We asked a group of renowned canine training and behavior experts how they would persuade pet owners that electric shock has no place in their toolbox for the training, care or behavior modification of any pet.
Interviews by Susan Nilson & Louise Stapleton-Frappell. (2016, November 8 - 9). How to Convince Owners that the Use of Electric Shock Needs to Be off the Table in their Pet's Training, Care and/or Behavior Modification. Pet Professional Guild Annual Summit, Tampa, FL.
Here are their responses:
The unintended consequence of using shock with dogs is very significant and you really are setting yourself up when you use it for potentially long-term difficulties with your dog. If you are using shock to help your dog learn how to function within your family and environment, you are in for a rude awakening because problems do pop up.
One of the things with clients that I really like to talk about is how to help them understand that we get that the tools they are using like shock collars, pinch collars, things like that, may feel like they have an immediacy to them and get them past their problems. What I really like to explain to them is that, ‘Yes, we understand how much you really like your tools, but here are some things that we can do instead that fit into the humane world and still get the same results. So let’s go with more modern techniques around right now.’
I understand your concerns and your need to modify your dog’s behavior. But fortunately force-free training gives us all the tools you need to do this and effectively and to maintain positive behavior change.
Let me show you a different way to achieve that same goal while at the same time strengthening the bond you have with your dog so that he trusts you and relies on you even more.
One of the things that we always have to think about is, ‘What is the owner’s motivation?’ Our job as dog trainers is to get them the best possible results that we can. I think a lot of that is coming from that perspective, and that, rather than to dislodge a deeply held belief, instead try to talk to clients about what you want for them, which is ‘I want to give you the very best possible chance of success. This is what we know scientifically works and what I know from my experience, so give me a chance to show you.’
I can tell you that it is absolutely true that you can change your dog’s behavior by using pain and then the subsequent fear of more pain. It is up to you to make the decision and I can’t make the decision for you as to whether that’s the basis that you want to have for your relationship with your dog. I am assuming that you have called me because you love your dog so your answer is probably ‘no.’
Malena DeMartini Price:
I think when working with what maybe one may term a resistant pet owner, relatability, empathy, and understanding are so important. [This means being] able to tap into their motivation and say: ‘I know you love your dog; I can train you and your dog to change these behaviors in a way which will not use fear or pain which could irreparably damage your relationship.’
Dogs have the mental capacity of a 2- to 4-year-old child. They will never understand things further than that scope, so if you think of your children and they are having bad table manners, would you then shock them if their elbows hit the table or they use their cutlery inappropriately? Do you think that would cause them to have a positive relationship with you and feelings about sitting at the table? Shock does the same thing to animals – rather than shocking them to come back to you, you are actually pushing them away from you.
We invite pets to share our lives with us for the companionship they bring into our homes and our lives, but the use of shock completely breaks down the relationship that we could have by creating fear and mistrust in our companions.
As a veterinary behaviorist, unfortunately dogs that have been shocked are the hardest patients I have to treat, and a lot of the time I cannot help them further. Going back to the humane-ness of the event, if you would not allow your child to be shocked for any reason – and I know medically we are really debating the use of electrical shock in mental illness – why would you allow it on someone who is like a child, in that they cannot say how much it hurts and how much it affects their relationship with you? If you are going to solve the problem that you have because of the behavior instead of seeing it from the patient’s point of view, how can you help the patient to understand what you want them to do if you scare them and hurt them? Next time they are supposed to make the guess, they are probably not going to try.
If I was ever going to tell someone how to take shock off the table, I would give them an example and say, ‘Would you be willing for me to teach you matrix algebra in Mandarin, and then every time you get the question wrong I will shock you?’ That’s what’s happening with the animal. The animal doesn’t speak our language, the animal doesn’t understand, so he is not knowing what to do correctly, he is learning what hurts and how to avoid that.
I would use that same method of showing the client what to do, so I never really tell my clients what they can’t do. I just promote the concept of compassion towards the dog and if they learn about compassion, I really don’t think they are going to make that choice of using the equipment that they are interested in using. In the same way, because I don’t eat meat, I wouldn’t tell my friend ‘Hey! You can’t do that, you can’t eat animals, it’s really inhumane what happens to them.’ That’s not going to change their minds, but I can show them compassionate ways of treating animals and most likely my friend would then agree, ‘Oh yes, that is a more compassionate way to treat animals and then maybe they might change, but they have to make that choice.’
Shock collars are painful, they cause pain, and pain is definitely going to result in some fallout. Oftentimes I see very aggressive dogs as a result, so working with your dog in more positive way is going to result in a better relationship and a better developed dog.
It is absolutely not necessary to hurt or shock your dog in order to effectively train him, and if it is not necessary, why on earth would you?
If I could show you an easier way for you to modify this behavior and make it to be more what you want, an easier way which doesn’t need the equipment you are using, would you allow me to show that to you?
I always have difficulty with any kind of tool which might cause discomfort or pain to my animal. And so what I would like to encourage you to think about, is to let me show you some other techniques that are just as effective and might be much more fun, and actually increase the learning capabilities of your pet.
Using pain to effect change leaves your pet hurt and confused, and with no information as to what the desired behavior is.
Shock and causing pain doesn’t solve a problem. It doesn’t teach the animal what to do and so focusing now on what to do is what is important just as we would with a child. We wouldn’t just hit them and not say anything, we would say, ‘This is why, you are doing something wrong and we would like you to do this instead.’ So it’s all about communication these days, just as we need effective communication with those clients.
I would suggest that we do an experiment and I’ll show you some fun techniques and some ways to use play to modify your dog’s behavior and if you give me a week or two to implement my suggestions I would love that, and then it will be like a science experiment. We’ll see what happens, because I think you’re going to be very happy with the results.
And with your child, did you work better for praise, or threat, anger or pain?
I am a psychotherapist and we learn from neuroscience and evolution, that animals and humans are very sensitive by nature and that punishment doesn’t work, it just doesn’t work, so forget it.
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