reappears. To solve a behavior problem, you must go to the root of it, and a collar will never be the solution.

Behavioral problems that arise with its use

Training collars don’t solve behavioral problems:  they make them worse and can cause new problems.

choke chain

Often, a dog’s bad behavior indicates that there is discomfort in his daily life: stress, fear or  pain. For example, it  is common for dogs to bark a lot in stressful situations. Therefore, an electric anti-barking collar does not solve the problem: it just hides it, because the problem that causes barking continues to exist.

Covering up the symptoms of a larger problem is not a solution: it is a temporary dressing. If the dog experiences discomfort and it is not resolved, the symptoms of this will eventually show up in other ways:  following example, instead of barking, the dog could destroy household objects.

Furthermore,  continually provoking the dog with negative experiences causes behavioral problems that did not exist before, according to Pavlov’s rules of behavior and  classical conditioning.

For example, an owner puts a collar of thorns on his dog, so he stops pulling the collar. However, the dog feels discomfort or pain in the neck when he is on the street: when a bicycle appears, when another dog approaches to say hello, when there is a noise and he is afraid, etc.


The dog’s brain unconsciously begins to relate each of these situations to the pain it feels. Soon, he will believe that every time an unknown dog approaches him, he will feel pain: he will do everything possible to keep them away so that the collar does not squeeze him.

Through this very basic learning mechanism,  the dog will start to show aggression towards other dogs, children, bicycles, the garbage truck…   It is unpredictable what associations your brain will make.

collar with spines

Fear and stress are very common emotions in dogs that wear punishment collars. From these two emotions derive almost all the behavioral problems that bother us in dogs: aggressiveness, excessive barking, pulling, inability to live with other dogs, destruction of objects at home, etc.

Alternatives to punishment collars

Fortunately, animal psychology and dog education have evolved in recent decades. Well-trained educators and families, who want the best for their dogs, already have many other methods and tools  to solve their pets’ behavioral problems without having to resort to fear or pain.

The only really effective way to solve a dog’s behavioral problems is to get to the root of that behavior:  that’s why temporary solutions are no longer applied these days.

Finally, veterinary studies have found that dogs wearing punishment collars experience 55% more stress than other dogs. This type of training collar causes fear and, with it, many other behavioral problems are derived.

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