- The use of shock collars, or anti-bark collars, has become more acceptable as a form of training pets, but do they harm the animal?
- Could adopting a cat and strictly leaving it outdoors without food or water provided by you (the adoptee) be considered animal abuse?
- Or what about lightly smacking a dog on its’ snout or rump be considered abuse?
Over the past decade animal abuse has shown up in the news more and more. Hundreds of rescue organizations promising to save animals and give them better lives have shown up everywhere. This has brought more light on the issue of abuse and neglect.
Where is the line drawn?
A shock collar for disciplinarian use is a hotly debatable topic. You either love them or hate them. Many of the things that people hear, on the negative side, are often very false. When used properly it will not harm the dog at all. People will usually use them incorrectly, not on purpose but simply because they are uneducated. When you fit a dog with a shock collar you must start on the lowest setting. You only want to use the setting that the dog will notice and respond to, not react in pain. When you find the “right” setting the dogs’ ears will perk up or they may turn their head toward you. If they yelp or show any signs of discomfort (tail between the legs, shaking, etc.) then it’s too high of a setting for the dog. You only want the least amount of shock needed to get the dog to respond to the command. Most shock collars have a “beeping” feature that will prevent the use of any level of electric shock after your dog associates the beep with the shock. By “beeping” the collar before the shock function is used you are training your dog to respond to the collar in a humane way (hopefully this is one of your goals as a dog owner), this method will eliminate the need to use the shock function all together. If you don’t know how to train a dog without a shock collar then you probably don’t know how to train a dog with one. Work with your dog on a daily basis without the shock collar first and use the collar only if necessary. Any dog can be trained without negative enforcement it’s just up to you as the owner to have patience and to do it properly.
Now when it comes to pets in general and leaving them outside a lot of it has to do with where you live. If you live in a busy, populated town or city then making the decision to leave your cat, dog, bird, whatever, outside needs to be a conscious thought out decision. When it comes to cats and dogs please make sure there is at least water and a fence. Obviously cats can climb a fence, but it will still contain them to a marked “safe zone”. Dogs can’t climb higher fences, but be sure to “dig proof” the yard by putting a barrier between the ground and the bottom of the fence around the entire fence line. They need the water to stay cool. A cat can go out and forage, but they rely on you to provide a proper source of water to drink. They still need to be fed regularly, (hopefully this is common sense) but you would be surprised at what we have seen over the years. With birds or other pets you may want to expose to the outdoors, keep them in a cage. Even if a birds wings are clipped they can still jump, climb, or get attacked by your neighbors cat that may or may not be on a regular feeding schedule. Thousands of animals, exotic and the norm, escape every year. Many are never found, or for the more exotic species, they may take over a wildlife habitat. The Burmese Python invasion in the Florida Everglades is the perfect example.
As with spanking a child, it’s up to the owner if they’re comfortable with smacking as a form or discipline or not. You never want to hit your animal hard enough that they become vocal, in sensitive areas, their tummy and lungs, because that could very well be considered animal abuse. You do need to be careful when using this method because it could cause more harm than good. When you see a hand coming in your face your natural reaction is to stop it and get it away; snout smacking could provoke biting. This is the biggest grey area of them all; therefore, we will not be taking a strong position on hitting a pet as an effective form of discipline. If you don’t have the time to be patient and train your pet with position reinforcement then you are missing out on some of the true joys of pet ownership
The most important thing is just to be smart and gentle. Animals will respond to positivity (soothing voices, praise, treats, etc.) better than negativity (leash pulling/tugging, hitting, shocking, yelling or rough voices) any day. Animals do feel pain and do have emotions, treat them as you would want to be treated and trained. Positive forms of training and discipline will get you and your pet where you want to be, and prevent you away from any whistle blowers out there claiming you’re an animal abuser.