August 04, 2018

Veterinarians: Watch Out For These Pet Training Red Flags

Making sure that the owners have their pet’s welfare in mind when they're talking about training and behavior modification is really important.


Amy L. Pike, DVM, DACVB, chief of the Behavior Medicine Division at the Veterinary Referral Center of Northern Virginia, points out a few red flags when it comes to pet training that veterinarians need to be on the lookout for.

"Well, I think that making sure that the owners have their pet’s welfare in mind when they're talking about training and behavior modification is really important, because at the end of the day we're supposed to be the patient's advocate. And if they are using techniques of training like shock collars and prong collars we need to really be aware of that and educate them that that's not the most appropriate choice, and that there are much more humane aspects to training that we can, you know, reach out for them and help them with. The argument is not that punishment isn't effective, it's the secondary and third order effects of punishment training. 

So, yes a shock collar can cause a suppression of the behavior. The dog barks, the collar goes off, the bark collar goes off, it shocks them, and they say 'OK, that hurts so I don't want to do that again.' So, it may suppress the behavior, and to some owners that's a very quick fix, but we know that punishment can increase fear and anxiety—and that's the last thing that we want to do for our patients, and it's really a welfare issue at that point. I mean, in Europe, many of these products have been banned completely because they are considered inhumane. And if we wouldn't do it to our, you know, 2 or 3-year-old child, we probably shouldn't do it with our pets either."

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