The unintended consequences of shock the pet professional guild gas or electricity for heating

Angelica Steinker painfully recounted several such experiences during a PPG World Services podcast on “ The Dark Side of Dog Training and Pet Care.” Her article, by that title, was the cover story in BARKS from the Guild, March 2018, pp. 14-21.

In one conversation Betsy tearfully blamed herself for “failing Zelda” and I spent an hour consoling her. Betsy worried that she had no way to keep the dog she loved in her home and remain safe, or keep others in the community safe. Her entire life had changed and she felt trapped.

My empathy was with a kind and caring person who wanted only to adopt an unwanted dog and give her the best possible life for the next decade or more. The dog she adopted was not the one she thought she was adopting. Betsy confessed that if she knew then what she knows now, she would not have adopted Zelda.

My anger was directed at the current dysfunctional nature of the shelter and rescue system which far too often does not conduct temperament or sociability tests and re-homes behaviorally unhealthy dogs to unsuspecting families who are not seeking a “project dog” and so they are quite overwhelmed with the reality of the situation…after having bonded with the pet.

I am also angry with so-called trainers who use outdated and harmful methods and equipment, do not disclose to pet guardians what they will do to their dog, and then take no responsibility after having inflicted serious behavioral damage on the animal. Often it is force-free trainers who are left desperately scrambling to repair the damaged dog, help the traumatized steward, and avoid the Sword of Damocles (euthanasia) hanging overhead.

Dogs like Zelda who have delivered nine bites to three adults in two years are not likely to survive another ride in the roller coaster we call the shelter and rescue system. Too many canine professionals do not survive the ride either, by burning out and quitting, or worse.

There are many problems in this scenario. Shelters and rescues need to do behavioral assessments so prospective adopters know what they are getting into, and trainers need to practice full disclosure so pet stewards can make informed choices. That alone would go a long way toward saving people like Betsy and dogs like Zelda from daily lives filled with anxiety, fear and guilt.

Pet professionals and stewards alike can become part of the solution by joining The Pet Professional Guild where pet stewards enjoy free membership. Learn more about the use of shock in animal training and join the Shock-Free Coalition to help eliminate shock devices from the supply and demand chain. When considering hiring a pet professional you may use the AVSAB position statement on choosing a trainer and iSpeakDog guidelines.

Gratefully, Betsy gladly accepted my Project Trade offer and the shock collar now rests harmlessly in my growing collection. I accepted the Martingale collar for a bonus discount. Board-certified veterinary behaviorist Dr. Amy Pike graciously offered to consult Betsy’s family veterinarian, we are using Chirag Patel’s excellent instructional YouTube video on Baskerville muzzle training, and I am eager to begin desensitizing and counter-conditioning exercises in a remote location where we will not encounter random dogs.