What’s Shocking about Shock – What Science Tells Us About the Use of Shock in Dog Training

< The original version of this article was published in the July 2019 issue of Barks from the Guild, a publication of the Pet Professional Guild. >You may read it in its original format by clicking here, or you may download a printable PDF file by clicking here.

The Pet Professional Guild (PPG) was founded in 2012 by current president, Niki Tudge. As a dog training and pet care professional, Tudge, like many of us, was discouraged by the flawed and harmful information being disseminated around the profession, including by some trainers, day care operators, groomers, boarding kennels, breeders, shelters, rescues, veterinarians, and even “reality” television shows. In some cases, the latter were promoted as offering “expert” dog training advice, but were, in fact, just like most “reality” TV: entertainment based on conflict and drama.

From its inception, PPG has been committed to the training, care, and management of companion animals that are free from pain, force, and fear. Its Guiding Principles (2012) state that members are obligated to follow this philosophy: “To be in any way affiliated with the Pet Professional Guild, all members must adhere to a strict code of conduct. Pet Professional Guild members understand Force-Free to mean: No shock, No pain, No choke, No fear, No physical force, No compulsion based methods are ever employed to train or care for a pet.” [Emphasis added]

This guarantee to kind, compassionate and scientific training methods is why I am a member of PPG and why the Find A Professional section of the PPG website is the first place I go when looking to refer to another pet care professional. Whoever I recommend reflects on my reputation and that of my business, so it is essential I know that those receiving my referrals are committed to training, care, and management that comply with PPG’s Guiding Principles.

In January 2015, the PPG Advocacy Committee was born with its mission defined thus: “To reduce or eliminate the practice of using electronic shock devices in the training of domestic pet animals. PPG will achieve this goal through strategic professional, respectful and energetic processes of advocacy and education. These efforts will at all times adhere to the Guiding Principles of PPG and will be accomplished through the development of specific action plans, as determined by members of the PPG Advocacy Committee.”

Key to this plan was to use the existing and developing scientific literature, demonstrating that using shock to train animals is unnecessary and often harmful and not in the interest of animal welfare, as a foundation. Next came the Shock-Free Coalition, established in September 2017, a child of the Advocacy Committee, but a separate entity with its own website and a very clear mission: “The key purpose of the Shock-Free Coalition is to build a strong and broad movement committed to eliminating shock devices from the supply and demand chain. This goal will be reached when shock tools and equipment are universally unavailable and not permitted for the training, management and care of pets.”

Critical steps in this process are:

  • To engage and educate pet owners and shelter/rescue workers to help them make informed decisions about the management, care, and training of the pets in their charge.
  • To build a worldwide coalition that provides pet owners access to competent, professional pet industry service providers.
  • To create widespread pet industry transparency and compliance regarding how professionals implement their services and communicate their philosophy to pet owners.
  • The Shock-Free Coalition website serves as an educational resource for anyone wanting to learn more about the organization and why ending the use of shock is so essential. It also offers anyone the opportunity to support the cause by taking the Shock-Free Pledge, either as an individual or as a business. Participants may pledge at several different levels ranging from simply signing the pledge to signing the pledge and making a recurring financial contribution to help the mission continue toward its goal.

What Does Science Tell Us about Shock?

The Shock-Free Coalition did not come to its conclusion that using shock for the training, care, and management of pets was unnecessary and harmful out of the blue. Its position is based on the careful review of the growing number of peer reviewed, scientific studies that demonstrate that shock is not only unnecessary, but is harmful, both physically and psychologically.

What Do the Professional Organizations Say?

The current scientific data, in addition to the moral and ethical concerns about mental and physical damage to animals subjected to methods using force, fear and/or pain have moved a number of representing professional organizations to advocate for the use of humane training techniques founded on evidence-based learning theories and avoid training methods or devices which employ coercion, pain, force and/or fear (Tudge & Nilson, 2016). These include, but are not limited to:

  • “The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) guidelines oppose aversive training techniques, such as prong (pinch) or choke collars, cattle prods, alpha rolls (forcibly rolling a pet on his or her back), electronic shock collars, entrapment, and physically punishing a pet. The guidelines note that aversive training techniques can harm or even destroy an animal’s trust in his or her owner, negatively impact the pet’s problem-solving ability, and cause increased anxiety in the animal. Aversive techniques are especially a concern if pets are already fearful or aggressive, rendering any aggressive dog more dangerous. According to the AAHA guidelines, the only acceptable training techniques are non-aversive, positive techniques that rely on the identification of, and reward for, desirable behaviors. Positive reinforcement is the most humane and effective approach.” – American Animal Hospital Association (2015).
  • “The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) supports the use of humane training methods for dogs that are based on current scientific knowledge of learning theory. Reward-based methods are highly recommended. Aversive methods are strongly discouraged as they may cause fear, distress, anxiety, pain or physical injury to the dog.” – –          Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (2015).
  • “Aversive, punishment-based techniques may alter behaviour, but the methods fail to address the underlying cause and, in the case of unwanted behaviour, can lead to undue anxiety, fear, distress, pain or injury.” – British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (2019).
  • The British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA) “recommends against the use of electronic shock collars and other aversive methods for the training and containment of animals. Shocks and other aversive stimuli received during training may not only be acutely stressful, painful and frightening for the animals, but may also produce long term adverse effects on behavioural and emotional responses…The BSAVA strongly recommends the use of positive reinforcement training methods that could replace those using aversive stimuli.” – British Small Animal Veterinary Association (2019).
  • “The British Veterinary Association (BVA) has concerns about the use of aversive training devices to control, train or punish dogs. The use of devices such as electronic collars, as a means of punishing or controlling behaviour of companion animals is open to potential abuse and incorrect use of such training aids has the potential to cause welfare and training problems…Electric pulse devices are sometimes used in dog training as a form of punishment to prevent a dog from repeating bad behaviour. Although training a dog is important for their well-being, research shows that electric pulse collars are no more effective than positive reinforcement methods. BVA has consulted with experts and examined the evidence. Research by Schalke, Stichnoth and Jones-Baade (2005) showed that the application of electric stimulus, even at a low level, can cause physiological and behavioral responses associated with stress, pain and fear. In light of the evidence, BVA has concluded that electric pulse collars raise a number of welfare issues, such as the difficulty in accurately judging the level of electric pulse to apply to a dog without causing unnecessary suffering.” – British Veterinary Association (2018).
  • “The New Zealand Veterinary Association (NZVA) does not support the use of electronic behaviour modifying collars (e-collars) that deliver aversive stimuli for the training or containment of dogs. E-collars have the potential to harm both the physical and mental health of dogs. They are an aversive training method that have in some studies been associated with significant negative animal welfare outcomes. Positive reinforcement training methods are an effective and humane alternative to e-collars for dog training…The use of pain to train dogs is no more acceptable or humane when it is administered by remote control, than if it was delivered as a physical blow such as a punch or kick.” – New Zealand Veterinary Association (2018).
  • “E-collar training is associated with numerous well documented risks concerning dog health, behavior and welfare. Any existing behaviour problem is likely to deteriorate or an additional problem is likely to emerge, when such a collar is used. This becomes an even greater risk when this aversive tool is used by an unqualified trainer (as training is largely unregulated throughout the EU, it appears that a large number of trainers are unqualified). Additionally, the efficacy of these collars has not been proven to be more effective than other alternatives such as positive training. Hence, European Society of Veterinary Clinical Ethology (ESVCE) encourages education programmes which employ positive reinforcement methods (while avoiding positive punishment and negative reinforcement) thereby promoting positive dog welfare and a humane, ethical and moral approach to dog training at all times.” – European Society of Veterinary Clinical Ethology (2017).
  • In addition to these professional bodies, several countries, including England, Wales, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Slovenia, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland, the province of Quebec in Canada, and the states of New South Wales, South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) in Australia, have already banned electronic stimulation devices. Under recent amendments to ACT animal welfare legislation, anyone who places an electric shock device, such as a shock collar, on an animal, will attract a maximum penalty of AU$16,000 [$11,000] and a year’s imprisonment (Brewer, 2019). In Scotland, “strict guidance” has been published by the Scottish Parliament which provides “advice on training methods and training aids for dogs, with particular focus on the welfare issues that may arise from the use of aversive methods including e-collars. It highlights the potential consequences of the misuse of aversive training aids, including possible legal consequences.” (The Kennel Club, 2018) (Tudge, Nilson, Millikan & Stapleton-Frappell, 2019).

