Electric Shock Collars: Unreasonable Expectations and Misleading Advertising

< Updated 18MAR19 >

< An abbreviated version of this article entitled Unreasonable Expectations and Misleading Advertising was originally published in the June 2018 issue of Downeast Dog News>

< a short link to this article – http://bit.ly/ShockCollarExpectationsDeception >

When we bring a new dog into our home, things do not always work out the way we want. I find that there are two common reasons this occurs; we have unreasonable expectations, or we have been misled.

Unreasonable Expectations

We often create unreasonable expectations for a new dog in our life based on memories of previous dogs. Perhaps we remember the dog we had as a child. You know, the dog mom raised. If you asked your mom her true feelings about that dog, she might not recall raising him as being “easy peasy.”

Alternatively, perhaps our expectations are based on the last memories we have of a dog; the one who was sixteen and slept most of the time. While it is nice to remember the best of times, it can be helpful to recall that the sleepy sixteen-year-old was a hellion at 16 months of age.

For some reason many people expect a dog to live in our world with little or no training, or to master everything they need to know in just a few weeks. Patience seems to be a virtue sorely lacking in this day and age and one that every dog deserves.

Sometimes it is not us that creates unreasonable expectations but others with something to gain.

Misleading Advertising

Those trying to sell us a dog sometimes may portray a dog more favorably to make a sale. I have had more than one client tell me that their breeder said: “This breed is always calm and easy to train.” I have had clients who have adopted a shelter or rescue dog state “The people at the rescue said she knows how to sit and heel. She doesn’t do any of that!

Publishers like book titles that sell books. A title like “Seven Days to the Perfect Dog” may sell books, but it is blatantly deceptive and plays right into people’s unrealistic expectations.

Advertising that any dog can be reliable off-leash anytime and anywhere also seems to be in vogue. Those in pursuit of the dream of complete control over their dog and a life off-leash may turn a blind eye to the tools and methods that will be used because they want that perfect dog so badly. Other times they wish the best for their dog, and someone takes advantage of their naiveté.

I recently had a client with a puppy that had been convinced that an underground fence system would keep her dog safely in her yard. When I explained that these “fences” worked by giving the dog an electric shock, she was aghast. Unfortunately, that piece of information had never been disclosed by the salesperson. Instead, she had been told that the dog would only feel a “vibration,” “tap,” or “stim;” nice sounding slang for “electric shock.

Often those recommending shock collars insist that they cause no pain or discomfort. When they claim that a shock collar does not “hurt” the dog, they are either demonstrating their ignorance of the basic principles of operant conditioning or are intentionally being deceptive. In my opinion, an individual that does not thoroughly understand how dogs learn or are misleading about the products and methods they use and sell, should not be training dogs or offering advice on that subject.

As I have noted in previous columns, experts in animal behavior such as The Pet Professional Guild (PPG) and the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) have explicit principles and guidelines that state that aversives such as shock, choke, and prong collars, as well as other devices designed to cause pain, MUST NEVER BE USED. They have taken this position because these devices frequently cause aggression and other behavior problems and are NEVER necessary.

Why anyone would recommend pain to train a dog makes no logical sense.  Please, be realistic in what you expect of your dog, be wary of things that sound too good to be true, ask lots of questions, and most importantly, be kind. If you need help, seek advice from a pet care professional that is committed to No Pain, No Force, and No Fear. Your dog will thank you.

Recommended Resources

Articles on Don’s Blog
( http://www.words-woofs-meows.com )

Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Started Training Dogs – Gus, the Dominance Myth, An Alpha Roll, and a Damaged Relationship – WWM-SEP2018 – http://bit.ly/Things-Gus-Dominance

Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Selected My First Dog – Aversives are Unnecessary and Counter-Productive When Training A Dog – Part 1 – WWM-JAN2019 http://bit.ly/Things-Aversives-1

Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Selected My First Dog – Aversives are Unnecessary and Counter-Productive When Training A Dog – Part 2 – WWM-FEB2019 –  http://bit.ly/Things-Aversives-2

Is Your Dog Your Best Friend or a Family Member? – WWM-OCT2017 –   http://bit.ly/BestFriendsAndShock

