Petco announced this week that they will no longer be selling shock collars. In a press release, the company said shock collars cause “stress,” “fear,” and “pain” and have “no business” being sold by a company “dedicated to improving” the lives of companion animals.
The company also said it was calling “on the rest of the pet industry” (i.e., Petsmart and other companies) “and anyone who loves pets to join our movement and help us drive positive change:” To that end, “it’s offering a free introductory online training class for pet owners to learn about positive reinforcement training methods.
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 create anxiety within pets.”
It’s long past due.
Back in the late 1990s, I wrote a position paper for The San Francisco SPCA entitled “Dog Rights.” In it, I argued that it was ethically wrong to use aversive training and that included shock, choke, and prong collars. Nothing I have seen in the last 20+ years alters that conclusion.
Not only do “the results show that using aversive training methods (e.g., positive punishment and negative reinforcement) can jeopardize both the physical and mental health of dogs” but “there is no evidence that it is more effective than positive reinforcement-based training. In fact, there is some evidence that the opposite is true”.
On a more philosophical level, “Animals, like human infants, arrive in the world ready to learn, ready to explore, ready to figure out the rules, ready to find their place.” When we fail to provide those opportunities, we harm them. Seen from this perspective, teaching dogs (i.e., “training”) shifts from being an activity that is viewed as primarily done for the benefit of people to one that promotes fulfillment in dogs. But only if it does not involve punishment. Like all paternalistic actions we take on behalf of dogs, we are ethically obligated to act in their best interest by using the least invasive means possible.
In short, we should not hurt dogs.
Now, Petco, about those milled animals you sell…
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