Petco to Stop Selling Electronic Shock Collars, Encourages 'Fear'-Free Training Methods

Petco to Stop Selling Electronic Shock Collars, Encourages 'Fear'-Free Training Methods

October 6, 2020

Petco is stripping their shelves of electronic shock collars in an effort to promote positive reinforcement pet training methods.

On Tuesday, Petco announced the milestone move in connection with the company's new branding, "Petco, The Health +Wellness Co." which firmly establishes the brand as a health and wellness partner for pets and pet parents, according to a press release.

The company has removed all human- and bark-activated electronic pet collars, commonly referred to as "shock" collars, from Petco's in-store and online inventory. The decision was made in consultation with the Petco Pet Wellness Council (PPWC).

Petco is using this opportunity to call on the pet industry and consumers via an online petition to commit to positive reinforcement methods and create responsible regulation practices for the sale of shock collars.

"Electricity may be critical to powering your microwave, but it has no role for the average pet parent training their dog," Petco CEO Ron Coughlin said in a release. "Shock collars have been shown to increase fear, anxiety, and stress in dogs, and we believe there’s a better way – Positive Reinforcement Training. As a health and wellness company, our mission is focused on improving pet lives and we think selling shock collars does the opposite. It’s our responsibility to ensure that we, and others, aren’t putting potentially harmful products in the wrong hands."

To further push Petco's commitment, the company is offering a free introductory online training class to pet parents who are interested in learning about positive reinforcement training.

Dr. Alexandra Horowitz, MS, Ph.D., a member of the PPWC and senior research fellow, and head of the Horowitz Dog Cognition Lab at Barnard College, called the shock collar a "misguided, antiquated" and "harmful" piece of equipment.

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"It’s great to see Petco taking the lead in removing this merchandise from their stores, in support of their advocacy of positive reinforcement training," she added.

According to the release, this latest move from Petco reflects concerns pet parents have on shock collars. The company cited a recent study that found that 70 percent of dog parents feel shock collars have a negative impact on their pet’s emotional or mental well-being and 69 percent consider shock collars a cruel training method.

Even more, 59 percent of dog parents said they would rather shock themselves than use a shock collar on their dog. Seven in 10 dog parents also said they think there should be limitations on the retail sale of shock collars.

"Science shows animals will learn a new behavior faster and more successfully if they are allowed to voluntarily participate in the learning process and are rewarded for preferred behaviors," Dr. Whitney Miller, Head of Veterinary Medicine for Petco explained. "Punishment is not only less successful in changing unwanted behaviors, shock collars have been known to actually reinforce negative behaviors and create anxiety within pets."

The removal of shock collars also reflects Petco's more than 55-year-long journey to becoming a health and wellness company. There will be a major marketing campaign highlighting the company's evolution in early 2021.

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