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It is alarming at times to think that we as a society, who pride ourselves on being benevolent and humane to our four-legged family members, can in relatively large numbers, defend the act of placing a device that emits an electrical shock around a dog's neck and call it humane behavioral training .
Dr. Karen Weigle, a clinical psychologist at the University of New Hampshire proposes that this issue “has gone on for this long because this is a population who cannot adequately speak for themselves. Who will speak for the dogs?” Many have and are; the Pet Professional Guild (PPG), the Journal of Veterinary Behavior, pioneering psychologist Martin E. Seligman's have all lent their platforms, research and expertise to surface and discuss the very real harm these devices pose and the options that are available that are equally if not better equipped to address a dog's unwanted behavior.
The scientific community has spoken. The majority of evidence points to one prevailing theme, the use of shock collars increases anxiety, fear, and aggression in dogs. It very well may be that in the short term a shock collar's efficacy in behavioral training is easily justified, however, the science here, although plenty in the short term as well, points to an even greater problem for the dog in the long term. Dr. Seligman was quite clear in his findings that the long term affects from shock collars produces a learned behavior of helplessness. That an “inescapable shock may well produce immobility after the shock is removed” giving the dog an uneasy and helpless feeling.
Dog owners who are dealing with an unwanted behavior from their furry companion do have other options open to them that does not include shock. We certainly do not want to place ourselves in positions of judgment for those who chose this route, as they generally believe they are doing the right thing given the circumstances and degree of the problem, however, the easiest thing to do is not always the right thing to do. In his book, The Miracle Morning: The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life (Before 8am) Hal Elrod writes
… we mistakenly assume that each choice we make, and each individual action we make, is only affecting that particular moment, or circumstance. But truth be told, it isn't. “They compound, and while they're imperceptible and inconsequential to us today, one day, we'll have no choice but to take notice.”
Before that happens, consider these alternatives to shock; professional behavioral training or clicker training, citronella collars, dog whistles, ultrasonic or vibration collars, or outdoor fencing with non-electric fences to name just a few.
Just like anything else we care about, we want to do what is best for whomever or whatever that may be. Many would agree that dogs, like us, clearly feel pain, as well as happiness. The rub here is to always remember that one does not negate the other if the path to one is cheaper or easier, that would be too simple. Choose with high intention and sincere effort and both you and your pet will be the better for it.