Examining Arguments

Meanwhile, there are pet care professionals, pet owners, and moneyed interests, such as the companies that manufacture and sell shock collars, who disregard all the research and advocate for the continued use of shock. Common arguments include that the shock “does not cause pain or discomfort” and therefore cannot be abusive or inhumane; shock is “more efficient” for training than positive reinforcement training; shock is the “only way” certain behaviors can be trained (e.g., snake avoidance training); and using shock “saves dogs’ lives.” Let’s now look at each of those arguments individually and examine them from a scientific perspective.

#1: Does the electric shock from a shock collar cause pain? States Anderson (2012): “During the initial training period, [shock] must be painful, uncomfortable, or frightening, or it wouldn’t work. It has to have some unpleasant feeling that is robust enough to get the dog to work to make it stop.”

Science, through published peer reviewed research, is quite clear that shock collars cause pain. While proponents might call it a “stim” a “tap,” or a “static charge,” we know from the science of operant conditioning that the aversive stimulus (electric shock) must be sufficiently distressing (i.e., physical or emotionally painful) to cause a change in behavior. If it did not hurt, it would not work.

Several studies have reported that shock collars cause undue stress to dogs. A study by Schilder and van der Borg (2004) examined guard dogs who were specially bred for toughness and low sensitivity to pain and stress and found that training with shock collars caused long-lasting stress effects — to the point that the dogs continued to associate their handler as aversive even outside of a training context. The dogs exhibited behaviors associated with fear and anxiety long after they had received shocks. “The conclusions, therefore are, that being trained [with electric shock] is stressful. That receiving shocks is a painful experience to dogs, and that the dogs have learned that the presence of their owner (or his commands) announces reception of shocks, even outside of the normal training context.” (Schilder & van der Borg, 2004).

Fear and Anxiety

Late veterinarian Dr. Sophia Yin (2011) discussed this study in a post on her blog and made the following key conclusions:

  • Overall, the researchers concluded that even when compared to working dogs trained using choke chain and pinch collar corrections, dogs trained with electronic shock collars showed more fear and anxiety behaviors than those trained by other traditional police dog and watch-dog methods.
  • 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 enormous rewards the dogs experience during training i.e. chasing down, catching a criminal and winning the sleeve, do not counter the negative effects of getting shocked. This is in spite of the fact that handlers of non-shocked dogs admitted that they use prong collars and that their dogs experienced beatings and other harsh punishment, such as kicks or choke collar corrections.” (Yin, 2011).

An important point to note here is that shock collar users may sometimes say something along the lines of, “I don’t use the shock feature any more. I only use the collar with the beep on now.” However, the Shock-Free Coalition (2019) points out that the tone itself can become as aversive and damaging as the shock once the association has been established: “If I pull out a gun, and I cock it, are you any less scared than if I fired it? If your dog does what you ask when he hears the beep, it means that he has learned that the beep predicts a painful shock, just like cocking the gun predicts a bullet hitting you. While the collar is no longer physically hurting the dog, it can still be scarring him emotionally.”

Another study, by Schalke, Stichnoth, Ott and Jones-Baade (2007), examined the use of shock for training to stop undesirable hunting/ chasing behavior. This study also revealed that the dogs being trained with shock found it to be very stressful. The authors concluded, “…the general use of electric shock collars is not consistent with animal welfare.”

A third study, AW1402, conducted by the University of Lincoln and the University of Bristol for DEFRA in the United Kingdom (2010), compared the features of several shock collars and examined how they are typically used by pet owners. The researchers concluded that “for a subset of dogs tested, the previous use of e-collars in training are associated with behavioural and physiological responses that are consistent with significant negative emotional states; this was not seen to the same extent in the control population. It is therefore suggested that the use of e-collars in training pet dogs can lead to a negative impact on welfare, at least in a proportion of animals trained using this technique.”

The AW1402 researchers also observed that the instruction manuals that came with shock collar products did not provide an adequate explanation of how to use the device. When the individuals using the collars were interviewed, they could not explain how to use the collar properly and often indicated that they had failed to read the instructions or chose to ignore them. The researchers concluded that “…some of the reported use was clearly inconsistent with advice in e-collar manuals and potentially a threat to the dog’s welfare.” (DEFRA, 2010).

As noted in the AW1402 study, misuse and inappropriate use of shock collars are not uncommon. One of my employees witnessed such abuse at a field trial event. A dog owner with two dogs was working with one dog and had a second dog in his truck in a crate. The dog he was working with did not respond to a cue, so the owner pressed a button on the remote to shock the dog. The dog still did not respond to the cue, so the owner shocked the dog again. Meanwhile, the dog in the crate was yelping each time the owner intended to shock the dog he was allegedly training. It was not until our staff member pointed it out that the owner realized he was shocking the wrong dog as he was using the wrong remote unit.

Ultimately, I think the question everyone with a dog needs to ask themselves is, “Do I want to be working with a pet care professional that does not understand the basic principles of learning?” States veterinarian and veterinary behaviorist Dr. Lisa Radosta in the 2017 documentary, Dogs, Cats and Scapegoats:If your trainer is still using pinch collars and choke collars, they haven’t read a book or gone to a scientifically based seminar in 25 years.” The sad fact is that dog training is an unregulated profession, and because of that, there are far too many people in the profession spreading disinformation about dogs, their behavior, and how to train them.

For anyone who understands how animals learn, what could be their motivation for using, recommending, and selling shock collars all the while telling people it’s not really a shock and/or it won’t hurt their dog? They are certainly not being truthful. Sadly, greed has caused humans to do unethical and unnecessary things from the beginning of time. I believe this excerpt from Dogs, Cats, and Scapegoats (2017) further illustrates my point about shock causing pain as well as the motivation for selling shock collars. It begins with Dr. Radosta’s statement cited in the previous paragraph and continues with a video of someone demonstrating a shock collar on themselves. I use this excerpt in my orientation program for all my Basic Manners students and in a presentation for my aggression clients, and it does help people understand that shock is very painful.

#2. Is training a dog with an aversive such as a shock collar more efficient than using positive reinforcement training and food? The next argument we might hear in favor of using shock is that the pain it causes is “irrelevant,” because, as a training method, it is “so much more efficient.” Well, is it?

