The Shock Collar Challenge Will Probably Make You Laugh, Then Think

Abi Travis - Author

Jun. 3 2020, Updated 3:19 p.m. ET

shock collar challenge
Source: TikTok/@kat_marinello/@kristinatumsuden/@klok_work

Oh, TikTok. You never fail to surprise us with the things that end up going viral as challenges. Sometimes it’s playing Flappy Bird with your head. Sometimes it’s switching up your appearance as you wipe down a mirror. Honestly, we couldn’t try to predict the next challenge if our lives depended on it.

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Now, a new TikTok challenge has arrived on the scene: the Shock Collar challenge. What is the Shock Collar challenge, you ask? It’s probably exactly what you think it is. While the videos are undoubtedly funny, they also have the potential to get people thinking about how shock collars are used when they’re not just a comedy prop.

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What is the Shock Collar challenge?

In order to participate in the Shock Collar challenge, you first need a shock collar — bet you didn’t see that one coming, right? The shock collars are sold as training devices for dogs. When a dog barks, they receive a small electric shock.

Generally, people doing the challenge put the collar around their necks and then shock themselves, either by fake barking or pressing a button, depending on the model of the collar. They instantly recoil in surprise or pain, and everybody laughs. They are pretty funny — we’re not gonna lie.

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One interesting variation on the challenge requires people to go through a restaurant’s drive-thru while being shocked. Watching people try to keep it together while being jolted definitely provides a lot of laughs.

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The Shock Collar challenge is making some people rethink their stance on shock collars.

We’re sure a lot (and maybe even most!) of the people making Shock Collar challenge videos are buying their shock collars for use in funny videos only. That being said, the comment sections on the videos themselves often feature people expressing their concern for any actual dogs who are subjected to shock collar use.

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“Dogs hear you talk allllll day every day and then your [sic] just not letting them speak ?? I don’t agree with this,” a commenter on one video replied. “No dog should have to go thru that!” another agreed. “If u don't want your dog to bark, DON'T GET ONE!!!! SIMPLE! Get a fn cat!”

It’s not difficult to see their point. No one in the Shock Collar challenge videos enjoys being shocked, and they are the ones actually choosing to wear them. Using a shock collar is what’s known as an aversive training method. That means that when an animal you’re training does something you don’t want them to do, they are punished.

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Using aversive methods to train dogs is certainly effective — a dog wearing a shock collar will stop barking when they are shocked — but reputable dog trainers now know that using pain or discomfort as a training tool is not the best way to shape behavior in animals. Aversive methods are based in the now-debunked Dominance Myth, which essentially states that humans have to establish themselves as the “alpha dog” in order to avoid encouraging aggressive behavior in their dogs.

We now know that the concept of an “alpha dog” is incorrect, and that dogs’ aggressive behaviors are typically rooted in anxiety, so using punishment to shape behaviors can actually make things worse. Pet owners are much better off using positive reinforcement and force-free methods to shape behaviors. Not only do they have a much higher success rate, but they also keep everyone happy (dogs included)!

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