Electric shock therapy for dogs involves the use of a fitted electronic collar that transmits various levels of an electronic discharge. Shock can be electric or low-level electronic stimulation. The author begins this editorial by stating that recommendations for treatment should be based on the findings of clear, methodical scientific investigation. The author then reviews peer-reviewed articles or widely available Internet information. Flaws in studies included evidence that the investigators or testimonials lacked understanding of basic canine behavior and signaling, poorly designed testing situations, and lack of data collected in a consistent manner. The author discusses the point that dogs that stop reacting to a stimulus as a result of shock may be learning helplessness and not obedience. Another point raised concerns about the strength and duration of shock. What dogs feel and experience may not be what people feel and experience. In other words, other behaviors or behavioral processes may be affected when a dog is exposed to shock. The author raises concern about using shock to extinguish normal behaviors and the harm that may result. If pain and shock are profound, they might cause immediate and permanent changes in the hippocampal memory that will lead to aversion or phobias. Shock from electric fences has been associated with a change in canine behavior from nonaggressive to aggressive. Shock collars are also asserted to be useful in stopping trained patrol dogs from overly aggressive biting, yet the author cites reports to the contrary. The use of shock will continue to be a topic of great debate.

COMMENTARY: The use of shock collars for training dogs has always been a controversial topic. My experience with shock training has been primarily with electronic containment systems-something I am personally uncomfortable recommending to my clients. Dr. Overall's evaluation of electric shock training using the "scientific methodology" approach not only supports my personal beliefs but also provides me with more "ammo" for my next meeting with a "proshocker."

Why electric shock is not behavior modification [Editorial]. Overall K. J VET BEHAV 2:1-4, 2007.