The DEFRA AW1402 study (2010) indicates that not only does shock cause pain, it is often misused. This led to a second DEFRA study, AW1402a (2011), to assess the effect of pet training aids, specifically remote static pulse systems, on the welfare of domestic dogs. AW1402a was designed to investigate how dogs would react when a shock collar was used per the manufacturer’s instructions. The study looked at three different groups of dogs, all with owners that had reported their dog either had a poor recall or chased cars, bicycles or animals. One group of dogs was trained with a shock collar by dog trainers that had been trained by shock collar manufacturers; the second group of dogs was trained by the same dog trainers but with positive reinforcement. The last group of dogs was trained by members of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) in the United Kingdom using positive reinforcement. The researchers found “behavioural evidence that use of e-collars negatively impacted on the welfare of some dogs during training even when training was conducted by professional trainers using relatively benign training programmes advised by e-collar advocates.” The study also demonstrated that the shock collar was no more effective at resolving r call and chasing behaviors than positive reinforcement training.

Ethics and Welfare

A study by Hiby, Rooney and Bradshaw (2004) specifically assessed the effectiveness of different training methods (positive reinforcement, positive punishment, and negative reinforcement) and how they affected a dog’s behavior. The scientists did not just look at shock as an aversive, but even evaluated vocal punishment and physical punishment. They concluded: “There are ethical concerns that dog training methods incorporating physical or verbal punishment may result in pain and/or suffering. We provide evidence that, in the general dog owning population, dogs trained using punishment are no more obedient than those trained by other means and, furthermore, they exhibit increased numbers of potentially problematic behaviours. Problematic behaviours can compromise welfare as they are often associated with an increased state of anxiety (e.g. Askew, 1996) and they can also lead the owner to relinquish the dog (Serpell, 1996). Because reward-based methods are associated with higher levels of obedience and fewer problematic behaviours, we suggest that their use is a more effective and welfare-compatible alternative to punishment for the average dog owner.” (Hiby, Rooney & Bradshaw, 2004).

A 2012 study by Blackwell, Bolster, Richards, Loftus and Casey specifically looked at the use of shock collars for training dogs, why owners used them, and how effective they were. The researchers concluded that “more owners using reward based methods for recall/chasing report a successful outcome of training than those using e-collars.” (Blackwell, Bolster, Richards, Loftus & Casey, 2012).

Aggressive Behavior: Case Studies

How can shock cause aggressive behavior? I believe most everyone understands that there are times when they have been anxious, reactive, rude, or outright aggressive when they were experiencing any type of pain or stress. Often, the target of that aggression will be whatever they are focusing on when they experience the pain. Here are two cases involving dogs that were brought to me for a behavior consultation due to aggressive behavior. In both cases, the owners believed the aggression had been caused by the use of a shock collar.

Case #1: Jake

“Jake,” a very social dog, bounded off to greet every person he saw. Jake’s guardians were concerned about him leaving the yard because he frequently went to visit the neighbors. He loved visiting with them and they enjoyed having him there. For what they believed was Jake’s protection, the family installed an underground fence system that would keep him in their yard. They trained him to the system per the manufacturer’s instructions.

After the system was installed, Jake saw the neighbor out in her yard. Since he had always liked his neighbor, he ran straight toward her, but was shocked when crossing the invisible line. This happened a few more times, until, one day, Jake was inside his home when the neighbor knocked on the front door. When the family opened the door, Jake saw the neighbor and immediately reacted by biting her in the leg.

To Jake, the neighbor was the predictor of the shock, and he now associated her with being shocked. This incident could have been pre-vented with the installation of a real fence or by supervising Jake when he was out in the yard.

Case #2: Jenny

“Jenny” would drag her guardians around on her leash, especially when she saw another dog. Jenny was just curious and friendly and wanted to greet the other dogs, but her guardians were older, and Jenny was an energetic and powerful dog. They had made no attempts to train Jenny and were frustrated with being dragged around anytime Jenny saw another dog. They went to a big box pet store where it was suggested they purchase a remote shock collar. They were instructed to shock Jenny whenever she pulled on her leash.

On their next walk, Jenny, as she always had done, moved forward in friendly greeting when she spotted another dog. Jenny was fixated on the dog she wanted to meet when she was shocked. The next time Jenny saw another dog on a walk, she immediately became anxious. As the dog approached, Jenny lunged, but this time she also growled and bared her teeth. Jenny had become very afraid. She was trying to look fierce to scare the dog away before he hurt her, when she was shocked yet again. Jenny, now anxious and confused about other dogs, learned to become aggressive because of her fear of the shock, which she associated with other dogs.

Jenny’s guardians did not train her to stop pulling; all they succeeded in doing is making a previously dog-friendly dog, dog-aggressive. If they had enrolled Jenny in a reward-based training class and made use of a front-connect walking harness, they could have taught her to walk nicely without ever causing her any pain or fear.

These are not isolated occurrences. I have training colleagues throughout the country that could tell you of similar incidents. A study by Polsky (2000) examined five cases of severe attacks by dogs who had been trained or contained via electric shock. None of the dogs had a history of aggression before being shocked. The study concludes there is a high probability that experience with shock was at least partially responsible for the aggressive behavior. This is very similar to Jake’s story.

#3. Is the use of aversives necessary to train behaviors such as snake avoidance?

Why use a shock collar if we know it can cause pain and can create previously nonexistent behavior problems like anxiety and aggression, especially when it is no more effective and often less effective than reward-based training? One answer we may often hear is that there are certain behaviors you can “only” teach a dog with an aversive like a shock. A typical behavior that is often used as an example is training a dog to stay away from rattlesnakes, or any other kind of venomous snake. While there is no peer reviewed literature to support the argument that shock is not necessary for training snake aversion, nor is there any peer reviewed literature to suggest that it is. Meanwhile, there is ample anecdotal evidence that demonstrates shock is not necessary in training more challenging behaviors. Certified professional dog trainer Pamela Johnson conducted a webinar for PPG where she explains exactly how to train your dog to be safe around snakes without resorting to the use of shock.

When it comes to teaching animals “mission critical” behaviors, far more advanced than rattlesnake aversion, one only need to look to the work done by Animal Behavior Enterprises (ABE) and the U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Training program. Marian and Bob Bailey were part of both of those efforts and trained animals to do many amazing things all with positive reinforcement training. Yin (2012) discusses how Bailey and Bailey continued to use their expertise to help train military dogs and also shares a little-known story about work they did in the 1960s training cats for the Central Intelligence Agency. What were the cats trained to do? To follow people through airports. If you want to learn more about how animal training moved from being a craft to a science, you might want to track down a copy of a film ABE made on the subject called Patient Like the Chipmunks.

#4. Does using a shock collar save dogs’ lives?

Sometimes we might hear or read on social media that “using shock can save a dog’s life.” This is essentially the argument for using shock to train snake avoidance. In reality, it is a last-ditch attempt to “shock” an owner into a state of fear and anxiety, because no one wants their dog to die. The fact is there is no peer reviewed research to prove or disprove this statement, and never will be, because the design of such a study would never be approved by a review board because it would not be ethical.

How You Can Help

If the Shock-Free Coalition is going to be successful, we need the help of every single PPG member as well as all of the pet parents that want the best life possible for their furry friend. Here are some things you can do to help:

Sign the Pledge

If you are a PPG member, a pet parent, or a pet care profession and have not signed the Shock-Free Pledge), please do so! I get it, we’re all busy, and sometimes we put things on a “to do list” and then just never get to it. As a PPG member, you have already committed to The Guiding Principles, so we know that you understand the importance of ending the use of shock collars. It is important that we get all PPG members to sign the pledge.  It is equally important that we get pet parents and pet care professionals to support our call to end the use of shock for the management and training of dogs.

