Trainer's Corner: Learning Fear Through Shocking Greetings

Today's Trainer's Corner is brought to us by Leslie Fisher of Look What I Can Do! Dog Training. Check it out, she really is great!

This post is part of an ongoing campaign to educate people about the dangers of using shock collars, as part of the Never Shock a Puppy campaign

When greeting a stranger, do certain behaviors not occur, given your social expectations? 

Thinking of standard professional introductions, eye to eye contact, a smile, a cordial verbal greeting and a polite handshake: all to be expected.

But what if your greeting was unwelcoming, and communicated by a taser to your chest?

Suddenly normal social expectations went out the window. What happened? Why did that happen? You were only trying to say hello. Are people not to be trusted anymore? What if it keeps happening? What will you do? Will you become defensive? Perhaps even arm yourself? Get the person before they can get you?

Now, imagine a puppy, leaping up happily to greet a stranger coming into his home, only to feel horrible and unexpected pain around his neck. 

What happened to the anticipated lovely attention? Where did that come from?  This sad scenario is one I keep imagining.

Somewhere out there, a puppy  was indeed shocked for jumping up to greet a stranger. A puppy that never came to me for training. A puppy I was made aware of by a client, concerned for the welfare of the puppy. Despite their best efforts and voiced concern to the person shocking the puppy, I am supposing the shock collar was continued.

What happened to that puppy? 

Did that puppy learn fear and aggression in response to strangers? Perhaps I will end up seeing that puppy for behavior modification.

Sadly, the puppy would indeed associate the sudden pain with the stranger in the environment, as both events occurred simultaneously.

With repetition, the association is negatively conditioned.

Stranger appearing equals pain equals strangers are scary. There are two choices in this event. Run away. Defend. Often, even though dogs are fearful, a defense is chosen,  learned responses evolve and become increasingly aggressive. Or, they are shocked into submission, wary, fearful and un-trusting of the world around them.

Dogs need a predictable environment to feel safe. 

How could they feel safe when anticipating pain? Would  you? This sad situation happens. Puppies and dogs become needlessly aggressive, due to thoughtless application of shock collars. Yet the sale of shock collars goes on.

Recently I overheard a sales clerk in a pet store happily explaining all the settings on a shock collar to a couple with a dog in tow.

Shocking the dog was being discussed rather matter of factly. I wonder if they went home and slapped their kids? Why is it ok to shock a dog, but have different expectations for human conduct towards others. In my first greeting scenario, with the taser, law enforcement would have been called to the scene, perhaps a prison sentence, lawyers.

Yet the shocking of puppies and dogs goes on. People who know nothing about dog behavior continue to sell harmful devices. This is just inherently wrong. Perhaps people should require a license to both sell and purchase them. Even better, a complete ban, as some countries have done. Wales Bans Shock Collars/More There is an ongoing and rather interesting discussion on this link as well.

As you go through your days, think about appropriate social greetings with strangers, and the scenarios I have described. Think about painful and unexpected events taking place as you reach to shake hands with a stranger. Think about all the puppies and dogs that continue to be shocked.

Happy and pain free dog training, Leslie and the labbies


Leslie Fisher is a Pat Miller Certified Trainer (PMCT), CPDT-KA CGC Evaluator ABC Student Mentor and member of APDT, MAAPPPT, TrulyDogFriendly.

She brought her first dog home at the age of 5 and she shared her life with dogs since and is presently owned by three labs, Doobie, Talley and Bridget.

Leslie has founded Look What I Can Do! Dog Training in December of 2006 shich quickly became a big success. I addition she volunteers for Lab Rescue of the LRCP, Inc doing post adoption home checks an dproviding assistance with behavioral issues. Her goal is educating clients that positive, force-free training produces happy, willing dogs and a wonderful dog-human relationship.

Leslie also writes for Dog Star Daily.

You can read her full bio here. You can also connect with Leslie on twitter or Facebook.


  1. Shock collars should be banished for being a form of cruel and unusal punishment.


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