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Petco no longer selling shock collars; encouraging positive reinforcement training

Published: Oct. 16, 2020 at 4:32 PM CDT
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - Petco announced on Oct. 6 it has stopped selling specific electronic “shock” collars, strengthening its commitment to positive reinforcement training methods and solidifying the company’s evolution from a leading pet specialty retailer to a category-defining health and wellness partner for pets and pet parents. Recognizing the opportunity to create real change, the company is calling on the industry and consumers to join its movement via an online petition aimed at creating responsible regulation for the retail sale of shock collars to general consumers.

“Electricity may be critical to powering your microwave, but it has no role for the average pet parent training their dog,” said Petco CEO Ron Coughlin. “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.”

The decision, which was confirmed in consultation with the Petco Pet Wellness Council (PPWC), includes all human- and bark-activated electronic pet collars, commonly referred to as “shock” collars, which have been removed from Petco’s in-store and online assortment as of today. Pet parents will be encouraged to try products and services rooted in positive reinforcement training methods backed by experts, including a newly launched online training program, as well a suite of private and in-home training classes, all led by more than 1,200 Petco Certified Dog Trainers.

“Shock collars are misguided, antiquated, harmful equipment,” said Dr. Alexandra Horowitz, MS, PhD, a member of the PPWC and senior research fellow, adjunct associate professor and head of the Horowitz Dog Cognition Lab at Barnard College. “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.”

The change also reflects concerns pet parents have today on shock collars. According to a recent study*, 70% of dog parents feel shock collars have a negative impact on their pet’s emotional or mental well-being, while 69% consider shock collars a cruel training method. In fact, 59% of dog parents say they would rather shock themselves than use a shock collar on their dog. In line with Petco’s push to affect change on this issue, the same study also found that seven in 10 (71%) dog parents feel there should be limitations on the retail sale of shock collars to prevent human error or abuse, while more than half (51%) say they should only really be used by professionally trained dog trainers.

To underscore its commitment to positive reinforcement training methods, Petco is offering a free introductory online training class to pet parents interested in exploring positive reinforcement training.

“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,” said Dr. Whitney Miller, Head of Veterinary Medicine for Petco. “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.”

In connection with this announcement, the company launched a new look that boldly declares “Petco, The Health + Wellness Co.” and reflects Petco’s more than 55-year journey to becoming a health and wellness company. A major marketing campaign highlighting the company evolution is slated for early 2021.

In addition to the company’s decision to end the sale of shock collars, Petco will continue to expand services and resources aimed at helping pet parents care for the complete health and wellness of the pets they love, including:

  • Providing accessible, affordable and convenient veterinary care via its rapidly growing network of more than 100 full-service in-store vet hospitals – which the company expects to grow to more than 140 by January 2021.
  • New and expanded healthcare solutions to minimize costs and encourage comprehensive nose to tail pet wellness for all, including Vital Care – a paid annual plan helping pet parents proactively cover routine pet wellness needs while earning rewards – and growing pet insurance offerings to ensure pets are covered for the unexpected.
  • A complete redesign of petco.com and the Petco app to support digital-first health and wellness resources and solutions for pets and pet parents, including online appointment booking, curbside pickup, same day delivery and more.
  • A digital “Right Food Finder” to help pet parents determine optimal foods for their pets' nutritional needs.
  • Completing the removal of artificial colors, preservatives and flavors from food for aquatic life and small animals, such as rabbits, guinea pigs, reptiles and more, by the end of 2021 – a commitment the company made when it implemented the same industry-leading nutrition standards for dogs and cats in 2019. (Exceptions include some bird and ferret foods, which will take longer to find suitable alternatives.)
  • Continued review of Petco’s business, products, solutions and services to ensure alignment with its mission to improve lives for pets, pet parents and Petco partners.

For more information about Petco’s decision to remove shock collars from shelves, visit petco.com/stoptheshock.

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