Position Statements

Familiarize yourself with the PPG Position Statement on Shock Training and the AAHA Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines. These two documents, especially when used together, make a compelling and scientifically sound argument for never using shock. Ask the veterinarians in your community if they are familiar with the AAHA Guidelines, especially those that are AAHA accredited facilities. If they are not, print a copy and share it with them. You might even highlight the most important parts.

Even though the ESVCE Position Statement on Electronic Training Devices focuses primarily on Europe, being one of the most recent position statements, it is a valuable resource anywhere. Ask the veterinarians in your community if they are familiar with this document and if they are not, print a copy and share it with them.

On the Web

The Shock-Free Coalition website is full of excellent information for you to review and share with others as you help spread the word about the importance of educating people about the use of shock. This material is freely available to you for when you need to speak to clients and others about the reasons for selecting positive reinforcement training as opposed to using aversives.

A special thank you to Susan Nilson, the BARKS from the Guild editor-in-chief, for her contributions to this article.

References

American Animal Hospital Association. (2019). AAHA behavior guidelines offer solutions to managing behavior problems with your pet. Available at: http://bit.ly/AAHABhx2015

Anderson, E. (2012). What is Shock Training? – Is It Really Just A Tap? Shock Collar Training Explained. Available at:   http://bit.ly/SHOCK-Anderson-WhatIsShock

Blackwell, E.J., Bolster, C., Richards, G., Loftus, B.A., & Casey, R.A. (2012). The use of electronic collars for training domestic dogs: estimated prevalence, reasons and risk factors for use, and owner perceived success as compared to other training methods. BMC Veterinary Research (8) 93. Available at: http://bit.ly/SHOCK-Blackwell-BMCVR-2012

Brewer, P. (2019). Do let the dogs out: Huge fines for pet confinement part of ACT animal welfare overhaul. Available at: http://bit.ly/2Wx0Qu8

British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. (2019). Position Statement on Animal Training. Available at: http://bit.ly/2XEb8W2

British Small Animal Veterinary Association. (2019). Position Statement on Aversive Training Methods. Available at: http://bit.ly/2F0HdAa

British Veterinary Association. (2018). Aversive training devices for dogs. Available at: http://bit.ly/2XByUlv

Canadian Veterinary Medical Association. (2015). Humane Training Methods for Dogs – Position Statement. Available at: http://bit.ly/2KHCcQr

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. (2010). Studies to assess the effect of pet training aids, specifically remote static pulse systems, on the welfare of domestic dogs: Project Code AW1402. Available at: http://bit.ly/SHOCK-DEFRA-AW1402-2013

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. (2011). Studies to assess the effect of pet training aids, specifically remote static pulse systems, on the welfare of domestic dogs; field study of dogs in training: Project Code AW1402a. Available at: http://bit.ly/SHOCK-DEFRA-AW1402a-2013

European Society of Veterinary Clinical Ethology. (2017). ESVCE Position Statement: Electronic Training Devices. Available at:  http://bit.ly/SHOCK-ESVE_Pos

Hiby, E.F., Rooney, N.J., & Bradshaw, J.W.S. (2004). Dog training methods—their use, effectiveness and interaction with behaviour and welfare. Animal Welfare (13) 63–69. Available at: http://bit.ly/SHOCK-Hiby-AnimWelfare-2004

New Zealand Veterinary Association. (2018). Use of behaviour modifying collars on dogs. Available at: http://bit.ly/2F1z6Dj

Pet Professional Guild. (2012). Guiding Principles. Available at: http://bit.ly/PPG-GuidingPrinciples

Polsky, R. (2000). Can Aggression in Dogs Be Elicited Through the Use of Electronic Pet Containment Systems? Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science 3 (4) 345‐357. Available at: http://bit.ly/SHOCK-Polsky-JAAWS-Aggx-2000

Sandgrain Films. (2017). Shock Collar [Video File]. Available at: http://vimeo.com/235106629

Schalke, E., Stichnoth, J., & Jones‐Baade, R. (2005). Stress symptoms caused by the use of electric training collars on dogs (Canis familiaris) in everyday life situations. Current Issues and Research in Veterinary Behavioral Medicine. 5th International Veterinary Behavior Meeting. West Lafayette, Indiana: Purdue University Press, 139‐145.

Schalke, E., Stichnoth, J., Ott, S., & Jones‐Baade, R. (2007). Clinical signs caused by the use of electric training collars on dogs in everyday life situations. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 105 (4) 369‐380. Available at: http://bit.ly/SHOCK-Schalke-AABS-JUL2007

Schilder, M., & van der Borg, J. (2004). Training dogs with help of the shock collar: short and long term behavioural effects. Applied Animal Behaviour Science (85) 319–334. Available at: http://bit.ly/SHOCK-Schilder-AABS-MAR2004

Shock‐Free Coalition. (2019). Myths and Misconceptions. Available at:  https://www.shockfree.org/Education/Myths-and-Misconceptions

The Kennel Club. (2018). The Kennel Club and Scottish Kennel Club Welcomes the Scottish Government’s Effective Ban on Shock Training Devices. Available at: http://bit.ly/31r1Zm7

Tudge, N.J, & Nilson, S.J. (2016). The Use of Shock in Animal Training. Available at: https://www.petprofessionalguild.com/shockcollars

Tudge, N.J, Nilson, S.J., Millikan, D.A., & Stapleton‐Frappell, L.A. (2019). Pet Training and Behavior Consulting: A Model for Raising the Bar to Protect Professionals, Pets and Their People. (n.p.): DogNostics Career Center Publishing – https://petindustryregulation.com/

Yin, S. (2011). Are Electronic Shock Collars Painful – A New Study Reveals Some Answers. Available at: http://bit.ly/SHOCK-Yin-Pain-2011

Yin, S. (2012). How Technology from 30 Years Ago is Helping Military Dogs Perform Better Now. Available at: http://bit.ly/POS-REI-SpyCats

Resources

American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) 2015 Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines: http://bit.ly/AAHABhx2015

European Society of Veterinary Clinical Ethology ‐ Position Statement on Electronic Training Devices: http://bit.ly/SHOCK-ESVE_Pos

Pet Professional Guild ‐ Rattlesnake Avoidance Training Using Force‐Free Methods [Webinar]: https://petprofessionalguild.com/event-1913569

Pet Professional Guild ‐ Member Search: http://bit.ly/PPG-Find-A-Prof

Pet Professional Guild ‐ Position on Shock Training: https://www.petprofessionalguild.com/shockcollars

Shock‐Free Coalition: https://www.shockfree.org/

Shock‐Free Coalition Pledge: https://www.shockfree.org/Pledge

Other Related Resources

Articles on Don’s Blog
( http://www.words-woofs-meows.com )

Hanson, D. (2004-2018). The Unintended Consequences of Shock Collars, Available at: http://bit.ly/ShockCollars

Hanson, D.  (2018) Helping Your Dog Thrive with Brambell’s Five Freedoms, Available at: Brambell’s Five Freedoms

Hanson, D. (2018, 2019). Things I Wish I Had Known…, Available at: http://bit.ly/ThingsIWishIHadKnown

