Shock Collars for Dogs Are a Bad Idea : Ask Dog Lady

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In the short term, zapping a dog with an electric shock to train it may work. Yet this is no way to humanely train a dog for life.

(Plain Dealer File)

I also write about dogs for the local newspaper in my town. We have a so-called trainer in the area who manages to convince every customer that the answer to any question about bad dog behavior is a shock collar. I dedicated one of my “City Paws” columns to the harms of poor training methods, which included a lengthy interview with a veterinarian who is a certified behaviorist.

It was really good to read your column in which you agree that shock collars are a bad idea. Thank you for defending the puppies. –Penny

Shock collars that emit electrical charges, as well as metal pinch collars that clamp around the neck with teeth, seem excessively harsh when training dogs. There are exceptions, of course. For example, electric fences save the life of dogs because they keep the animal confined without walls. Until the dog is trained to stay inside the perimeter, the animal wears a shock collar that dispenses a zing whenever it begins to stray from the boundaries. Dog Lady knows a dog named Thomas who is so well trained that he doesn’t even need the shock collar to stay inside the electric fence. You could wave a sirloin steak to him, and Thomas wouldn’t cross the line.

Actress Eva Mendes claims to have used a shock collar on herself before putting one on her pet Hugo, a Belgian Malinois (or Belgian Shepherd). She says she keeps an electric collar on Hugo because her big dog is chasing smaller animals, and Mendes is worried he might hurt one. Mendes admitted to CBS’ “Late Night With David Letterman” host David Letterman that she tested the shock collar on her arm, not around her neck. In Mendes’ case, she may have too much dog to handle responsibly and should have thought about that before making such a statement.

In the short term, zapping a dog with an electric shock may work. Yet this is no way to humanely train a dog for life.

I disagree with the answer you gave to the Shetland Sheepdog owner about his barking. You said it was boredom. But Shetland Sheepdogs (Shelties for people who know and love them) are a very talkative breed. It’s not boredom. They bark because it was a useful tool in the herding work of their ancestors. They bark happily while playing. They can also bark at birds, which their ancestors also did. They are wonderful pets and excellent dogs for children. They are loyal, affectionate, and very eager to work, be trained, and be part of the family. They are extremely intelligent. But they bark.

Suggesting that the dog won’t bark if it gets more exercise suggests that it will stop barking. More exercise will make the dog happier. But trying to teach a Sheltie not to bark for joy is a difficult thing to do. If you search YouTube for Shelties doing agility, you’ll find plenty of them barking happily as they run at full speed. — Sheltie Sympathizer

Thank you very much for this fix. Yes, some breeds are born to bark because the muzzle means a lot in their world. A Sheltie (looks like a small collie) obviously has a lot to say. Still, regular exercise — whether through agility training, herding, walking, chasing the ball, or playing with other dogs — helps regulate their talkativeness.

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