Are dog shock collars ethical?


Fact Box

  • Dog shock collars, also known as electronic collars or remote training collars, use “electric current passing through metal contact points…to give your dog an electric signal. This electric signal can range from a mild tickling sensation to a painful shock.” The shock ranges from 400 to 7000 volts, with the generally accepted standard between 1000 and 3500.
  • Dog shock collars fall under the category of negative reinforcement dog training, which “uses a biological escape and subsequent avoidance response to create reliable behaviors.”
  • In 2020, pet supply retailer Petco announced they would no longer sell dog shock collars operated remotely by a human. Their reason was that “as a health and wellness company dedicated to improving pet lives, they have no business in our business.” 
  • As of June 2023, shock collars range in price from $6.99 to $179.99.

Joanna (Yes)

The idea of causing pain to man's best friend isn't just unethical; some states consider animal cruelty a felony. However, considering dog shock collars as a method of torture may be stretching the truth. 

Firstly, an alternative is necessary when gentle training methods and positive reinforcement simply don't work. For instance, aggressive dogs can benefit from training with remote collars as the devices redirect their attention and help them to be rehabilitated. It's more humane for a formerly aggressive dog to curb its behavior and be able to stay with its owner than for an aggressive dog to be dealt with by authorities. 

When noting how the use of shock collars is perceived, it's important to remember that there's likely a bias against e-collars because the word 'shock' is associated with injury and trauma. However, the collars sold today aren't the same as those used decades ago. In fact, they're called 'electronic' rather than 'shock' collars. Most notably, modern devices send pre-warning sounds or vibrations before an electric pulse stimulus. There are also a variety of low-voltage collars that are as gentle as a transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) machine. 

Finally, numerous trainers and animal behavior specialists support using these collars. For instance, Steve Lindsay, author of The Handbook of Applied Dog Behavior and Training, writes, 'The combined advantage of immediate and reliable radio-controlled delivery of precisely regulated electrical stimulus make electronic training a viable and humane alternative to any traditional techniques for applying negative reinforcement and punishment.'

It's vital that experienced dog owners and trainers operate these collars to avoid misuse. Especially since there are a set of ethics that trainers abide by while using them. Only then may both owners and dogs truly benefit. 

Andrew (No)

Shock collars induce pain in dogs and can lead to serious harm similar to what humans suffer when electrocuted. These injuries include burns and other issues caused by a rapidly increased heart rate which can be dangerous for dogs, particularly older dogs or those with heart issues. Aside from their physical effects, shock collars also have adverse psychological effects on dogs, such as increased stress and anxiety through fear, making them feel defensive and, ultimately, turning them aggressive. It is unacceptable to hit, kick, or torture animals in any other way; why should shocking them with electricity be allowed? 

Though previous forms of dog training frequently used negative motivation, such as pain, isolation, or hitting, they are now outdated. Scientific studies reveal that positive reinforcement is more effective in training dogs, especially younger dogs. This training style encourages dogs to think for themselves, improves the connection between the owner and his companion, boosts the animal’s morale and confidence, and has various other psychological benefits. Humans have evolved alongside dogs for around thirty thousand years, primarily due to the strong communication and bond formed with our beloved pets. There simply isn’t a reason to use negative reinforcement.

While some may erroneously believe that these types of devices are an effective training method, the truth is that causing a dog pain through the use of electrical shock collars can lead to a variety of unwanted behaviors--including dogs wanting to avoid their owners. To continue to use a method that is less effective than positive reinforcement and causes an animal physical and psychological pain is entirely unethical.

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