Hanson, D. (2006). Green Acres’ First Statement on Being A Pet Friendly-Facility, Available at: http://bit.ly/GAKS1stPetFriendly

Hanson, D. (2006). Green Acres Kennel Shop Position Statement on Pet Friendly, Force-Free Pet Care, Available at: http://bit.ly/GAKS_Pet-Friendly

Hanson, D. (2018). The Shock-Free Coalition: What’s Next?, Don Hanson explains how to keep the momentum going once you have signed the Shock-Free Pledge, http://bit.ly/BARKS-ShockFreeMAR2018

Hanson, D.  (2018) Celebrating the 1st Year of the Shock-Free Coalition – +R Rocks, Available at: http://bit.ly/Shock-FreeRocks

Podcasts from The Woof Meow Show
( http://www.woofmeowshow.com )

Podcast – The Unintended Consequences of Shock Collarshttp://bit.ly/ShockPodcast

Podcast – The Woof Meow Show: The Pet Professional Guild and the Shock-Free Coalition with Niki Tudgehttp://bit.ly/PodCastShockFree-NikiTudge-2017

©19-Jul-19, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved
< Click for Copyright and Use Policy >

Podcast – Meet Green Acres New Operations Manager – Nicole Crocker

< Click to Listen to Podcast >

In this episode of The Woof Meow Show from July 13, 2019, Kate and Don interview Nicole Crocker, Green Acres Kennel Shops new operations manager. We discuss Nicole’s pets as a child, how she became a pet care professional, and why she came to Maine. Join us and learn about the newest member of the Green Acres Kennel Shop team.

You can hear The Woof Meow Show on Z62 Retro Radio, AM620, and WKIT HD3 at 9 AM on Saturday. If you are not near a radio, listen on your computer at http://bit.ly/AM620-WZON or your smartphone or tablet with the free WZON 620 AM app. A podcast of the show is typically posted immediately after the show. You can download this show and others at http://woofmeowshow.libsyn.com/ , at Don’s blog http://bit.ly/Words-Woofs-Meows and the Apple iTunes store.

< Click to Listen to Podcast >

©13JUL19, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved
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Shared Articles – More on the FDA, DCM and Pet Food

< A short link to this post – http://bit.ly/FDA-DCM-Food-10JUL19 >

< Updated – 17JUL19 >

< COMING SOON! – A podcast on this topic from The Woof Meow Show of 20JUL19 >

I am occasionally asked, by people that do not know me or the backstory on why I am so passionate about pet nutrition, “You sell pet food, why should we believe or trust anything you say on the topic?” I would be the first to tell them that they are right to question what I tell them. If you want to understand my motives, I encourage to read about my philosophy towards pet nutrition at < FMI – GAKS Philosophy on Pet Nutrition – http://bit.ly/GAKS_Nut_Phil >.

My inbox recently received four new posts discussing the FDA’s recent press release (June 27th, 2019) on their investigation into increased cases of canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). Each post provides some valuable additional information not revealed by the FDA. Two of the posts come from well respected, independent authorities on pet nutrition. I have included links to both articles. The other two come from pet food industry publications.

Hemopet Responds to the FDA Implicating 16 Brands of Dog Food That May Cause Heart Disease in Dogs

This article by veterinarian, Dr. Jean Dodds, is dated July 7th and can be found at the Hemopet website at https://www.hemopet.org/fda-updates-dcm-heart-disease-dogs/.

In the first paragraph, Dr. Dodd’s states: “On June 27, 2019, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) named 16 brands of dog food that may cause heart disease in dogs. The specific heart condition is called dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). This release has caused national and international concern bordering upon hysteria, without any admitted good reason for listing these food brands. In our opinion, the listing of specific brands was premature and unwarranted.” [Emphasis Added]

Dr. Dodds then goes on to discuss the nutritional science behind this investigation and what we know so far, including some research on this subject that Dr. Dodds believe was flawed. She again criticizes the FDA for causing a public panic “…by not presenting definitive conclusions but implying risk by inference in listed certain pet food brands.” I concur with her statement.

An interesting note in Dr. Dodds article reports that the researchers who initially reported DCM concerns not only focused on grain-free foods but novel protein sources (animal protein other than chicken) used in pet foods, yet “…chicken was the most common protein identified by the FDA – 113 times.” in the DCM cases reported, and not novel protein sources.

She also notes that the FDA investigation has been biased towards Golden Retrievers and that the FDA created an additional bias towards grain-free diets in their press release of July 12, 2018.

Dr. Dodds recommends the FDA review previous studies that have addressed specific diets and a potential connection to DCM. That seems logical, and one must question why it has not been done or has been ignored.

Dr. Dodds than reminds us that many people stopped feeding their dogs feeding grain “…to prevent leaky gut syndrome, to help curb food sensitivities or intolerances to a particular grain, to maintain optimal weight in your dog, etc.” The grains used in pet food do cause problems for some pets. I encourage you to read Dr. Dodds article.

Update on grain-free diets and DCM cases in dog

This article by Nancy Kerns was published on the blog of The Whole Dog Journal on July 9th at – https://www.whole-dog-journal.com/blog/update-on-grain-free-diets-and-dcm-cases-in-dogs/

Kerns and The Whole Dog Journal have been offering an independent review of dog food since their inception and are a source I value when researching pet food. Kerns is also concerned about how DCM and how is it being reported is causing misconceptions about what we know and don’t know. She is also not comfortable with how the FDA is handling this situation, stating: “It’s a bit puzzling, then, why the agency named the brands of foods that were reportedly fed to some of the 560 dogs whose DCM cases they are investigating (and even more puzzling: why they didn’t include the varieties of foods that were implicated, just the company names). Naming the companies suggests that those companies were responsible for the dogs’ illnesses, even as the agency denied this as an explicit causation. We’re not usually conspiracy theorists, but this move undoubtedly gave a boost to these companies’ competitors.” She later goes on to note that some of the companies unfairly implicated also manufacture foods that do not contain any of the ingredients potentially linked to DCM, stating “In the case of these companies, naming only the brand and not the varieties implicated in the reports was a disservice to the companies and consumers alike.”

I share Kern’s concern. I think it is also important to note that so far all of the foods tested have been within specifications. The suggestion that any company did something on purpose to cause DCM is laughable. It does, however, and in my opinion, that the pet food industry needs far tighter regulation that is independent of the pet food companies, which is not the case today.

Kerns concludes with her recommendations, which are very similar to our as noted in my last post. [ FMI –  http://bit.ly/FDA-DCM-Food-7JUL19 ]

I encourage you to read Kerns article as it provides an additional perspective to this complex issue.

Articles in Industry Trade Journals

In an article on PetfoodInsdutry.com dated July 8th they state: “No causation found between dog food ingredients and DCM – While the FDA has found correlations between certain grain-free dog foods and DCM, they have found no causality. Thousands of dogs have eaten the same diets as the dogs stricken with DCM without becoming ill. FDA lab analysis of grain-free versus conventional dog foods revealed little difference in levels of minerals, amino acids, taurine, protein or other nutrients.” [ Emphasis added ]

Jen Goetz wrote an article for Pet Business entitled Why The FDA’s Latest Statement On Grain-Free Foods Is Dangerous, stating: “Publishing the names of 16 pet food brands that have been anecdotally connected with cases of DCM, without significant weight behind those claims, is misleading to the general public and could undermine a general understanding of the disease itself.” [ Emphasis added ]

Many of the stories in the mass media have used headlines for this story that also implies the companies named have done something wrong when there is nothing to substantiate those claims. The increases in DCM in dogs is a complex issue, but because complicated does not fit into a 2-minute or less sound bite, the general public is not getting the whole story.

