We asked a group of renowned canine training and behavior experts how they would persuade pet professionals 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). Why Electric Shock Has No Place in a Professional's Toolbox for the Training, Care and/or Behavior Modification of any Pet. Pet Professional Guild Annual Summit, Tampa, Florida.
Here are their responses:
I think it’s important for us to remember that inflicting pain on a helpless individual, regardless of species, is called abuse.
I don’t think that this is a simple and quick answer – one sentence may be a little tough. I do believe that what we need to impart to the trainers that are using those types of tools, is that it limits their training and with those limits they are limited in not only their business models, but in how they are working with the dogs and their clients. So to me, using a single tool is a limiting endeavor and I would like to [impart] that information that there is such a big toolbox out there that we don’t have to use those kind of tools when we have all these main tools that are available, and the science that backs them all up.
We don’t need to add fear and pain to the behavior modification toolbox – we know unequivocally that these methods are outdated, utterly unnecessary and cause sometimes irreversible psychological damage to dogs.
You would object if a pediatrician wanted to use a shock collar to get your child to come into the office, or if a dentist wanted to use a shock collar to get your child to hold still or if a barber said he needed a shock collar so the child stops waving his hands around – right? How is that any different from a dog who has cognitive abilities that aren’t that different from those of a toddler?
I am going to have to answer that from a business perspective since that’s what we do – it’s about marketing. It’s about giving yourself that point of differentiation. It’s about being able to say to your clients that you are on the cutting edge of science and organizing your business from that perspective, and so I think that‘s the one angle to take it from as it gives you that competitive edge
I would say that, as with any helping professional, your first and primary obligation is to do no harm, and we have compelling evidence that applying shock either systematically or randomly to domestic dogs increases their general level of stress and discomfort. So given that knowledge, there simply is no ethical rationale for using them.
Malena DeMartini Price:
With the plethora of tools that we have in our tool box to modify and train dog behaviors we can use these so efficiently and effectively, there is absolutely no reason to use something that would inflict pain or harm on any dog, or any animal for that matter.
Domesticated dogs are so intent on pleasing their humans that when we then turn and cause pain in them we shut them down from wanting to continue to please us – why would that be the preferred way to go as opposed to trying to getting a happy response and an affiliative response from your dog? I can’t understand why shock would be a preference.
Dr. Lynn Honeckman:
As veterinarians we take a pledge to do no harm, so if I was speaking with other veterinarians I would say that we have to take shock off the table because using shock to prevent or treat behavior problems in pets is a complete contradiction of the oath we take when we start our profession.
Given that we’re trying to improve humane standards, not only in the way that we treat animals but in the way that we treat each other, I see no rationale for a short-cut to gain a result. So we need to take the time to do it in a way that doesn’t create more problems than what it’s solving. You solve one problem and create so many others, so I just don’t see the rationale.
When it comes to anything like this, education is the key, so become educated on what’s out there, what science is telling us and that would be what I would base my interpretation of what you should do on. If science is saying go in one direction, go with that direction, but science also has a way to go back and forth – currently it seems science is telling us that aversives are bad and so the better way to do it is positive reinforcement, so I’ll go that route.
The way I teach, I don’t like to tell people what not to do. Instead I like to show them what they can do and then allow them to have a choice, in the same way that I train dogs. I show them the right choice and then hope that they can put all the information together in their head and make that correct choice, whereas if you are forcing someone down the aisle you want them to go, sometimes there’s resistance, frustration, and even anger, so I Iike to really try my hardest to promote the correct choice and make it seem desirable to the person.
We have so many new ways of teaching dogs and shock really does set back the relationship. I don’t believe that shock should ever be used in a tool box with any dog; we just need to start working on our relationships and we’ll have much happier dogs.
It is morally indefensible and ethically reprehensible to shock the sentient and sensitive beings that we call our best friends, because while shock may appear to effectively control behavior, in fact it just shuts down behavior and brings with it a constellation of very harmful and negative side effects including stress, fear and anxiety.
Instead of addressing the equipment, there is so much equipment in many industries – horse industry, dog industry – that you could go down a list and start talking about equipment, but instead I would like to address the fact that, ‘Would you be open to me showing you a kinder, gentler way to actually get better results than you are getting now?’ because I know if I can do that, they are going to discover that they don’t need that piece of equipment; instead of starting at, ‘You shouldn’t use that equipment,’ which is going to bring about a defensive reaction.
If there’s a tool which causes pain or discomfort, it has the potential of creating other problems, so as animal care professionals, I feel that if we can’t be creative, and we can’t find a kinder, gentler ways of doing something, then maybe we are in the wrong profession.
Where pain begins, training ends.
As training industry professionals, we want to focus on education and thinking about what has been useful in the past, especially if we look at other science-based industries like medicine. Bloodletting used to be a good technique – or at least they thought so. But then with increased education, we learned that it is not. The problem is that a person that maybe wasn’t an experienced ‘blood-letter’ back in the day wouldn’t be considered today as a top professional [either] and so if you want to start to be relevant in your industry, if you want to continue with things that are relevant and be a knowledgeable professional, you need to continue your education and get away from the old, archaic techniques that clearly have been proven wrong.
It’s so much more fun to use creative and fun methods, it’s more successful, it’s easy to sell clients on fun and it creates better results to use positive reinforcement exclusively with the exception of manipulating negative punishment.
Adding stressors like fear or pain to a dog only makes them more anxious and in turn makes it more difficult for them to learn, process information and respond to you as well as it threatens their trust.
Dr. Deb Weir:
I am a therapist and I care about the nervous system of any creature, and shock is damaging.
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