What Is Dog Training?http://bit.ly/WhatIsDogTraining

Reward Based Training versus Aversiveshttp://bit.ly/RewardVSAversive

Thank You, PPG, and Gus Too! – from the May 2017 issue of the Pet Professional Guild journal, BARKS from the Guildhttp://bit.ly/ThanksPPG-Gus


Podcasts from The Woof Meow Show
( http://www.woofmeowshow.com )

The Unintended Consequences of Shock Collars

The Pet Professional Guild and the Shock-Free Coalition with Niki Tudge

Yes! A Trend Towards Kinder and Gentler Professional Pet Care – Green Acres Kennel Shop’s “Pet-Friendly” Philosophy

Yes! A Trend Towards Kinder and Gentler Professional Pet Care – The Pet Professional Guild and Force-Free Pet Care with Niki Tudge

Pet Behavior, Vets & The AAHA Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines – Dr. Dave Cloutier – Veazie Veterinary Clinic

Other Publications & Blogs

BARKS from the Guild – May 2017 – Thank You, PPG, and Gus Too! https://issuu.com/petprofessionalguild/docs/bftg_may_2017_online_edition_opt/58

BARKS blog – Choke Collar Pathologyhttp://ppgworldservices.com/2017/06/13/choke-collar-pathology/


Dogs, Cats, and Scapegoats (The entire film)    https://vimeo.com/230807934

Malignant Behavior: The Cesar Millan Effect (from Dogs, Cats, and Scapegoats ) https://vimeo.com/243498663?fbclid=IwAR3RYOlIP7LeePV0B8ZaHhed5pPDYZbPu8KQbXNxfzOodWCRKspgcSQrwnc

Dogs, Cats, and Scapegoats – The Mind of Cesar Millanhttps://vimeo.com/236013182


Position Statements

American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB)

American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior AVSAB Position Statement on the Use of Dominance Theory in Behavior Modification of Animalshttps://avsab.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Dominance_Position_Statement_download-10-3-14.pdf

American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior AVSAB Position Statement on The Use of Punishment for Behavior Modification in Animals – https://avsab.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Punishment_Position_Statement-download_-_10-6-14.pdf

Green Acres Kennel Shop

Green Acres Kennel Shop Position Statement on Pet-Friendly, Force-Free Pet Carehttp://bit.ly/GAKS_Pet-Friendly

Green Acres Kennel Shop Position on the Use of Dominance and Punishment for the Training and Behavior Modification of Dogshttp://bit.ly/GAKS-Pos-NoPain-NoForceNoFear

 Pet Professional Guild (PPG)

Pet Professional Guild – Guiding Principleshttp://www.bit.ly/2mUCTqN

Pet Professional Guild – Position Statement – The Use of Choke and Prong Collars – https://www.petprofessionalguild.com/chokeandprongcollarpositionstatement

Pet Professional Guild – Position Statement – The Use of Pet Correction Devices – https://www.petprofessionalguild.com/Equipment-Used-for-the-Management-Training-and-Care-of-Pets

Pet Professional Guild – Position Statement – The Use of Shock in Animal Training – https://www.petprofessionalguild.com/shockcollars



Dog Smart: Evidence-based Training with The Science Dog, Linda P. Case, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2018read a review at http://bit.ly/BkRvw-Case-DogSmart

Don’t Shoot the Dog – The New Art of Teaching and Training (2ndedition), Karen Pryor, Bantam Books, 1999.

The Culture Clash, Jean Donaldson, James & Kenneth Publishers, 2005.

The Power of Positive Dog Training, Pat Miller, Howell Book House, 2001.

Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop ( greenacreskennel.com ) in Bangor where he has been helping people with their pets since 1995. He is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC) and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). He produces and co- hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show heard on AM620 WZON and streamed at http://www.wzonam.com/ every Saturday at 9 AM. Podcasts of the show are available at http://woofmeowshow.libsyn.com/. Don also writes about pets at his blog: www.words-woofs-meows.com. He is committed to pet care and pet training that is free of pain, force, and fear. The opinions in this post are those of Don Hanson.

©18MAR19, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved
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