Petco Will No Longer Sell Electric 'Shock' Collars For Dogs

by Julie Scagell
Originally Published: 
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The retail giant will continue to sell training tools designed for positive reinforcement

Petco announced this week that they will no longer sell electronic collars, aka “shock” collars, calling for positive reinforcement dog training, especially for “difficult” dogs.

The pet retailer stated that the move is part of a larger corporate transformation, which is trying to establish itself as a health and wellness brand. The company on Tuesday announced it would rebrand in 2021 as “Petco, The Health + Wellness Co.,” saying, “Shock collars are not consistent with our mission of improving lives,” Petco CEO Ron Coughlin told CNN Business in an interview.

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The collars, which accounted for around $10 million of Petco’s 2019 sales of $4.4 billion, are meant to deliver electrical pulses of varying intensity and duration (some of these collars have up to 100 settings). They’ve been used to help with issues such as excessive barking, training away negative behaviors, and training dogs to use an invisible fence. Trainers have had differing opinions about their use — some feel when used correctly they can be a good training tool, especially ones that use non-shock cues such as beeps or vibrations. Others believe they cause pain and have the opposite outcome, garnering fear in dogs who are trying to learn the proper behaviors.

A 2003 study that looked at the impact of using these collars for training or behavior purposes found that, “Avoidance behavior and fear postures during the shocks indicated that the shock elicited both pain and fear and, therefore, were not just a distraction or nuisance.”

The Humane Society had a similar stance. “Some trainers use aversive collars to train ‘difficult’ dogs with correction or punishment. These collars rely on physical discomfort or even pain to teach the dog what not to do,” the organization said. “They suppress the unwanted behavior, but they don’t teach the dog what the proper behavior is. At best, they are unpleasant for your dog, and at worst, they may cause your dog to act aggressively and even bite you. Positive reinforcement training methods should always be your first choice.”

Petco says they intend to sell other, more humane, training products that help give dogs positive reinforcement during training. They have also expanded online courses during the pandemic to guide pet owners through training in various categories.

“You see those human shock collar challenges,” Coughlin said, comparing it to viral videos of people trying to order fast food or complete other tasks while receiving shocks from a shock collar. “They’re funny, but sad because pets don’t know what’s coming their way, and they didn’t ask for it to happen.”

Petco is the first major pet products chain to pull the items from its stores and online.

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