Despite still being widely used, shock collars are an inhumane and impractical method of training a dog. Dogs respond to positive reinforcement far more successfully than negative reinforcement. So, to make your training process easier, we are sharing 17 great alternatives to shock collars!
When used properly, shock collars can be a safe and effective method of dog training. However, it takes a lot of work on your part to train a pet too, no matter which style of training you use. You’re not going to get off easy with these alternatives to shock collars either.
However, these methods are all safe and humane. You’ll need to be consistent with whichever alternative you choose and patient with your canine companion. Your dog isn’t going to learn anything overnight, so be sure to understand this and have patience.
Training a dog can be quite frustrating. But, if you stick with it your efforts will pay off well in the end. These alternatives to shock collars will help you to raise a well-behaved dog that you can be proud of!
17 Alternatives to Shock Collars for Dogs
1. Use Clicker Training
Clicker training is a good tool for training your dog as one of the alternatives to shock collars. By using a clicker with a command and rewarding your dog with praise or a treat when they follow through, you create a positive association with the clicker.
So, for example, if your dog barks at the mailman and you don’t want them to, you can use the clicker to call them to you – something they will do if expecting that positive reinforcement.
2. Work on Obedience with Your Dog
Problem barking or problem behaviors that are remedied with shock collars are the result of deeper-seated issues. It may be that your dog has too little socialization, that they have an unseated fear, or that they simply don’t know how to act in a specific situation.
Work with your dog on obedience as well as exposure to foreign stimuli while maintaining a positive atmosphere. This will get to the root of your dog’s problem behavior rather than punishing a symptom.
3. Reward Desirable Behavior Rather than Punish Undesirable Behavior
I ask you to do something and you don’t understand what I am asking you to do. You try it anyway but do the wrong thing. Instead of my showing you the right thing to do and associating it with praise, I punish you for doing the wrong thing and repeat my original command.
Once again you try to do what I’ve asked, but find it very difficult when you don’t understand what I want from you. You can see how this becomes problematic. I can punish you a million times for doing the wrong thing and because you are a loyal companion and friend, you will continue trying.
Through this process, you learn nothing except that when I ask you to do something and you attempt to do it, you get punished.
Now, consider that I persevere instead and work with you rather than against you. I praise you while showing you the right thing to do. This creates a positive association between the “right thing” and my command. From this example, you can see how positive reinforcement works in a much more efficient way than negative reinforcement.
4. Stop Barking with Distraction Instead
As one of the alternatives to shock collars to prevent barking, use a distraction to distract your dog from the thing making them bark. Doing this regularly will teach your do that the thing they are barking at is not worth their attention and there is something better to do instead.
For example, if your dog barks every time they see the mailman, keep a treat on hand the next time you expect the mailman to arrive. Keep your dog distracted with the treat and reassure them that they are a “good boy”. They may continue to be distracted by the mailman, but it’s your job to keep them interested in the treat. Once the mailman passes praise your dog for not barking and give them the treat.
5. Create a Clear Vocabulary For Better Communication
Often when a dog “misbehaves” it’s because they lack understanding of what they are expected to do. This lack of understanding can result from not having the necessary vocabulary to reference.
You can remedy this by teaching your dog a more extensive and clearer vocabulary. Building your dog’s vocabulary is one of the alternatives to shock collars that is much more humane than administering a shock when they misbehave.
6. Recruit a Behavioral Trainer
If you are having trouble working with your dog through their behavioral problems, consider hiring a professional behavioral trainer. A trainer has experience working with similar problems and can help you and your dog to work through them.
A behavioral trainer will build up your dog’s confidence and improve their behavior by getting to the cause of the problem rather than punishing the symptom.
7. Provide Your Dog With Adequate Exercise
Dogs will often misbehave or act out when they have excess energy. For example, when your dog see’s the mailman and barks and runs to the front door, they may be barking because they too want to be outside.
Your dog’s “misbehavior” could be nothing to do with problem barking at all, rather a desire to exercise and get outside. Instead of punishing your dog in this instance, try increasing their daily exercise and see if this helps!
