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Canine shock collars draw debate between experts

MILWAUKEE -- Spending her early afternoon with four-legged clients Barkley and Cinder, trainer Holly Lewis liked what she saw: no shock  collars on either dog.

\"I'm always about setting up a dog for success,\" Lewis said.

The ten-year veteran prefers \"positive reinforcement\" - building on a pet's name recognition and  walking them along boundaries - methods she uses with her Cold Nose Canine Training business.

\"We can't use shock collars, choke chains, things like that with wild animals like whales and elefants and we train them using all positive methods and so why not train our dogs using the same,\" Lewis asked.

Lewis admits some of her clients don't have a choice because municipal rules prevent them from putting up a fence.   But she worries about the physical and mental damage collars can cause.

\"When it's set at too high of a setting or it's left on for prolonged periods of time, that's when you'll start to  see injuries to the dog's throat,\" Lewis said.

\"You cannot burn a dog with an electric pet containment collar,\" Hidden Fence of Wisconsin Owner Jay Gergens said.

Gergens has run his business out of his Grafton home for 18 years.

\"It really does just tickle,\" Gergens said of the shock collars he installs.  \"You can barely feel it.  The idea is to teach them.  They hear the beep, they get a tickle, we back them up.\"

Gergens says it takes about a week to get a dog trained on a shock collar, but often times it's the owners he needs to work with more.

\"When you reassure them that you're not going to shock their dog so they jump off the ground, that you're actually  going to teach the dog, they become much more comfortable,\" Gergens said.

But for trainer Holly Lewis, shock collars are a method she'll never grow comfortable with.

\"I will not tell you that shock doesn't work,\" Lewis said.  \"However, it works at a cost of the relationship between you and your  dog.\"

There are shock collar bans in parts of the United Kingdom and Canada, but experts don't expect similar bans in Wisconsin any time soon.

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