Study: Electronic Dog Collars Could Do More Harm Than Good

Christina Peden
by Christina Peden

Researchers in the UK have come up with some shocking findings about the effect an electronic collar could have on your dog’s behavior.

Sometimes training your dog can be a hard road, and we all know some pooches are more stubborn than others. There are so many different training methods out there — which one should you choose?

Well, a new study out of the UK might just steer you away from one method in particular: electronic “shock collars”. Researchers at the University of Lincoln decided to test out the effectiveness of the collars, because up until now, there hasn’t been much study done on them.

They collected a group of 63 pet dogs, all of whom had been referred for poor recall and related problems, including livestock “worrying” (this is when dogs chase or bite livestock such as sheep, often injuring and sometimes killing them in the process. The dogs were divided into three groups: one using the e-collars and two control groups that received a different kind of training.

Trainers in the e-collar group made sure they used the lowest shock setting ; they didn’t want to hurt the dogs being studied, but they did want to see if the e-collars had any effect on their behavior.

Their findings? The dogs in the e-collar group showed consistently negative behavioral changes — more signs of tension, more yawning and less time interacting with their environment than the dogs in the two control groups.

The dog owners were surveyed after the training, and while all of them said they’d noticed an improvement in their pet’s behavior, the pet parents of the e-collar dogs did not feel comfortable using the shock collar training approach in their daily lives.

The study authors concluded that e-collar training doesn’t hold any advantage over, say, positive reinforcement training, which can be just as effective. Furthermore, the risk a shock collar can pose to dog’s wellbeing, actually making it a worse choice. Even on the lowest setting, researchers saw negative behavioral changes in the e-collar dogs.

The unfortunate reality is that many people who use e-collars also don’t follow the training guidelines set forth by the manufacturers ; they (perhaps not even intentionally) shock their dogs at a higher setting than is recommended, setting their pooches up for even more potential risk.

The moral of the story seems to be this: there are lots of options for training your dog, and most work equally well. Why not use the one that rewards them when do the right thing, instead of zapping them when they don’t?

E-collars can be subject of heated debate. Have you ever used one for your dog? Would you? Why or why not?

[Source: University of Lincoln]

Christina Peden
Christina Peden

Christina Peden is a lifelong animal lover and avid wordsmith. She lives in Toronto with her boyfriend Ryan where they are proud pet parents to puppy, Matilda and cat, Oscar. In her spare time, she can be found enjoying Toronto, Canada's all-too-short patio season, taking advantage of the city's numerous parks or curled up with a good book.

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