Veterinary behaviorist Dr. Karen Overall said, “Never, under any circumstances, choose a dog trainer who uses an electronic collar (shock collar). You wouldn’t send your kid off to a school where they use shock. So, why would you send your dog there?”
I was invited to attend the North American Veterinary Conference Post Graduate Institute in 2000, and even better I participated as a presenter. The intensive week-long class was the best learning experience of my life. Dr. Kersti Seksel, also a veterinary behaviorist, was also an instructor that year. Seksel is board certified in behavior in Australia and the U.S. Both Overall and Seksel speak around the world about animal behavior. Together their credits are far too long to list. Overall is the author of “Manuel of Clinical Behavioral Medicine for Dogs and Cats.”
At that time, 16 years ago, I wrote a column about the dangers of using shock or electronic dog collars quoting both Seksel and Overall, and the findings of those attending the Post Graduate Institute. We compiled a white paper stating the use of e-collars is detrimental to dogs. The column appeared in many U.S. newspapers, and also on the Good News for Pets website. At that time, the story was considered controversial, as Overall and Seksel and that whote paper came down hard on the use of shock to train or modify dog behavior.
As the years passed, I frankly forgot the piece, until last week when that story, still on the Good News for Pets site, was somehow unearthed and went viral (or was at least shared widely on the Worldwide web).
Sadly, the use of shock collars is about the same as it was back then, or has arguably increased. I blame Cesar Millan (who has used them on TV with apparent results), our instant soup society seeking overnight results, as well as some nifty marketing by some companies.
“We’re so concerned about keeping sharp knives or anything that may be poisonous away from our pets because we love them so much; yet, it’s acceptable to give our best friends a jolt,” Seksel told me at the time.
E-collars are banned New Zealand, Wales and Switzerland, throughout most of Australia and in Quebec Canada.
Of course, we all know more than we did 16 years ago. Today, I am more convinced than ever that such equipment should be banned. There are simply more humane and also more effective ways enlightened trainers and dog behavior consultants can work to modify problem behavior. Put simply, if dogs are our best friends, and we consider them our “fur kids,” why in the world do we want to shock them?
The argument is that the shock is mild.
Okay – so put one of those collars around your own neck, try it.
Then the argument shifts to: Dogs don’t feel the pain as we do.
While many of us assumed that wasn’t true 16-years ago, looking at canine neurochemistry, today we know dogs feel the shock exactly the same we do….and studies have demonstrated that dogs sometimes pay a price later in life.
What’s most shocking to me is that people are using this equipment – even after all these years – and offering all sorts of rationalizations supported by professionals. That’s a shame.