Vibrating Collar vs Shock Collar: What’s the Difference?

Along with spray and ultrasound models, vibrating and shock collars are some of the more common training collars. While the terms vibrating collar and shock collar are sometimes used interchangeably, the two are very different, have different purposes, and one type might be illegal in the country where you live. Both have very specific requirements and work in limited circumstances, and neither should be taken lightly. Below, we look at the similarities and the differences between these two, to determine whether either of them is the right training tool for you and your dog.

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Overview of Vibrating Collars:

Paipaitek No Shock Dog Training Collar, No Prongs & Waterproof Humane Vibration Collar for Dogs

A vibration collar sits against your dog’s neck and, when activated, causes the collar to vibrate. Most come with a variable setting and offer remote activation. You can also get those that react to audible noise, i.e., barking.

The vibration is not designed to hurt your dog and should be used to get their attention rather than to administer any form of punishment. For this reason, owners should choose a setting that does not cause pain but that does get a dog’s attention, in the same way as calling their name.

Uses For Vibrating Collars

The primary purpose of any of these reactive collars is as a means of training a dog. They are touted as offering corrective training, and example uses of vibrating collars include:

  • Remote – Letting your dog off the leash means you have to elicit some degree of control over a long distance. Because you’re not right next to the dog, it can be difficult to get their attention, especially if you don’t enjoy shouting across a park. With a remote vibrating collar, you can get your dog’s attention as long as he is in range of the remote, even if his attention is elsewhere.
  • Deafness – Deaf dogs can’t hear you and, unless you’re close enough to reach out and touch them, you can’t guarantee that you’ll be able to get their attention. A vibrating collar enables you to get their attention even when they aren’t looking in your direction and aren’t immediately to hand.
  • Bark Collars – A bark collar is an automatic vibrating collar. It reacts to the noise of barking and vibrates against your dog’s neck when the barking reaches a certain level. It can be used to prevent nuisance barking when you’re out of the house, although you should look to combat the underlying cause of barking or accept that some breeds simply bark more than others.

Are They Legal?

Vibrating collars are not illegal. In particular, their use for training deaf dogs, and the fact that they do not deliver any kind of electric or electronic shock, means that they have not been banned.

Do Vibration Collars Hurt?

Vibration collars do not usually hurt a dog. They are designed to grab attention, so your dog will feel the vibration, but it should not cause any pain. With that said, it is important to remember that every dog is different. Some dogs may be hyper-sensitive, and some may suffer anxiety and nerves that make the use of a vibration collar almost impossible. Always start with the vibration collar at the lowest setting and turn it up until it gets your dog’s attention, rather than the way around.

Pros
  • Remote training collar
  • Suitable for training deaf dogs
  • Legal almost everywhere
  • Doesn’t hurt your dog
Cons
  • Some dogs are too sensitive
  • Can cause anxiety in some dogs
  • Ineffective in some dogs

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Overview of Shock Collars:

NVK Dog Training Collar, Dog Shock Collar with 2600Ft Remote

The term shock collar is sometimes mistakenly used interchangeably with vibration collar, but the two are different. A shock collar has two prongs that sit against your dog’s skin. When the collar is activated, a shock is administered and sends a current between the two prongs. A shock collar usually has variable settings and may include a vibration setting, as well as shock settings.

Manufacturers and proponents claim that the shock doesn’t hurt but is designed at getting the attention of your dog. Opponents claim that it must hurt or shock the dog, otherwise it wouldn’t get their attention. Others claim that, because it is a means of negative reinforcement, the shock collar doesn’t train the underlying behavior and is therefore ineffective, anyway.

Uses For Shock Collars

Shock collars are used in the same circumstances as vibrating collars. Automatic collars are used to prevent barking, and remote collars are used to stop nuisance behavior such as lunging, chasing, or aggressive behavior.

Are They Legal?

Laws vary by country and even by state but shock collars are illegal in a lot of places. They have caused physical scars that don’t heal and they can have a detrimental effect on dogs, causing some to become anxious and even to show aggressive tendencies.

Do Shock Collars Hurt?

You may have seen online videos of people using shock collars on themselves and friends and partners, and, in some cases, these do cause genuine pain. They can even leave physical scars. Dogs are smaller and more sensitive than humans, so the pain will be magnified in a lot of dogs. The people in the videos willingly do that to themselves while your dog really has no choice.

Pros
  • Remote collars work from a distance
  • Can prevent aggressive behavior
  • Some shock collars have vibrate settings
Cons
  • Illegal in some states and countries
  • Can cause pain and discomfort
  • Can exacerbate problem behavior

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Negative Reinforcement and Positive Punishment

Even though vibration collars may be considered more humane than shock collars, both of these types of collars tend to be used with negative reinforcement and positive punishment training techniques.

  • Negative reinforcement means that a dog will be given a cue, such as the “sit” command. If they do not perform the action immediately, the handler will shock them with the collar and will only stop when they sit. The belief is that the dog will perform the action quickly in the future, to prevent being shocked or vibrated.
  • Positive punishment is used as a means of preventing unwanted behavior. If the dog barks, they are given a shock. Because the dog dislikes the feeling of being shocked, it will reconsider barking in the future.

Negative reinforcement and positive punishment can be considered quite miserable and negative training techniques. Positive reinforcement techniques are generally considered more humane, are less unpleasant for your dog, and can achieve all of the same results as other methods.

Alternatives To Vibrating And Shock Collars

The best alternative to these collars is to use positive reinforcement. This means to introduce something when your dog performs the desired action. You can give them a healthy treat, but praise works just as well with a lot of dogs.

In either case, you won’t be startling, shocking, or causing any kind of harm or alarm to your dog. Vibration collars can be useful for dogs with hearing problems, but they should be used sparingly and properly because they can be highly alarming for a dog that is unable to see anything.

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Conclusion

Vibration and shock collars are reactive training collars. Manual versions require your input to administer a shock or vibration, while automatic collars react to noise or other stimuli. Although the collars are similar, vibration collars are considered the more humane, and while shock collars are illegal in a growing number of states and countries, vibration collars are not usually prohibited. Try positive reinforcement training techniques before resorting to these methods.