Anyone that knows me is very aware that I am not a defender of the pet food industry but often criticize the pet companies as a whole for lack of consumer transparency. However, in this case, I agree with all of those that have stated that naming individual companies was premature and inappropriate.

Recommended Resources

Articles on Don’s Blog
( http://www.words-woofs-meows.com )

GAKS Philosophy on Pet Nutrition http://bit.ly/GAKS_Nut_Phil

Pet Foods We Offer At Green Acres Kennel Shop http://bit.ly/GAKS_PetFood_Brands

FDA Update on Heart Disease in Dogs & What Should You Do? – http://bit.ly/FDA-DCM-Food-7JUL19

Shared Blog Post – FDA Updates on Heart Disease in Dogs – Hemopet – Dr. Jean Doddshttps://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2019/04/12/shared-blog-post-fda-updates-on-heart-disease-in-dogs-hemopet-dr-jean-dodds/

UPDATE! – Pet Nutrition – Grain-Free Foods and FDA Reports of Increased Heart Disease in Dogs – WDJ Blog Post –  https://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2018/08/06/update-pet-nutrition-grain-free-foods-and-fda-reports-of-increased-heart-disease-in-dogs-wdj-blog-post/

UPDATE! – Pet Nutrition – Grain-Free Foods and FDA Reports of Increased Heart Disease in Dogs –  https://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2018/07/27/update-pet-nutrition-grain-free-foods-and-fda-reports-of-increased-heart-disease-in-dogs/

Grain-Free Foods and FDA Reports of Increased Heart Disease in Dogs –  https://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2018/07/22/pet-nutrition-grain-free-foods-and-fda-reports-of-increased-heart-disease-in-dogs/

Things I Wish I Had Known… The Importance of What I Feed My Petshttp://bit.ly/Things-Nutrition-1

Podcasts from The Woof Meow Show
( http://www.woofmeowshow.com )

Podcast – Is Feeding A Grain-Free Food to Our Dogs Dangerous?, with Linda Case, MShttp://bit.ly/Podcast-FDA-Grain-Free-LindaCase-29SEP18

Web Sites

FDA Investigation into Potential Link between Certain Diets and Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathyhttps://www.fda.gov/animal-veterinary/news-events/fda-investigation-potential-link-between-certain-diets-and-canine-dilated-cardiomyopathy

Tuffy’s Pet Foods (NutriSource/PureVita/Natural Planet) – A Message Regarding DCM Concernshttps://nutrisourcepetfoods.com/images/content/Tuffy’s%20DCM%20Statement%20(7-1-19).pdf

Fromm Response to Updated FDA DCM Complaint Reportinghttps://frommfamily.com/connect/fda-dcm-20190701/

Zignature Statement in Response to FDA Findingshttps://www.zignature.com/statement-on-dcm/

________________________________________________________________________
Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop ( greenacreskennel.com ) in Bangor, ME where he has been helping people with their pets since 1995. He is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC), and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). Don is a member of the Pet Professional Guild (PPG) and is committed to PPG’s Guiding Principles and the Pain-Free, Force-Free, and Fear-Free training, management, and care of all pets. Don produces and co-hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show, that airs on Z62 Retro Radio WZON (AM620) and WKIT 103.3-HD3 and is streamed at http://bit.ly/AM620-WZON every Saturday at 9 AM. Podcasts of the show are available at http://woofmeowshow.libsyn.com/, the Apple Podcast app, and at Don’s blog: www.words-woofs-meows.com.  The opinions in this post are those of Don Hanson.

©17-Jul-19, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved
< Click for Copyright and Use Policy >

Podcast – Summer and Hot Weather Pet Care (2019)

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Kate and Don offer several tips on keeping your pets safe during the hotter and more active summer months. They discuss the heat and the sun, water safety, bug bites, parasites, allergies, herbicides, pesticides, and holiday gatherings.

For more information on these topics, check out Don’s blog (http://bit.ly/Words-Woofs-Meows) and the post entitled Summer Pet Care Tips http://bit.ly/Summer-Pet-Tips

You can hear The Woof Meow Show on Z62 Retro Radio, AM620, and WKIT HD3 at 9 AM on Saturday. If you are not near a radio, listen on your computer at http://bit.ly/AM620-WZON or your smartphone or tablet with the free WZON 620 AM app. A podcast of the show is typically posted immediately after the show. You can download this show and others at http://woofmeowshow.libsyn.com/, at Don’s blog http://bit.ly/Words-Woofs-Meows and the Apple iTunes store.

< Click to listen to podcast >

©2019, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>

Podcast – Pets in the News No. 3

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In this episode of The Woof Meow Show from June 1st, 2019, Kate and Don discuss recent information about pets published on the internet. Stories and articles they address are:

 

You can hear The Woof Meow Show on Z62 Retro Radio, AM620, and WKIT HD3 at 9 AM on Saturday. If you are not near a radio, listen on your computer at http://bit.ly/AM620-WZON or your smartphone or tablet with the free WZON 620 AM app. A podcast of the show is typically posted immediately after the show. You can download this show and others at http://woofmeowshow.libsyn.com/, at Don’s blog http://bit.ly/Words-Woofs-Meows and the Apple iTunes store.

< Click to Listen to Podcast >

©01JUN19, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved
< Click for Copyright and Use Policy >

What’s In A Name – The importance of choosing and using your dog’s name wisely

< A version of this article was published in the July 2019 issue of
Downeast Dog News>

<A short link to this post – http://bit.ly/WWM-Name-JUL2019>

Your dog’s name is an essential signal you will use when you want to communicate with them. At its most basic, to your dog it means “pay attention to whoever said my name,” and if you want it to work at its best, it should mean “paying attention to whoever says my name results in yummy rewards!”

Choosing A Name for Your Dog

If you adopt a puppy, from a breeder or a shelter, you will be able to name them anything you want. However, I suggest you spend some time thinking about the name you pick. There are personal factors to consider, as well as practical considerations.

Practical Considerations for a Puppy Name

  • Choose a name that is at most two syllables; a name that is short and distinct. While Princess Margaret could be a marvelous name for a dog, its length may make it less effective. I would suggest you use Princess, Maggie, or Mags for training. Short names are easier for dogs to recognize.
  • Choose a name that is unique and will not sound in like a verbal cue you use for training or the name of someone in your home. For example, “Clown” could be an excellent name for a dog that is an incessant goofball. However, it sounds like the verbal cue, “Down.” That could make things confusing for your beloved Clown, so perhaps “Goofy” would be a better name. Avoid selecting a name that is similar to the names of others, animals, or people, that live in your household. Having a Joe, Moe, and Beau, all in the same house could become very confusing. Moreover, those names also sound like “No,” a word that most pet parents use far too often.
  • If you follow the above suggestions, your dog’s name can be anything you want it to be.

Practical Considerations for an Older Dog

Most older dogs we bring into our families will already have a name. If the dog already responds cheerfully to their name, keep the name, even if you are not fond of it. We adopted our dog Shed when she was five years old. We were told the name was an abbreviation for Sh**head, which was a reason not to like the name. However, Shed responded to “Shed” with joy and enthusiasm, so that remained her name.

