An argumentative essay on the dangers of using electric shock collars on canines.
The Dangers of Electric Shock Collars
Cookie was my sister's dog who had, for many reasons, become my dog as well. My sister and I trained her together, cared for her together, and loved her together. But I soon found out that my sister and I had radically different styles of pet parenting.
From the time we brought her home it seemed Cookie had begun to develop quite a personality. She quickly found ways to communicate with us: letting out a few short yips at the door when she needed to be let out, scratching at or scooting her dish to tell you it was empty, and continuously sighing to let you know it was bedtime. She also had quite the attitude at times: not acknowledging you for a while if you had neglected her to do homework, laying only on the clean folded clothes rather than the dirty ones on the floor, and going to bed without you if you stayed up too late. In all these ways Cookie acted like a person.
Because she acted like a person, I began to treat her like one. No, she did not eat at the dinner table or wear clothes or any of that nonsense. I treated her like a human by recognizing what she could and could not understand and respecting her for what she could. She understood more than just yes and no and stay and come. She understood that my running shoes meant that we would go for a run, that my walking around the house in a hurry and putting on normal shoes meant I was leaving, and that "let them know we're here" at the door of a family member's house meant to bark. Â She was a very intelligent animal, which encouraged me to have patience with her. She responded positively to my respectful yet firm commands. With my sister, however, she responded with reluctance and fear. So when I came home from college to find Cookie with a shock collar on, I couldn't say I was surprised.
My sister explained that Cookie's incessant, obnoxious barking was waking my infant niece from her naps. I had to admit, Cookie did bark unnecessarily at times, but I didn't feel a shock collar was the way to go--some may see them as an okay last resort, but I feel they are never needed.
Most people do not know about the extensive amount of risks that stem from electric shock collars. These collars may lead to mental disorders such as generalized anxiety, increased aggression, and fear of normal activities. At times, the dog may be shocked and, rather than linking the shock with the "problem behavior," the dog may link the pain with a random behavior. For example, Cookie was outside with my black lab, Reina, playing. When Cookie barked, the collar administered a shock, causing her to yelp and therefore to be shocked again and again at higher voltages until I removed the collar. After this occurrence, Cookie was fearful of going outside with Reina because she associated the pain with that rather than with the barking.
The development of new behavioral problems stemming from the use of shock collars is not uncommon. Because the dog may not always understand why the shock is being administered, they may develop a generalized sense of anxiety and fear. Subsequently, because "a natural behavioral strategy is to use aggression," the dog may become increasingly aggressive (Mackeller and Ward). Another behavioral problem relates to barking. Because a shock is administered each time the dog barks no matter the reason--even if it is to alert their owner of danger--the dog may fear to bark when it would be helpful.
And as far as physical effects go, shock collars have been known to leave burns on the dog's throat where the metal posts that deliver the shocks meet the skin. The shocks from these posts also have the potential to cause seizures, brain damage, and even death, especially if the guidelines of weight and age are not followed.
This leads into another common effect of shock collars as a training device--a diminished owner-pet relationship. It has been found that "regardless of cause, the bond between dog and owner will become strained if there is significant divergence between the dog's behavior and the expectations of the owner" (Van Rooy). This means that the special owner-pet bond is strained and subject to breakdown when the expectations of the owner far exceed the dog's current behavior. By using shock collars, owners willingly send the message to their pets that their behavior is very far from acceptable--so far that they must inflict pain upon them in order to correct it.
Overall, the use of unpleasant and painful devices to train dogs is not effective and does not treat the underlying causes of the dog's behavior. Cookie barked out of habit, fear, and natural instincts. The collar just inflicted pain and increased her fear, and as for breaking the habit, it did not prove very effective because she never understood why she was being shocked.
A much more effective type of training would be reward-based (also known as positive reinforcement). But for the owner who believes in using unpleasant devices as a source of training, there are many options that are far more humane and effective than shock collars. A few of these include spray collars, vibrating collars, and ultrasonic collars. Spray collars emit bursts of citronella or air, interrupting the dog's bad behavior. Vibrating collars, like shock collars, deter a dog from a certain behavior but with a vibration rather than a shock (these can be used for deaf dogs who cannot hear commands). Ultrasonic collars emit a noise that only the dog can hear, interrupting the dog's bad behavior ("Dog Collars").
Although there are many accepted methods of training canines, including the use of shock collars, dog owners need to understand the dangers that can occur with such drastic and inhumane methods. They also need to be informed of the possible alternatives that have been proven to be more effective and safer for both dog and owner.
Dog Collars." The Humane Society of the United States, The Humane Society of the United States, 17 Oct. 2013. Web. 24 Nov. 2014.
Mackellar, Inga, and Mat Ward. "Shock Collars - The Shocking Truth." The APBC. Association of Pet Behavior Counsellors, 2010. Web. 25 Nov. 2014.
Van Rooy, Diane. "Holding Back the Genes: Limitations of Research into Canine Behavioural Genetics." Canine Genetics and Epidemiology. (2014): n. pag. Arizona State University Online Journal Database. Web. 25 Nov. 2014. <http://www.cgejournal.org/content /1/1/7>.