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Friends Don’t Shock ‘Man’s Best Friend’

The following article was written by PETA Senior Director Karen Porreca.

During the summer months, my dogs love visiting our local dog-friendly beach to run and romp, but lately I’ve begun to dread these outings. I’m seeing more and more dogs, even small dogs, puppies, completely normal and highly trainable dogs, sporting shock collars … oh, excuse me … e-collars. I’m not sure whether the “e” stands for “electronic”—or “excruciating.” It’s worth noting that anyone who uses a shock collar on a fellow human without permission will be arrested for torture, as did a Florida man last year, who used the collars on two young girls. So why are we using these devices on our “best friends”?

“Oh, it’s just a little tingle. It doesn’t hurt,” many people say. But could a “little tingle” really change a dog’s behavior so abruptly? Asking around, I learned that one of my coworkers, Amanda, had tried out a shock collar on herself, just out of curiosity. The one she tried was designed to stop dogs from barking, and it had six levels of intensity. She couldn’t get past level three.

“Level one was an unpleasant, scary shock,” Amanda told me. “Level two hurt and felt like something sharp was trying to stab into my neck. Level three felt like I actually was being stabbed in the neck, and I took the collar off right after that.”

She added: “I might use this collar on someone who kidnapped my child and refused to tell me where he was keeping her, but not on someone I love.”

Even without electricity, these collars look mighty uncomfortable. They come with a couple of prongs that poke into the dog’s neck just like a plug on an appliance goes into an outlet. Imagine having to wear a collar with prongs sticking into your neck the whole time you’re out exercising. I think that might take some of the fun out of it.

Dr. Nicholas Dodman, a well-known canine behaviorist, says in his book The Well-Adjusted Dog, “I have seen deep ulcerating wounds develop in the necks of dogs fitted with e-type prong collars that are too tight or have been worn too long.”

Shock collars are illegal in Wales and in several Australian states, and the RSPCA and the British Kennel Club disapprove of them, too, because they are considered cruel and inhumane. Simple logic dictates that many problems can arise from trying to use shock to produce good behavior in a dog. Two recent studies in the U.K. by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs concluded that shock collars are not necessary for effective dog training and are detrimental to the welfare of dogs.

A previous study conducted at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands comparing the use of shock with other aversive training techniques (such as choke collars and even hitting) found that the shocked dogs learned to associate painful experiences with the presence of their guardians “even outside of the normal training context” and that “the welfare of these shocked dogs is at stake, at least in the presence of their owner.” So, just to be clear: Using shock collars on dogs is worse than choking or hitting them.

One final thought: Shock collars can erode the bond between dog guardians and their dogs. Dogs are not dumb. They know when their guardians are withholding love and camaraderie and empathy. Since it is impossible for humans to inflict painful shocks on their dogs with a loving heart, their dogs will know that they are being abused by the person they love. Instead of punishing our dogs for what they do “wrong,” let’s all vow to use positive training methods only—by redirecting bad behavior, encouraging good behavior and rewarding our dogs for what they do right.

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  • meow says:

    my mom rescued a dog a few years ago, he’s a lovely dog & he was very easy to train, but his previous owners used a shock collar on him & its easy to tell because he has a square on his chest area where the shock collar burnt the skin so bad that now he cant grow fur there ,

  • monkyingaround says:

    When my father still had the dog that is now mine, I remember wanting to kill him when I heard that he got a shock collar for my poor- not even fully mature- puppy. When I went to his house, my dog seemed sad and scared and nervous. The minute I was out of sight with him, I took it off of him and hid it. Now, whenever he’s naughty, he just gets sprayed with some water- definitely a lot better than a shock collar, and cheaper too. Why my dad didn’t do this instead I’ll never understand. Also, I hear nowadays you can actually buy a collar that will spray your dog with water, if you’re really so lazy that you won’t even get up to simply spray your dog with a water bottle.

  • Josey LeGallais says:

    I completely support this site’s purpose to help animals.. but some dogs that are equipped with shock collars (including mine) have simply no other choice. My dog is 120 pounds, very athletic and needs to be able to run around off leash. She also has a habit of barking at people because of her breed (Akbash/Wolfhound/pyrenees) she is skeptical of strangers and in the process of me teaching her to not worry so much, I need to be able to discipline her from a distance. She knows what she is doing is wrong and she wont let me come anywhere near her when she is barking in people’s faces. therefore, having the “shock” collar allows me to discipline her without becoming frustrated and irritated about her not listening. My shock collar changed me and my dog’s life. we can now go anywhere and have fun together without any restrictions, she does not even know what the shock collar is, because if you do it right your dog will not associate the pain with the collar- they will associate the pain with disobeying their owner.

  • John says:

    This just doesn’t display the whole problem. Unfortunately it is a shock collar that one of my cocker spaniels has to wear while I’m not at home. I tried everything to get my dog to stop his howling while I’m not home. My condo association only is barely tolerating his noise. I tried a box that emits a chirp sound. No dice. I bought a music cd to play for him that is supposed to be soothing for dogs. No dice. I tried a citronella collar that sprays a smell he doesn’t like in his face. No dice. I don’t like the idea of the collar either so I went to my vet. My vet said, well, it sounds like your association is going to make u get rid of your dog and it is unlikely a shelter will be able to find him a home with this problem. So it’s a shock collar or death for him. So I’m committed to my dog. He wears a shock collar, while listening to soothing music during the day. And eventually the condo market will turn around and my condo will sell so that I can get my dog a place where he can howl to his content. I’m not a believer in shock collars unless it is the shock collar that is actually saving his life…

  • Sue Musk says:

    People who use these forms of torture and cruelty are lazy – they just can’t be bothered to train the poor dog properly. They shouldn’t own a dog if they aren’t willing to put the time and effort in. I am appalled to hear these things are becoming more popular in the world – they should be banned worldwide now!

  • chander kumar soni says:

    i love dogs.

  • MyLadyAlexis says:

    I never liked those Shock collars to start with. I always saw them as cruel and inhumane. Anyone who subjects their pet to these things are not animal lovers as they pretend to be. No loving / caring pet parent would ever hurt their beloved pet in such a cruel / inhumane way.