Our dog Muppy was picked up as a stray in Mississippi when she was about 18 months old. She was pregnant so went into a foster home for 8-weeks where she was named Marlene. Somewhere between her foster home and her transfer to a rescue in New Hampshire, she became Molly. When we got her, she did not respond to either name, and so we took some time to get to know her personality. After about a week, she became “Muppy.” She has been with us for six years now, and everyone agrees that her name suits her well.

Personal Considerations

It’s your dog so you can name her anything you want; however, other family members may wish to have a voice in the matter. I suggest the adults have veto power so that they can ensure that the name is practical, as noted above. For example, it is entirely within the realm of possibility for a child to believe that “Mister Fluffy Pants” is the best name ever, but, I suggest you meet them halfway. Get the puppy something (a bowl, a bed, a collar, etc.) labeled “Mister Fluffy Pants” but agree to use something shorter for training; perhaps “Fluffy.” Whatever you choose for everyday use is the name that should be on your dog’s ID tag and microchip records.

If got your puppy from a breeder that will register the litter, they might have a say in the puppy’s registered name. Our Golden Retriever, Tikken, was bred by Mariner Kennels and was born on Martin Luther King Day. Mariner considered her to be part of the “Freedom” litter and wanted her registered name to include the words “Mariner” and “Freedom.” Our choice for Tikken’s registered name was “Mariner Freedom Fighter,” which led us to the name Tikken < FMIhttp://bit.ly/Tikken-Memories >.

Do not feel compelled to choose your dog’s name on the first day, or before you bring your puppy home. However, recognize that you do not want to wait too long. From the moment my wife and I met Gus, even before we chose to take him home, we knew he was a “Gus.” The longer he was with us, the more we were convinced we chose wisely. With Tikken, Dulcie, and Muppy, it took us some time to select the name that suited them.

Practical Considerations for All dogs

NEVER use your dog’s name in anger or frustration. Doing this just once may cause your dog to want to avoid you. It can take lots of work to recover from this mistake.

Frequently reward your dog, with food, for responding to their name < FMI –   http://bit.ly/TeachingTheNameGame >

Recommended Resources

Articles on Don’s Blog
( http://www.words-woofs-meows.com )

Remembering Tikken – http://bit.ly/Tikken-Memories

Dog Training – The Name Game –   http://bit.ly/TeachingTheNameGame

________________________________________________________________________
Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop ( greenacreskennel.com ) in Bangor, ME where he has been helping people with their pets since 1995. He is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC), and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). Don is a member of the Pet Professional Guild (PPG) and is committed to PPG’s Guiding Principles and the Pain-Free, Force-Free, and Fear-Free training, management, and care of all pets. Don produces and co-hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show, that airs on Z62 Retro Radio WZON (AM620) and WKIT 103.3-HD3 and is streamed at http://bit.ly/AM620-WZON every Saturday at 9 AM. Podcasts of the show are available at http://woofmeowshow.libsyn.com/, the Apple Podcast app, and at Don’s blog: www.words-woofs-meows.com.  The opinions in this post are those of Don Hanson.

©8JUL19, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved
< Click for Copyright and Use Policy >

FDA Update on Heart Disease in Dogs & What Should You Do?

< A short link to this post – http://bit.ly/FDA-DCM-Food-7JUL19 >

If you are concerned about the latest news from the FDA and Grain-Free pet foods, please take the time to read this post. Much of what you hear in the mass media is misleading. Here are some of the facts.

  • There is currently no FDA recall of any brand of pet food related to canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM).
  • While the loss of a pet to DCM is tragic, there have been only 524 cases reported to the FDA since January 1, of 2014 out of an estimated 77 million dogs in the USA. The number of dogs corresponds to 0.000007% of cases possibly being related to diet.
  • Genetics plays a significant role in DCM, with typically larger breeds being more predisposed. The majority of these reports have been submitted in the last year, suggesting an increase in reporting.
  • While the situation certainly warrants further investigation, there is currently no corroborating scientific evidence that the increased cases in DCM are related to diet.

From the FDA

On June 27, 2019, the Food and Drug Administration issued a press release entitled FDA Investigation into Potential Link between Certain Diets and Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy updating the investigation that began a year ago based on reports of canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs eating certain pet foods, many labeled as “grain-free.” In my opinion, the most significant statement in this press release is “Based on the data collected and analyzed thus far, the agency believes that the potential association between diet and DCM in dogs is a complex scientific issue that may involve multiple factors.” In other words, there is still much research that needs to be done, and at this point, we can still not draw any definitive conclusions as to the specific cause for the rise in cases of DCM.

Other statements of note in the FDA press release include:

“The American Veterinary Medical Association estimates that there are 77 million pet dogs in the United States. Most dogs in the U.S. have been eating pet food without apparently developing DCM.” [ Emphasis added ]

Another puzzling aspect of the recent spike in DCM cases is that they have occurred just in the last few years. The FDA is working with the pet food industry to better understand whether changes in ingredients, ingredient sourcing, processing or formulation may have contributed to the development of DCM.” [ Emphasis added ]

Grain free foods have been available for many years, with increases in DCM only reported recently. As previously indicated by the FDA, the possible link between diet and DCM may be based on a variety of factors, and there is still much research to be done. The FDA press release encourages anyone with a pet that is showing possible signs of DCM or other heart conditions (decreased energy, cough, difficulty breathing, and episodes of collapse) to seek veterinary care immediately. That is excellent advice and will help to further our understanding of any link between DCM, diet, and genetics as well as other possible environmental factors that may be at play.

While the FDA report lists several brands of food that have been reported to have been fed to pets diagnosed with DCM, they did not list all brands nor specific formulas; this is unfortunate. If there is a link between DCM and diet, it would be beneficial to know which specific formulas are involved, as not all formulas of a particular brand may be of concern.

Green Acres Kennel Shop sells food from three of the companies on the list; Fromm, NutriSource, and Zignature. Each of the companies has contacted us, and they want to get to the bottom of this as much as the FDA, maybe even more so. All three are family-owned companies that are genuine pet lovers that have been producing some of the highest quality pet foods in the world for many decades. I have included parts of their responses below. If you would like a full copy of their response, please stop by the store.

NutriSource/PureVita/Natural Planet/Tuffy’sIn addition to your pet’s overall health, transparency is of the utmost importance to us. On June 27, 2019, the United States Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) put a multitude of brands, along with NutriSource, in the position of defending ourselves in a confusing situation about grain-free dog diets and their potential link to canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM).

  • The comprehensive health of EVERY SINGLE pet is extremely important to us. We are continuing our efforts to study DCM and closely monitor all the information that the FDA can provide. The FDA’s published updates have not concluded that there is a causal relationship between diet and DCM. [ Emphasis added ]
  • All NutriSource diets include supplemental TAURINE to boost naturally occurring levels derived from our high quality meats and fish. Due to the potential link between taurine-deficiency and DCM, we felt it important to take this step as a safeguard to protect pets until scientific research is complet [ Emphasis added ]
  •  We have committed funds for additional research on our diets and initial results have shown that our products deliver the recommended nutrients to support normal levels of taurine.
  • We have proactively funded independent research at Kansas State University to study pet health including the issue of canine DCM. [ Emphasis added ]

< Click to read Tuffy’s July 1, 2019 message regarding DCM concerns. >

 

Fromm responseAlthough no conclusive evidence relating diet to DCM has been scientifically substantiated, each of the recipes in our full line of grain-inclusive and grain-free dry foods is supplemented with taurine. In addition, our foods contain ample levels of cysteine and methionine which dogs also use to metabolize their own taurine. All of our grain-inclusive and grain-free offerings are held to the same high nutritional standard, and our variety of recipes allows our retailers and consumers to make buying decisions they are most comfortable with. [ Emphasis added ]

While the FDA continues their investigation, we want our retailers and consumers to feel confident knowing that Fromm has and will continue to follow the most up-to-date research. Our family-owned-and-operated company is dedicated to the health and wellbeing of pets and has been since we began making pet food in 1949.

