Learning, not fear, the objective of animal training

Garmin's newly launched Delta Smart device reportedly tracks the time your dog spends exercising.

The company claims that the product also has the ability to "reduce or eliminate unwanted behaviour" through inflicting shock to your pet ("Dog-zapping device raises howls of protest"; last Friday).

To justify this regrettable selling point, Garmin declares: "Dogs aren't born with manners."

Well, neither are humans, but we would abhor the use of electric shock on a child.

Similarly, we should reject such a cruel act on our four-legged companions.

Shock collars emit varying intensities of electric shocks in an attempt to curb a dog's unwanted behaviour.

Due to the stress, fear and pain that is inflicted on the animal, some jurisdictions have banned the use of this cruel training tool, and Singapore should too.

Published studies have shown the negative effects of using electric shocks to train dogs.

In one study, dogs that had been previously shocked were observed exhibiting signs of fear and stress around their handlers, even when the shock collar was not in use.

The negative emotional states that are brought about by the use of aversive training methods inhibit the animal's ability to learn.

As learning is the key objective of training, the use of shock collars can be counterproductive.

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) advocates more humane ways to train an animal, by using force-free and evidence-based methods that focus on positive reinforcement.

This creates a safe and nurturing environment for a pet to learn, and will help build a close and lasting bond between the animal and human, a relationship based on trust and love.

Lastly, the SPCA advises owners to choose trainers and methods that protect their dogs' welfare, while staying away from aversive and harmful training methods that inflict unnecessary pain and stress.

Jaipal Singh Gill (Dr)
Executive Director
Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 22, 2016, with the headline 'Learning, not fear, the objective of animal training'. Print Edition | Subscribe