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Latest health and behavior news and advice from the veterinarians at Tufts University.

News & Views December 2018 Issue

The End of a Punishment Era

Shock collars have now been banned in England, following a ban in Wales and ahead of what appears to be an upcoming ban in Scotland. Officials in England say that along with being misused to inflict unnecessary harm and suffering, there is also evidence that e-collars can lead to aggression or generate anxiety in pets, thereby worsening any underlying behavioral problems.

This is an area where many would consider the U.S. behind the humane times. Electric shock collars have already been banned in Denmark, Finland, Austria, Germany, and a number of other countries. And the British Small Animal Veterinary Association has said that “shocks received during training may not only be acutely stressful, painful and frightening for the animal but also may produce long term adverse effects and behavioural and emotional responses.”

We here at Tufts agree. Shock collars can erode a dog’s trust in his human guardian (what dog can live happily and comfortably knowing that his “loving” owner might inflict bodily harm at any time?) and also cause increased aggression in response to the intermittent pain. For those who say that they only have to inflict pain a few times before setting the shock collar to a lower level that emits just vibrations instead of painful shocks, be aware that a few times is all it takes to make a dog unable to truly trust you ever again.

So how do you train your pet to come back to you without giving him an electric jolt? Lovingly, and above all, patiently. You can’t start in an open park or field. Begin in your living room, offering treats and warm praise when you call your dog and he comes to you from the other side of the room. Then maybe graduate to a fenced-in yard. Gradually increase the distance between the two of you, at first with a long line attached to him so he’s easier to retrieve if he takes off or doesn’t want to comply. Over time, maybe several weeks to a month, he will learn that returning to you when you call insures a good response.

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