Speak Now: Petco paves path for pets

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If you train dogs for a living, you’ve trained your family dog or you know someone who helped train a dog, you probably know it’s a lot of work. From teaching them not to chew furniture (or your fingers) to basic commands like sit and stay, training dogs takes time, patience and a lot of positive reinforcement. 

Petco recently decided to focus on the positive reinforcement aspect of dog training by discontinuing the sale of electronic “shock” collars, which have previously been used to curb unwanted behaviors.  

winking black and brown puppy
According to research, the best way to train or teach a new behavior to a pet is by voluntarily allowing them to participate in the learning processes. In addition, owners must reward pets for preferred behaviors in order to encourage their likelihood. Photo by Dominika Roseclay on Pexels.com

This is a good step forward and all pet stores should discontinue these collars. Although shock collars may be helpful when used properly, they are often used for negative, abusive purposes. In addition, positive reinforcement is shown to be much more effective in teaching. 

The idea of “positive reinforcement” in psychology was first used in the 1930s by behavioral psychologist B.F. Skinner. Positive reinforcement essentially rewards people or animals to encourage good behaviors. An example of this would be rewarding students with extra credit for showing up to class, or rewarding a child with a lollipop for using their manners — in these cases, the extra credit motivates students to attend class and the lollipop encourages children to be polite. With dogs, examples of positive reinforcement could be giving your dog a treat every time it goes to the bathroom in the correct spot, or praising and petting your dog every time it follows a command.  

Shock collars, on the other hand, use a form of punishment. Instead of praising a dog for a good behavior, shock collars punish the dog so that a bad behavior does not continue. 

A study by Harvard University suggests positive reinforcement is much more effective than punishment. Positive reinforcement also creates a better environment for the dog being trained.  

“Shock collars have been shown to increase fear, anxiety and stress in dogs, and we believe that there is a better way — positive reinforcement training,” said Petco CEO Ron Coughlin in a Petco news release

Shock collars were first developed in the 1960s to help train hunting dogs. Clearly they are outdated modes of training that should not be used anymore. Websites that give information for people considering buying a shock collar often warn of adverse effects of using the collars, such as creating fear in dogs and over-correction. These warnings should be heeded because they can lead to a harmful change in the dog’s emotional state. 

“Science shows animals will learn a new behavior faster and more successfully if they are allowed to voluntarily participate in the learning process and are rewarded for preferred behaviors. Punishment is not only less successful in changing unwanted behaviors, shock collars have been known to actually reinforce negative behaviors and cause anxiety within pets,” said Dr. Whitney Miller, Petco Head of Veterinary Medicine, in the Petco news release

“Science shows animals will learn a new behavior faster and more successfully if they are allowed to voluntarily participate in the learning process and are rewarded for preferred behaviors. Punishment is not only less successful in changing unwanted behaviors, shock collars have been known to actually reinforce negative behaviors and cause anxiety within pets.”

Stopping the sale of shock collars is one way to encourage the use of positive reinforcement when training dogs. Yes, it may be frustrating to train your dog to stop certain behaviors, but it can be done without using a shock collar. Instead of using a shock collar, consider using positive reinforcement for good behavior and teaching them the command “no” or “stop” in order to put an end to certain behaviors without the adverse effects of a shock collar. 

Hopefully more pet stores will follow suit and the use of shock collars will be prohibited everywhere. Having a dog means welcoming it into your family in a positive way, and shock collars do not create the positive environment that our furry friends need. 

1 COMMENT

  1. I agree and disagree. If you have a dog that’s going to follow another dog when there’s a dog that’s fighting and they aren’t going to listen to stop or come or … come for a treat! I’d rather have a collar on hand. I’d rather give a small correction to stop my dog from either getting hurt or hurting another dog. I use mine for the sound mostly or with the vibration but I’ve also used the correction when my dog has been in a fight. I will use a correction to stop it from getting worse at any time. I have an American Bulldog mix and an American Staffordshire mix and they’re amazing but they’re also very supportive of their friends and if they’re getting picked on or if they see a scuffle,,, they’re right there. It’s a pack mentality. The dogs here the noise and the entire dog park of dogs, go running. I’d rather stop my dogs from being in the middle of any of it than getting hurt. My AmStaff used to get attacked all the time and I wish other dog owners had something to keep their dogs in check. He needed surgery from one attack, has his face raked down by another dog… he was attacked so many times… I thought he was going to go postal on a dog. Thankfully he was the peace keeper at the dog park and broke up the fights. I will say one thing for him though… he never forgot or forgave a dog that hurt him and he wouldn’t allow that dog around any of his friends!🤣 So, instead of putting such a bad name to the collars, I really think it’s how you use them. If you’re an owner that just shocks the hell out of your dog, than you shouldn’t own one. If you’re proactive in preventing a bad situation from happening, than you should absolutely have one and this is only if something else doesn’t work.

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