This week, those of us in the Force Free/Fear Free movement were given cause to celebrate when Petco, a major pet retailer in the USA, announced that it was removing shock collars from its stores and online platform.
Shock collars are aversives – they use pain to suppress an unwanted behavior. These totally unnecessary devices are inhumane when behavioral science has moved along to prove that positive reinforcement training works better and is an ethical approach to dog training.
I’m interested in this subject because, sadly, shock collars are widely available in New Zealand. I see many Facebook groups of dog owners who recommend these devices as soon as there is a barking dog complaint, for example. And the body language of a dog wearing a shock collar tells the story of a dog being punished.
To continue to raise awareness to this subject, I include the statement of the Pet Professional Guild released this week in response to Petco’s announcement.
|Official PPG Statement|
Official Pet Professional Guild Response to Petco’s Removal of Electric Shock Collars from Stores
The Pet Professional Guild (PPG) and The Shock-Free Coalition are greatly encouraged by Petco’s announcement on October 6, 2020 that it will no longer sell electric shock collars “operated by a person with a remote in hand.” PPG has always believed unequivocally that the pet-owning general public needs – and deserves – to have access to better educational tools so they can, 1) make the right decisions regarding their pets’ training, care and welfare, and 2) ensure they live in safe, nurturing and stable environments, free from fear and pain.
Increasingly, peer reviewed, scientific studies are showing that, whether discussing dogs, humans, dolphins or elephants, shock as a form of training to teach or correct a behavior is ineffective at best and physically and psychologically damaging at worst (Schilder & van der Borg, 2004; Schalke, Stichnoth, Ott, & Jones-Baade, 2007; Polsky, 2000; Cooper, Cracknell, Hardiman, Wright & Mills, 2014). Overall (2013) states that shock collars, aka e-collars, “violate the principles of three of five freedoms that define adequate welfare for animals: Freedom from pain, injury, and disease, freedom to express normal behavior and freedom from fear and distress.”
The current scientific data, in addition to the moral and ethical concerns about mental and physical damage to animals subjected to methods using force, fear and/or pain, have moved a number of representing professional organizations* to advocate for the use of humane training techniques founded on evidence-based learning theories and avoid training methods or devices which employ coercion and force. PPG is delighted that Petco has now joined their ranks.
Effects of Electric Shock
The use and application of electric shock provides no effective strategy for an animal to learn a new or alternative behavior. Some common problems resulting from the use of electronic stimulation devices include, but are not limited to:
Infliction of Stress and Pain
Global Suppression or “Shut-Down”
Fear, Anxiety and Aggression
In September 2017, the Pet Professional Guild (PPG) rolled out its Shock-Free Coalition, the key purpose of which is to build a strong and broad movement committed to eliminating electric shock devices from the worldwide supply and demand chain. This would be achieved by:
Engaging and educating pet owners and shelter/rescue workers to help them make informed decisions about the management, care and training of the pets in their charge.
Building a worldwide coalition that provides pet owners access to competent, professional pet industry service providers.
Creating widespread pet industry transparency and compliance regarding how professionals implement their services and communicate their philosophy to pet owners.
Supporters are encouraged to sign the Shock-Free Pledge, much in the same way as Petco has invited supporters to sign its #StoptheShock petition.
One of PPG’s key goals is to shape the pet industry to ensure that dog trainers, behavior consultants and professional pet care providers, 1) pursue an ethical responsibility to do no harm to the animals in their care, and 2) present their qualifications and experience truthfully with full transparency and disclosure – including the training tools and methods they use.
PPG recognizes that industry changes will happen in stages and, just like the progressive behavior change programs we create for the animals in our care, gradual changes must be reinforced. By encouraging “anyone using or looking for shock collars to consider training with treats instead of electricity and partnership instead of pain,” Petco has made an important first step towards improving the lives of pets everywhere, as well as educating dog owners about alternative, kinder training methods and tools. We look forward to seeing electric fence systems, which work in exactly the same way as shock collars, i.e. by causing fear and pain, follow suit.
*Including, but not limited to, the American Animal Hospital Association, the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, the British Veterinary Association, the New Zealand Veterinary Association, the European Society of Veterinary Clinical Ethology and Pet Dog Trainers of Europe.
Pet Professional Guild. (2015). Open Letter Regarding Shock Collar Training. Available at: https://petprofessionalguild.com/An-Open-Letter-Regarding-Shock-Collar-Training
Tudge, N.J, Nilson, S.J., Millikan, D.A., & Stapleton-Frappell, L.A. (2019). Pet Training and Behavior Consulting: A Model for Raising the Bar to Protect Professionals, Pets and Their People. (n.p.): DogNostics Career Center Publishing
Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand