So if they can change behavior, why do we feel this way? For multiple reasons. One big reason is because these devices have side effects. What do we mean by that? Well, dogs are always learning via associations. This means that whatever is causing the dog to act in a way that results in a collar correction or a shock, can cause the dog to start to associate the presence of that thing with pain or discomfort. An example: A guest arrives and your dog has a history of jumping on guests. You decide to put a collar on him and "correct" him for jumping. After a few guests coming over and your dog receiving corrections your dog is probably going to start to associate guests coming in with pain. If your dog is associating guests coming in with pain or discomfort, your dog probably isn't going to like guests coming in. If every time you saw a spider you got bitten by that spider, you'd probably not like spiders. In this case, the guest isn't the one doing the harm, but the presence of the guest is resulting in something the dog doesn't like. This is just one example.
Another example is walking your dog while using one of these collars. In a lot of situations dogs pull when they see other dogs or other people. Often times it's because they're excited and want to get closer. If every time they see a dog or a person and start to pull towards them and that results in pain or discomfort, they will start to associate the presence of people and dogs with pain and discomfort. This will result in your dog disliking people and other dogs. Here's an example of how this has happened to our dog V.
So why should you believe us? How do you know we aren't just making this up? Well, science tells us this is true. Here's the position statement on The Use of Punishment for Behavior Modification in Animals from the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior. This goes along with what we've found to be true while working with thousands of animals in our career as dog trainers.
Another reason we don't recommend them or use them is because they aren't needed. We successfully change behaviors in dogs without having to hurt or scare them. This is done by reinforcing the behaviors that we want them to do instead, and by managing their environment so they do not receive reinforcement for behaviors that we don't want to see more of. If there is an instance where we have a behavior we want to see less of, we either reinforce incompatible behaviors or we use punishment that consists of taking away what the dog wants. This is all done in a way that won't have your dog build negative associations or hurt/ cause pain. We also use training devices that help but don't hurt or scare the dog. You can find more about those here.
And finally, we don't recommend the use of these collars because we don't want to hurt or scare dogs. We love dogs. And as we mentioned above, there is no need to. We even work with dogs that are labeled "highly aggressive" and work with them without the use of these collars. (You can probably figure out why by now.)
If you're currently using a collar like one of these, this isn't meant to bring you down. This is meant to inform you on what the side effects are of using these things. If you haven't seen your dog start to build negative associations, there is a good chance you will in the future. Before this happens, switch to a front hook harness and put on a treat bag. (Or look at the link above for other equipment we recommend.)