You can buy so-called shock collars at your local Petco or Petsmart, although maybe by using that phrase. Shock collars are one of three types of aversion collars (along with “choke” chains and prong collars) and are commonly used to stop dogs from barking as well as keeping dogs within certain areas (electronic containment fencing). Are shock collars animal abuse?
Petco prefers to call them “bark control” collars and lists them under training and behavior. A PetSafe Basic Bark Control Pet Training System is $60. PetSafe also sells that Instant Fence Containment System for $259.95.
Petsmart wants you to find the product you want fast and a search for “shock collar” will bring up quick results such as High Tech Bark Terminator 3 Bark Control Collar ($89.99) or the PetSafe Ultrasonic Bark Control Collar ($39.99).
Shock collars work giving an electrical charge to the dog at its throat when it makes an undesirable behavior. Some can deteck when a dog is barking. The shock intensity can be changed and the charge reaches the dog through prongs or metal contact points placed against the dog’s throat.
The Humane Society considers shock collars “the least humane” training device. Electronic signals can vary from a mild tickling sensation to painful and traumatic shocks that can even cause thermal burns. If one uses them, the Humane Society recommends that the collar should not be left on “for an extended length of time” and that the dog’s neck should be cleaned and the contact points should also be cleaned regularly. This doesn’t always happen.
No one knows just how dogs rate these collars, but recently usage of these collars by professionals has been questioned. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported on Aug. 20, 2015, that two men were accused of animal abuse for using shock collars on four animals at a St. Peters dog training facility, Sit Means Sit. According to the Post-Dispatch, the men, Anthony Dean Lampert and Nicholas Zachary Labath were charged with three misdemeanor counts of animal abuse. The use of “shock collars” is not illegal in that county.
In April of this year, a woman boarded her dogs (corgis), Bonnie and Faye, at Broward Pet Sitting in South West Ranches, Florida and returned to find the nine-year-old badly injured according to Local 10 News. The vet called the trauma injuries from thermal burns.
Bethan Ramos, owner of two Chihuahuas, wrote a column in favor of the responsible use of shock collars, “Why I don’t think shock collars are animal abuse,” citing Elaine Pendell, M.Ed., CPT, of Carolina Dog Training who considers the collars a communication tool, and Ann King, certified trainer at The Local Bark who feels the benefits of remote negative communication need to be coupled with positive associations and feels that the collars do not cause pain at all if you chose the right product (E-Collars Technologies is her choice.
I’ve used a bark collar on my first rescue collie. He outsmarted it by barking and then pausing. The second dog just panicked and his barks became hysterical shrieks. Now I prefer to use positive reinforcement.
An Australian group, Australian Working Dog Rescue, sponsored a Change.org petition, “Ban electric shock collars, including those associated with ‘invisible fence barriers’ for use on all companion animals” which had a goal of 25,000 names, but as of Oct. 8, only had 16,879 supporters. The featured photo shows burns on a dog’s neck that are less gruesome than the ones on the corgi.
Should no bark, electric shock collars be banned and should anything that could potentially cause burns on an animal’s neck be considered animal abuse or torture? What’s your take on the shock collar controversy?