< Click to read Fromm Response to Updated FDA DCM Complaint Reporting. >

 

ZignatureWhile DCM impacts less than one percent of U.S. dogs, with .000007% being supposedly related to diet, we recognize that these studies are of critical importance to those families whose beloved dogs have been afflicted by this heart diseases.

As you review the FDA’s most recent report, it’s important to understand the following:

  • The American Veterinary Medical Association estimates that there are 77 million pet dogs in the United States. Most dogs in the U.S. have been eating pet food without apparently developing DCM. [ Emphasis added ]
  • The FDA continues to believe that the potential association between diet and DCM in dogs is a complex scientific issue that may involve multiple factors and that the actual cause has still yet to be determined.
  • Among all the cases from all brands that were reported to the FDA, the overwhelming majority of impacted dogs belonged to breeds genetically predisposed to DCM, a disease that was first discovered in the 1980’s well before the grain-free diets were available for pets.
  • The FDA issued the June 27th update, even though it has no definitive answers yet, to solicit additional reports from pet owners and veterinarians to help further it’s investigation.
  • Is there a link between exotic proteins and DCM? – Based on the most recent data released by the FDA, and contrary to previous speculation, that does not seem to be the case. Most of the cases (more than 50%) reported to the FDA were for foods containing chicken, lamb and salmon. [ Emphasis added ]
  • How does Zignature formulate its food? – Our meticulously designed diets have been formulated by a thought-leading team of veterinarians, PhD animal nutritionists and veterinary research scientists to deliver the safest pet products on the market that exceed the industry’s AAFCO guide for balanced and thorough nutrition. [ Emphasis added ]

< Click to read Zignature Statement in Response to FDA Findings >

What should we do for our pets?

  • Stay informed and go beyond what you hear or read in the mass media (TV, Radio, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) and be a critical consumer of information.
  • If possible, rotate your dog’s diet through several different protein and carbohydrate sources as well as brands of foods. If you are not sure how to do that, ask us. We have been recommending dietary rotation for many years. FMI – http://bit.ly/DietRotation
  • Do not be in a panic to immediately change what you are feeding. However, if you stop by, we would be glad to introduce you to other pet food options.
  • If you have a breed that is already genetically predisposed to DCM, and you are very concerned, strongly consider rotating diet your dog’s diet and possibly including some balanced raw diet or high meat content canned food.
  • Know that there are many pet foods available that are not grain-free; however, also know that there is still no scientifically substantiated link to DCM and grain-free diets. The foods cited by the FDA are primarily kibble or dry foods. Pet food comes in many other formats such as; canned, freeze-dried, and frozen, all of which have many benefits over conventional dry kibble. We have many right here at Green Acres.
  • Never stop reading the ingredient list on your pet’s food nor presume that all pet food companies are equal and are primarily concerned with your pet’s health. We have always preferred the small, family-owned companies that mainly focus on pet food as opposed to the megalithic multi-national corporation. We like companies like; Bravo, Eagle, Fromm, Fussie Cat, Grandma Lucy’s, Health Extension, Koha, Natural Planet, NutriSource, Primal, PureVita, Steve’s Real Food for Pets, Vital Essentials, and Zignature. We are not fans of the enormous multi-national conglomerates that control 70%+ of the pet food industry (Colgate-Palmolive, General Mills, Mars Candy, Nestle Candy, and Smuckers) as in our 25+ years of experience there are much better products available. If you want to know why, stop by and ask us or watch the documentary film Pet Fooled.
  • Purchase your pet food from locally-owned retailers who educate their staff and will spend time teaching you about what’s important when feeding your pet. No big-box store or online pet food marketer offers that same level of customer service or knowledge.
  • Subscribe to our email newsletter, Don’s Words, Woofs and Meows blog, and “Like” and follow the Green Acres Kennel Shop Facebook page. We will be updating this story as we get more information in all three areas.

Recommended Resources

Articles on Don’s Blog
( http://www.words-woofs-meows.com )

 Shared Blog Post – FDA Updates on Heart Disease in Dogs – Hemopet – Dr. Jean Doddshttps://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2019/04/12/shared-blog-post-fda-updates-on-heart-disease-in-dogs-hemopet-dr-jean-dodds/

UPDATE! – Pet Nutrition – Grain-Free Foods and FDA Reports of Increased Heart Disease in Dogs – WDJ Blog Post – < https://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2018/08/06/update-pet-nutrition-grain-free-foods-and-fda-reports-of-increased-heart-disease-in-dogs-wdj-blog-post/

UPDATE! – Pet Nutrition – Grain-Free Foods and FDA Reports of Increased Heart Disease in Dogs – < https://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2018/07/27/update-pet-nutrition-grain-free-foods-and-fda-reports-of-increased-heart-disease-in-dogs/ >

Grain-Free Foods and FDA Reports of Increased Heart Disease in Dogs – < https://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2018/07/22/pet-nutrition-grain-free-foods-and-fda-reports-of-increased-heart-disease-in-dogs/ >

Podcasts from The Woof Meow Show
( http://www.woofmeowshow.com )

Podcast – Is Feeding A Grain-Free Food to Our Dogs Dangerous?, with Linda Case, MShttp://bit.ly/Podcast-FDA-Grain-Free-LindaCase-29SEP18

Web Sites

FDA Investigation into Potential Link between Certain Diets and Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathyhttps://www.fda.gov/animal-veterinary/news-events/fda-investigation-potential-link-between-certain-diets-and-canine-dilated-cardiomyopathy

Tuffy’s Pet Foods (NutriSource/PureVita/Natural Planet) – A Message Regarding DCM Concernshttps://nutrisourcepetfoods.com/images/content/Tuffy’s%20DCM%20Statement%20(7-1-19).pdf

Fromm Response to Updated FDA DCM Complaint Reportinghttps://frommfamily.com/connect/fda-dcm-20190701/

Zignature Statement in Response to FDA Findingshttps://www.zignature.com/statement-on-dcm/

 

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Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop ( greenacreskennel.com ) in Bangor, ME where he has been helping people with their pets since 1995. He is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC), and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). Don is a member of the Pet Professional Guild (PPG) and is committed to PPG’s Guiding Principles and the Pain-Free, Force-Free, and Fear-Free training, management, and care of all pets. Don produces and co-hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show, that airs on Z62 Retro Radio WZON (AM620) and WKIT 103.3-HD3 and is streamed at http://bit.ly/AM620-WZON every Saturday at 9 AM. Podcasts of the show are available at http://woofmeowshow.libsyn.com/, the Apple Podcast app, and at Don’s blog: www.words-woofs-meows.com.  The opinions in this post are those of Don Hanson.

©7-Jul-19, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved
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