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20 Aug 2018 9:22 AM | Latecia Mills (Administrator)

Shock Collars Work: So Does Jumping Out a WIndow to Get to the Ground

Jumping out of the window is one option to get to the ground level.  It seems like the most direct way.  Just because something works doesn’t mean that’s the way it should be done…the side-effects can be deadly.

Shock collars are one option to accomplish behavior change.  It seems like the most direct way.  Just because something works doesn’t mean that’s the way it should be done…the side-effects can be deadly.

Let’s face it, punishment works.  It does change behavior.  Shock collars hurt.  When something hurts, an animal will work to avoid that pain.  But is this the smart way of accomplishing our training goals?  Is this the humane way of accomplishing our training goals?  Are their consequences for using this method of training?

Why are people so quick to use punishers?  Is it that the use of such a tool makes a person feel powerful?  Maybe they get a rush out of feeling like they are in control—the all-powerful human!  Or is it that they don’t know any better?  Frustration and anger with a behavior can lead many of us to extreme measures.  People feel helpless.  They want a fix to their problem.  Shock collars seem so easy, and isn’t easy a good thing?

Is easy a good thing?  It sure takes a whole lot less effort to jump off a high-rise than it does to walk down multiple flights of stairs.  Easy is not always a good thing.  There are severe consequences to choosing the ‘easy’ way to fix a dog’s behavior with shock collar.

This reminds me of a joke:  A guy jumps out the window of a high rise.  As he passes a window on the way down someone yells out, “How’s it going?” and the guy responds, “So far, so good!”

Ramifications of using a Shock Collar:

It is a poor communicator.

A shock collar is horrible at telling a dog what to do.  My favorite example of this is one I’ve heard many different trainers use, so I don’t know who to give credit to. 

A person climbs into a taxi and says to the driver, “Don’t take me to Chicago.”  The driver turns to the person with a look of confusion.  The person gets angry and says, “Don’t take me to Detroit!”  The driver is getting frustrated.  The person starts hitting the driver and yells, “Don’t take me to Milwaukee!” The driver is confused, stressed, maybe a little fearful about this crazy person that has entered his car. 

This is the feeling a dog has that is being trained using a shock collar.  There are a whole lot of “don’t” statements, but where are the instructions about what we want the taxi driver to do?  A dog should be instructed what TO DO, instead of punishing them for guessing wrong.

Using a shock collar might feel good to the user.

There is no doubt that some dog behaviors can create frustration and anger in their human.  In that moment, inflicting a shock on their beloved dog might be a way to release that frustration and anger. 

Fear inhibits learning.

The use of a shock collar permanently changes the dog’s brain.  The point of the shock collar is to make a dog fearful of doing something.  Fear is damaging.  Anticipating pain causes stress.  Fear and stress affect the amygdala and inhibit the brain from working on higher level functions, like learning.  Ummm, isn’t that opposite of what we want?  We want our dogs to learn.  Using a shock collar places a dog in a state of being that inhibits learning. 

Dogs learn by association.

Dogs learn by association.  When a dog experiences something painful, he observes his surroundings and makes the association that this particular mix of stimuli results in a painful consequence.  Unless we put the dog into a vacuum of stimuli, we can’t control what associations are made in a dog’s mind.  Unintended associations are likely to happen. 

For example, if a person shocks their dog because he is barking and lunging on leash when seeing another dog in the neighborhood, what is the dog potentially learning?  It is really hard to know, but maybe:  that other dog is dangerous to be around, this location on the walk is dangerous, my human can’t be trusted to keep me safe from pain, etc, etc…and maybe the dog learns that the action of barking and lunging will cause pain.

Punishment can lead to aggression.

Even if your dog has figured out that the painful shock occurs because of his behavior and reduces this particular behavior, if the behavior was based in fear (as many poor behaviors are) the problem is magnified.  Suppressing behavior does not change the emotion behind the behavior in the first place.  If the dog is behaving poorly due to fear, that fear is still present and surely strengthened because the presence of it causes the dog to be shocked.  The dog will only suppress his behavior until he reaches a point of just not caring that there might be a shock involved and he will explode, displaying behavior that is higher on the scale of aggression.  If this happens, there is a chance that dog will be euthanized for his aggression.  Using a shock collar can have deadly side-effects.

There are so many more effective and efficient ways of training a dog without the horrible side effects caused by using pain in training.  Educating pet owners is a job we must do!  They are not the dog trainers…we are!  It is our job to present information to them, so they can make an informed decision.


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