Cruel “training” devices such as anti-barking shock collars, electric (“invisible”) fences, and prong collars rely on painful punishment and negative reinforcement. They cause dogs to live in fear of being electrically shocked or painfully choked for normal behavior such as crossing invisible lines, barking, jumping onto surfaces within their own homes, and getting ahead of their guardians during walks. Positive, humane training methods, in which dogs are rewarded for desirable behavior, are much more effective.
Shock collars can cause dogs physical pain, injury (ranging from burns to cardiac fibrillation), and psychological stress, including severe anxiety and displaced aggression. Individual animals vary in their temperaments and pain thresholds; a shock that seems mild to one dog might be severe to another. The anxiety and confusion caused by repeated shocks can lead to changes in a dog’s heart and respiration rate or gastrointestinal disorders. Electronic collars can also malfunction, either administering no shocks at all or nonstop shocks.
Electric (‘Invisible’) Fences
Dogs whose yards are surrounded by electric fences may develop fear or aggression aimed at what they believe to be the source of the shock (kids riding by on bikes, the mail carrier, the dog next door, etc.). Dogs have been known to run through electric fences when frightened by fireworks or chasing a squirrel and then be too scared to cross back through the barrier.
Electric fences may actually encourage dogs to try to escape. Since they only receive painful shocks in the yard, they might associate the shock with the yard itself—once they escape, the pain goes away. The fact that the pain returns when they try to re-enter the yard can cause them to believe that they are being punished for returning home.
Even when dogs are successfully confined to a yard with an electric fence, they are still in danger of being attacked by roaming dogs, cruel humans, or other animals who can freely enter the property. A dog in Michigan was shot and killed by a utility worker who didn’t realize that she was contained by an invisible fence. Electric fences are also a dog thief’s dream come true!
The damage that prong and choke collars can do to dogs goes beyond yanking and choking. Depending on dogs’ size, how hard they pull, and how forcefully they get yanked, choke collars can cause them serious injuries, including the following:
- Intervertebral disc protrusion
- Partial or complete fore- or hind-limb paralysis from spinal cord injuries
- Damage to the vagus nerve, affecting the functioning of major organs, including the heart, lungs, liver, bladder, spleen, and kidneys
- A crushed trachea, with partial or complete asphyxiation
- Crushed or fractured bones in the larynx
- A bruised esophagus
- Sharp increases in pressure inside the head, which can cause brain or eye damage and sometimes prolapse of the eye
- Bruising and damage to the skin and tissues in the neck, resulting in the formation of scar tissue
Dogs who are repeatedly yanked and choked may become resentful, aggressive, and fearful.
Real fences and positive training methods are the kind choice and much more effective. Read more about training tips that will help dogs, not hurt them.