ALEXANDRIA, VA – On Tuesday, Petco announced that it will no longer sell electronic collars, aka “shock” or “bark” collars, the first major pet products chain to pull the items from its stores and online.
“The dog training industry has evolved over the last 30 years. For many years, we were told by “experts” that we had to control the dog, show them that we were in charge, be the big alpha, or else they would try to dominate us. This training philosophy was based on a flawed wolf study conducted in the 40’s. As more recent studies were conducted on how dogs think and how they learn, we now know that the dominance theory of dog training had no science behind it,” says Sandy Modell, owner and top trainer of Wholistic Hound Academy in Alexandria, VA.
“Electricity may be critical to powering your microwave, but it has no role for the average pet parent training their dog,” said Petco CEO Ron Coughlin. “Shock collars have been shown to increase fear, anxiety and stress in dogs, and we believe there’s a better way – Positive Reinforcement Training.”
Modell has agreed with the positive-reinforcement training concept since she started training dogs decades ago. Citing a number of different veterinary and behavior studies, including the Animal Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB), and major dog training associations, including the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT) and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC), she says the old fashioned dog training theories have been debunked, and are frequently called “heirarchy malarky.”
“Training should be fun for both you and your dog. Tools that cause pain, make dogs cower and yelp, result in other behavior issues, reduce a dog’s ability to problem solve, and cause detrimental effects on the human-dog bond, should be avoided, especially when there is a better and effective way to train,” stresses Modell.
“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,” said Dr. Whitney Miller, Head of Veterinary Medicine for Petco. “Punishment is not only less successful in changing unwanted behaviors, shock collars have been known to actually reinforce negative behaviors and create anxiety within pets.”
Modell agrees, “Positive reinforcement training focuses on the behaviors that we want our dogs to do. By giving dogs opportunities to earn reinforcements, dogs will repeat those behaviors. Instead of suppressing behaviors and causing pain to stop unwanted behaviors, we create optimism in the dogs we work with, so that the behaviors we want become their default behaviors.”
“Anyone that understands dog behavior knows that the reason a shock collar suppresses behavior is because it hurts. Not because they feel a tickle. They tell you to try it on your arm. They never tell you to put it around your neck,” says Modell.