Dog aggression can be a troublesome and dangerous thing, both for you and the dog. Dogs may exhibit different types of aggression, some focused on humans, some on other dogs, some on potential prey, and some overlapping, according to Working Dogs. The practice of using electric shock collars is controversial among some trainers, though many advocate it as a reasonable training tool if applied correctly.
Behavioral studies found that aggressive dog behavior can stem from a variety of sources. Some of these sources may be genetic, innate instincts. This is common in dogs who growl and bark at other dogs, as the behavior may be a territorial reaction. Genetics also lead certain breeds of dogs to bark or charge at small animals, as the "prey" instinct takes over. The most important first step is to identify exactly what is causing the aggressive behavior in the dog. Is it only other dogs? Is it humans on the street? Is it humans approaching or entering the house? Does a specific person or dog trigger the dog's aggression? By identifying the exact cause, you will better be able to apply the correction.
Shock Collars as Correction
Leerburg, a company specializing in dog training, recommends using an electric shock collar only as a correction for a specific behavior. A correction is some sort of negative reinforcement, such as a jab to the ribs, a pull on the collar or a small shock made in association with a negative behavior. Corrections are proven to reduce undesirable behavior. Leerburg recommends applying the correction, in this case a shock from the collar, while also saying a loud, scolding phrase, such as "leave it." This way, the dog will understand that the correction is coming from you and will respect your dominance.
A Last Resort
Some trainers, such as K-9 Aggression, recommend shock collars only as a last resort. In fact, they argue, shock collars can actually increase aggressive behavior, especially if applied incorrectly. Any localized pain, including pinched collars and hitting, can have this negative effect and should be reserved for extreme circumstances. They also recommend training with an expert before applying such a method.
Most trainers agree that other methods, such as knocking the dog off-balance with the tug of a leash, are preferable first steps. But, if these methods are ineffective, you may need to use a shock collar. One problem may be that you are not physically strong enough to provide an adequate correction to the dog, in which case an electric collar could be quite useful. If you do use an electric collar, you must use it consistently and fairly. Use the above information to identify the exact problem behaviors, and only apply the shock when the dog exhibits that behavior. Using the shock collar at times when the dog is not explicitly exhibiting the problem behavior will create confusion and paranoia in the dog, leading it to possibly greater behavioral problems.
If you have a small dog, under 20 pounds, you will need to purchase a specialty electric collar that does not pack the same shock as the standard electric collar. The Innotek SD-70 Lap Dog collar is an example of an electric collar with less electric stimulation, as well as a lighter-duty feel. Most electric collars also have adjustable levels of intensity. It is best to begin with the lowest level of intensity and work your way up if the dog is not responsive to the correction. The point is not to inflict pain on the dog but to startle it. Many manufacturers describe the sensation as similar to a static shock from touching a car door handle.