View Full Version : Shock collars: ok for dogs, not for children!

8th May 2009, 03:19 PM
Blog post today (http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/peter_wedderburn/blog/2009/05/08/electric_shock_training_collars__illegal_for_human s_but_ok_for_dogs) by vet and Daily Telegraph columnist Pete Wedderburn

There's a report today about a father in Oregon who used an electric shock collar on his four children, all less than ten years of age. He's in custody, charged with "criminal mistreatment" of the children.

My question today is: if it's not OK to use these in children, why should it be acceptable to use them to train dogs? The video report of the case states that some dog trainers justify their use by saying that "dogs have a higher pain threshold than humans". This is news to me - how do you think they've worked that out? Give a dog an electric shock, then ask the dog "how much does that hurt?" Then compare the dog's response with a human?

Electric shock collars are used on dogs by some to apply an electric shock to the dog's neck when a dog behaves incorrectly. The shocks, understandably, cause pain and confusion for the dog, affecting it physically and mentally. There's no doubt that electric shock collars have a powerful effect, but there's also no doubt that they're cruel.

New research published by the University of Pennsylvania has shown that aggressive pets which are trained using confrontational or aversive methods (such as electric shocks) by their owners will continue to be aggressive unless training techniques are modified. The year-long study, which has been published in the February 2009 issue of Applied Animal Behaviour Science showed that using non-aversive or neutral training methods such as additional exercise or rewards elicited very few aggressive responses.

The Kennel Club has been campaigning for many years to have the sale and use of electric shock collars banned, and at last, some progress may be about to happen.

The Welsh Rural Affairs Minister, Elin Jones, announced in June 2008 that she intended to ban the use of electric shock training devices, including collars, mats and leads. Since then, the planned legislation has been gradually moving through the system, with an initial consultation period that is drawing to a close later this month. Anyone who wants to make a submission to this consultation needs to visit the Welsh government website before 27th May, where they can review the draft regulations. The Kennel Club is encouraging Welsh dog owners to respond, and to contact their local Assembly Member to ensure that effective legislation is drafted.

It's well known that pain and fear are not humane methods to train dogs (or humans). Positive, reward-based training methods are both kinder and more effective. Trainers using these methods are able to teach dogs quickly, easily and reliably, with absolutely no fear, pain, or damage to the relationship between the human and the dog.

If you search Youtube, you'll find plenty of videos featuring humans trying out electric shock collars on themselves. You'll see they nearly always start off in jest, but end up being seriously upset by the electric shocks. The human response? They take the collar off, something which our unfortunate canine friends are unable to do.

How long until Scotland and England follow the lead of Wales on this? The sooner, the better.

This is the abstract of the study quoted by Pete:

Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 117, Issues 1-2, February 2009, Pages 47-54

Survey of the use and outcome of confrontational and non-confrontational training methods in client-owned dogs showing undesired behaviors

Meghan E. Herron, a, , Frances S. Shofera and Ilana R. Reisnera

Department of Clinical Studies, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, 3900 Delancey Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6010, USA

Accepted 22 December 2008. Available online 24 January 2009.

Prior to seeking the counsel of a veterinary behaviorist many dog owners have attempted behavior modification techniques suggested by a variety of sources. Recommendations often include aversive training techniques which may provoke fearful or defensively aggressive behavior. The purpose of this study was to assess the behavioral effects and safety risks of techniques used historically by owners of dogs with behavior problems.

A 30-item survey of previous interventions was included in a behavioral questionnaire distributed to all dog owners making appointments at a referral behavior service over a 1-year period. For each intervention applied, owners were asked to indicate whether there was a positive, negative, or lack of effect on the dog's behavior, and whether aggressive behavior was seen in association with the method used. Owners were also asked to indicate the source of each recommendation. One-hundred-and-forty surveys were completed. The most frequently listed recommendation sources were “self” and “trainers”. Several confrontational methods such as “hit or kick dog for undesirable behavior” (43%), “growl at dog” (41%), “physically force the release of an item from a dog's mouth” (39%), “alpha roll” (31%), “stare at or stare [dog] down” (30%), “dominance down” (29%), and “grab dog by jowls and shake” (26%) elicited an aggressive response from at least a quarter of the dogs on which they were attempted. Dogs presenting for aggression to familiar people were more likely to respond aggressively to the confrontational techniques “alpha roll” and yelling “no” compared to dogs with other presenting complaints (P < 0.001). In conclusion, confrontational methods applied by dog owners before their pets were presented for a behavior consultation were associated with aggressive responses in many cases. It is thus important for primary care veterinarians to advise owners about risks associated with such training methods and provide guidance and resources for safe management of behavior problems.