For as much as I don’t mince words about aversive training methods, I especially don’t mince words about the use of shock collars in dog training. Apparently others don’t either:
Communications Director Caroline Kisko [The Kennel Club of the UK] said: “Electric shock collars train dogs through pain and through fear – they are a cruel, outdated and unsuitable method of training dogs.”
The Kennel Club of the UK: “… this barbaric method of training dogs.”
Claire Lawson, RSPCA public affairs manager for Wales, said: “This is a great day for animal welfare in Wales.” (1)
Based on years of solid behavioral science we know the use of coercive behavior modification like shock collars is inappropriate and cruel. While one can choose to inflict pain to punish a behavior, it speaks more to the individual’s preference than to good training techniques.
Although some people will suggest – even put forth as solid science – that shock collars are just another option in training, they have missed the core issues in behavioral science. As Murray Sidman (2) plainly points out in his book Coercion and Its Fallout, “[J]ust punishing the animal for doing something else does not teach it to sit. At most, punishment only teaches it what not to do.” (3)
He has much more to say on this topic and I will simply add one more of his comments here: “When we take all of its effects into account, punishment’s success in getting rid of behavior will seem inconsequential. The other changes that take place in people who are punished, and, what is sometimes even more important, the changes that take place in those who do the punishing, lead inevitably to the conclusion that punishment is a most unwise, undesirable, and fundamentally destructive method of controlling conduct.” (4)
I know some will say: “Yeah, but he’s talking about humans – we’re just talking about dog training.” Actually the experiments he is referring to have been on mice, dogs, monkeys, birds, and other critters – not of the human variety. We can see what happens to humans as a result of coercion from real-life observations. We know what happens to our animal friends by real laboratory experiments where we can clearly point to the coercion as the cause of a host of unwanted “fallout” behaviors, not the least of which are increased aggression or learned helplessness and complete shut-down.
As the overwhelming body of science against shock collars continues to grow, the tide against their use as being acceptable has begun to pick up momentum and this is just the latest example.
Cymru am byth!
1 BBC 25, February 2010
2 Dr. Sidman, Ph.D. in psychology from Columbia University, International Fellow, Association for Behavior Analysis, former academic appointments include: Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, EK Shriver Center for Mental Retardation, Columbia University, Harvard Medical School, Johns Hopkins University, University of Sao Paulo, Brazil, and others.
3 Coercion and its Fallout, pg 46
4 Coercion and its Fallout, pg 77