Shocks can do more harm than good

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AN Eastern Bay dog owner was at home one night when he suddenly noticed his dog running round and round the outside of his house at speed, screeching and yelping loudly.

The unusual behaviour prompted the owner to take off the shock collar the dog was wearing. As he did so he received an electric shock, even though the collar’s remote control had not been activated.

This malfunctioning incident highlights one of the possible problems that can occur when dog owners use shock collars on their animals.

Shock collars give off an electric shock, ranging from mild to painful, at the push of a button from the person holding the remote control. The collars are used by some people to modify a dog’s behaviour, such as to stop it barking.

The problem with electric collars is that they can sometimes make a problem worse, as they may not fix the true cause of the unwanted behaviour, which could be loneliness, anxiety, illness or hunger.

When electric collars are not used correctly, they can cause immense distress, including fear, anxiety, loss of motivation and depression. In terms of dog training, it is widely recognised that positive reinforcement and rewards are more effective than punishment-based methods.

Shock collars are banned in many countries because of the physical or psychological harm that can be caused by their use. SPCA New Zealand does not support the use of shock collars or aversive training equipment that involves punishing animals.

The New Zealand Veterinary Association believes that electric dog collars should only be used in exceptional circumstances.

Besides being used the wrong way, or malfunctioning, another potential problem with shock collars is that some types can be set off by barking from a nearby dog. For this reason, a dog should never be left alone while wearing a shock collar.

Like the shock collar, the citronella collar should never be used without supervision. The collar works on the principle that when a microphone on the collar detects a bark, it activates an unpleasant blast of citronella into the dog’s face.

Once activated, it is possible, and has even been demonstrated by one curious human being, that the collar can continue to go off after the initial blast of citronella, as the wearer vocalises and struggles to escape, causing great distress.

Training a dog takes time and knowledge. The SPCA recommends reward-based learning such as praise, food, play and petting. If you’re looking for a quick fix for a problem behaviour that is punishment based, it could come at great cost to your dog.

I recommend seeking advice from an expert, the SPCA or vet clinics rather than resorting to devices that can do more harm than good.