Cruel “training” devices such as anti-barking shock collars, electric (“invisible”) fences, and prong collars rely on painful punishment and negative reinforcement. They cause dogs to live in fear of being electrically shocked or painfully choked for normal behavior such as crossing invisible lines, barking, jumping onto surfaces within their own homes, and getting ahead of their guardians during walks. Positive training methods, in which dogs are rewarded for desirable behavior, are kinder and more effective.
Shock collars can cause dogs physical pain, injury (ranging from burns to cardiac fibrillation), and psychological stress, including severe anxiety and displaced aggression. Individual animals vary in their temperaments and pain thresholds; a shock that seems mild to one dog might be severe to another. The anxiety and confusion caused by repeated shocks can lead to changes in a dog’s heart and respiration rate or gastrointestinal disorders. Electronic collars can also malfunction, either administering no shocks at all or nonstop shocks.
Electric (“Invisible”) Fences
Dogs whose yards are surrounded by electric fences may develop fear or aggression aimed at what they believe is the source of the shock (kids riding by on bikes, the mail carrier, the dog next door, etc.). Dogs have been known to run through electric fences when frightened by fireworks or chasing a squirrel and then be too scared to cross back through the barrier.
Electric fences may actually encourage animals to try to escape. Since dogs only suffer painful shocks in the yard, they might associate the shock with the yard itself – once they get out of the yard, the pain goes away. The fact that the pain returns when they try to re-enter the yard can cause dogs to believe that they are being punished for returning home.
Even when animals are successfully confined to the yard with an electric fence, they are still in danger of attacks by roaming dogs, cruel humans, or other animals who can freely enter the property. Electric fences are a dog thief’s dream come true!
Prong and choke collars can do much more damage than just yanking and choking a dog. Depending on the size of the dog, how hard the dog pulls, and how forcefully the person holding the leash yanks, choke collars can cause serious injuries, including the following:
- Intervertebral disc protrusion
- Partial or complete fore- or hind-limb paralysis from spinal cord injuries
- Damage to the vagus nerve, affecting the function of major organs, including the heart, lungs, liver, bladder, spleen, and kidneys
- A crushed trachea, with partial or complete asphyxiation
- Crushed or fractured bones in the larynx
- A bruised esophagus
- Sharp increases in pressure inside the head, which can cause brain or eye damage and sometimes prolapse of the eye
- Bruising and damage to the skin and tissues in the neck, resulting in the formation of scar tissue
Dogs who are repeatedly yanked and choked may become resentful, aggressive, and fearful of hands.
Real fences and positive training methods, in which dogs are rewarded for good behavior, are kinder and more effective. Read about some dog-training tips that will help dogs, not hurt them.