8. Build Trust With Your Dog
The single biggest thing that you can do to create a better behaved and more obedient dog is to build a strong bond of trust. If your dog understands that you are trustworthy, they will be more likely to follow your command and trust your training methods.
If, however, you create a lack of trust by punishing your dog, you are telling them that they cannot trust you and creating a level of uncertainty.
RELATED: How Owners Lose Their Dogs’ Trust
Don’t assume that because you see your dog’s behavior as misbehavior that it is so. Try using a little empathy an observing the world from your dog’s point of view. Perhaps they are barking at the mailman because they are afraid? Perhaps they are barking because the mailman is trespassing on your property and they are trying to protect you.
When you look at the situation with empathy it becomes easier to see how you might remedy the situation. For example, if you think your dog may be barking because he is afraid, try introducing your dog to the mailman.
Have him offer your dog treats with a kind and gentle voice. If you think your dog is simply protecting their property, take them on a leash to greet the mailman in a friendly voice. Show them that you are permitting him to be there and happy to see him.
Desensitization is one of the most important ways that you can help your dog to work through behavioral problems. This is a process that involves exposing your dog to stimuli that is upsetting them or causing them to act out.
Exposure should be gradual and involve plenty of praise and treats! This helps to make a positive connection with the stimuli which can be reinforced over time. Repeated exposure with positive reinforcement eventually reframes how your dog sees a stimulus. Again, this gets to the core of the problem rather than punishing the symptom.
There are some who believe that reassuring your dog when they are afraid or upset is the wrong thing to do. More recent research suggests that reassuring your dog helps to build their trust in you.
For example, if your dog is afraid that the mailman is someone coming to hurt his family and he barks out of fear and a desire to scare him away, dismissing your dog will teach them that you are not to be trusted. It tells your dog that their fears are being dismissed and their concern for you is unimportant.
If, however, you recognize your dog’s reaction and reassure them that everything is okay, you tell your dog that a) they are safe b) you recognize their effort at protecting you and c) they can trust you not to dismiss their feelings about the situation.
Crate dog training provides your pet with a safe refuge that they can seek out when feeling threatened or afraid. Teaching your dog to seek their safe place instead of problem barking is a more constructive solution to the problem for you both.
13. Ambient Noise
Some dogs exhibit problem behaviors due to anxiety or nervousness. For example, your dog may bark every time they hear someone pass in the hallway of your apartment complex. They do this because they think that someone is in their territory or they are calling for attention.
You can use a white noise machine, play the radio or leave the TV on to drown out that triggering noise. This will not only help your dog to feel more at ease, but it will also reduce barking which is bothersome to your neighbors without punishment.
14. Pheromones or Scents
For dogs that exhibit problem behavior out of anxiety or excitability, pheromones or scents can help to calm them. Pheromones and scents can be used as plugin’s, they can be fitted as discs on collars, and they can be diffused like essential oils. All of these things can induce a feeling of calm and stop your dog from acting out without the use of negative reinforcement.
15. Physical Fencing
In some cases, shock collars are used to contain a dog within specific boundaries. While this can be effective, it is cruel and it also does not stop other animals from entering into your dog’s space and injuring them.
Rather than using this type of negative reinforcement that does not keep your dog as safe as you might think, try installing a physical fence as one of the alternatives to shock collars. If your neighborhood forbids fencing, make use of local dog parks, go for leashed walks, and make use of doggy daycare facilities!
16. A “Place”
Training your dog to recognize one place as a spot to go to on command, is beneficial for many reasons. In this instance, if your dog is nuisance barking at the mailman, you can give your dog the “place” command and they will stop barking and go to their designated place.
Many dog guardians use a dog’s crate as a “place” or the dog’s bed. The place command must be repeatedly enforced with positive praise and treats and practiced often.
17. Baby Gates and Barriers
While you are working with your dog to get through problem behaviors, as one of the alternatives to shock collars, try using barriers or baby gates to contain them. For example, you can use a baby gate to keep your dog away from the windows where they can see the mailman who causes them to bark.
Baby gates and barriers are also helpful to have on hand for dogs that don’t do well when crated. They can be used to contain your dog in a small space so that they are safe but still feel free to move.