Will a Shock Collar Help With an Aggressive Dog? A Word of Caution

Although a shock collar might help you control an aggressive dog, it won’t actually help the dog’s aggression. If anything, it can make it worse in the long run. The best thing to help dog aggression is to seek help from a professional trainer.

Imagine you’ve just brought home your new dog. You’re already attached and excited about this new addition to your family. However, the dog begins to growl and show signs of aggression. What should you do? You’re committed to keeping your new dog for the duration of his life, but you know the risks of keeping an aggressive dog.

How should you train your dog not to be aggressive? Is a shock collar a useful training tool for this behavior? Or are other training methods more effective? To determine how to best train your dog, there are a variety of factors to consider.

Some Breeds Are More Aggressive

When dealing with aggression in a dog, it’s important to research the breed and determine if that breed is prone to aggressive behaviors. If so, there are likely known ways to train that specific breed of dog so he learns not to react aggressively.

For example, Chow Chows, Chihuahuas, and Dalmatians are a few breeds who have gained a reputation for being aggressive. That does not mean that all dogs of these breeds will be aggressive, but it does mean that there are likely resources available to you as far as aggression and training in that breed since many owners have dealt with those issues.

It’s important to research the breed because some breeds of dogs respond to certain types of training better than others.

How to Research Breed Specific Training

While a simple google search can provide useful information, breed-specific training advice is best found from those with experience owning that breed.

Many social media platforms have groups for lovers of a specific breed. You can post your questions on those forums and receive advice from breeders and owners who have many years of experience with that type of dog.

That being said, there are a few common practices concerning dog training and aggression that are often used for all dog breeds. Before you begin training, however, it’s important to determine the reason for your dog’s aggression.

Determining the Reason For Aggression

When your dog displays signs of aggression, it’s important to decipher the reason for the aggression. One of the most common reasons a dog may show aggression is because they are guarding their possessions.

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Aggression From Possessions

Dogs will sometimes hoard possessions in a place they feel is safe, such as under a table or bed, and they will growl or snap at anyone who passes by. This is because the dog is possessive. In these cases, it’s important to train the aggression out of the dog carefully and strategically.

While some owners want to use a shock collar to train out the aggression, this can sometimes create a bigger problem. If the dog is guarding possessions, the owner should eliminate those possessions when the dog is distracted, and make sure the dog has to perform a task to be rewarded with the possession.

Then, the owner will want to play the “exchange game” with a dog who gets aggressive over possessions. In this type of training, the owner will take an item the dog is guarding and reward the dog with a treat in exchange for voluntarily giving up the item he was possessing. This will show the dog that if he gives up his possession to his owner, he will be rewarded.

Consistently doing this will eventually teach the dog it is good to give up his possessions and that a reward is in store if he does so. This resulted in less aggression over possessions and more willingness to surrender possessions to the owner.

In cases where aggression is caused by hoarding or possession, it is best not to use a shock collar, as the shock may only further intimidate the dog, making him more likely to hoard his possessions aggressively.

Pain Induced Aggression

If your dog is showing signs of aggression but does not seem to hoard anything in particular, there is likely another reason for the aggression. Before beginning any training for aggression, it’s important to make sure that there are no health reasons for the aggressive behaviors.

One of the most common reasons for aggression is that the dog is in pain. If you scratch your dog behind the ears and he snaps at you, he could likely have an ear infection. When a dog displays signs of aggression and is not noticeably hoarding anything, schedule an appointment with a vet to rule out pain as the cause of the aggression.

Aggression Due to an Abusive Past

If the dog exhibiting aggressive behaviors is not hoarding, has been seen by a vet, and is in good health, another reason for the aggression might be an abusive past. If you adopted from a rescue or shelter and do not know the dog’s history, it may show signs of aggression as self-defense.

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The abuse he has endured in the past has trained him that humans are a threat and that he must display signs of aggression to protect himself. In these cases, it is highly discouraged to use a shock collar for training because the dog is already reacting to having endured physical pain, so a shock collar might only trigger further aggression.

Instead, it’s important to show the dog that you, his new owner, are gentle and kind and that he can trust you. Do not show affection during the same time the dog is acting aggressive, or it is rewarding the aggressive behaviors.

Instead, when the dog is not being aggressive, speak gently and affectionately to him, petting him gently if he allows it. Even if your dog was not abused, knowing his past will help make decisions about how to train him.

It may be that the previous owners did not have the time to train him as a puppy and you will need to spend more time with him now to work on training him out of his aggressive tendencies.

Knowing the Parentage of the Dog

Just as it’s important to know about the dog’s past, knowing about his parents can also be helpful in training. Ethical breeders would never breed an aggressive dog. However, not all breeders are ethical, and some have been known to breed an aggressive dam or sire.

This is how “mean streaks” are perpetuated from one generation to the next. In an ideal world, breeders would only pair dogs of the very best temperament, thus eliminating the problem of “mean streaks,” which can run in some lines.

If one or both of your dog’s parents had aggressive tendencies, that means the aggression is part of the dog’s temperament, and training that dog will take extra time and commitment. It may even require a professional trainer.

Whether to use a shock collar when training this type of aggressive dog should only be determined by a professional dog trainer.

When is it Appropriate and Effective to Use a Shock Collar?

We have discussed various situations on when not to use a shock collar to train an aggressive dog, but is there ever a good time to use one? The answer is that a shock collar is not a good choice for an aggressive dog.

A shock collar can be a useful training tool, but usually for dogs who do not display signs of aggression. When used on a low setting that will not hurt the dog, but only get their attention, a shock collar can be an effective tool for non-aggressive dogs.

A shock collar should only be used with a stable dog who already trusts his owner. A collar can be used to train a dog to stay within the perimeters of his property by walking the dog around the perimeter and administering a very light shock when the dog steps outside the property lines.

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A shock collar can also be used to train service animals for desired behaviors to complete their jobs as a service animal. Professional trainers of medical alert dogs, PTSD therapy dogs, and other working dogs have used shock collars for training for years.

However, it is important to note that the trainers are professionals, and the dogs they are working with are mostly stable and non-aggressive. Dogs with aggression usually have a reason for their aggression. Using a shock collar often will only perpetuate the aggression.

When dealing with an aggressive dog, it’s best to avoid the use of a shock collar unless you are under the direction of a trained professional dog trainer who knows exactly how to use it and when to use it to produce the desired results.

If you are not under the guidance of a professional dog trainer, it is best to use non-physical modes of training such as gentle reassuring affection, and the “exchange game.”

It is also important to make sure the dog is not in pain before attempting any type of training for aggression. Aggression in a new dog can be intimidating at first, but with the right research and training, it can be curbed.

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