No, almost all veterinarians would never recommend using shock collars for dog training. They say “seeing is believing” since every veterinarian must have come across one or more incidents of improper use of electric collars or shock collars in their daily life. They will never allow you to take any risk affecting your dog’s health general well-being. You may also be able to find several images of dogs on the internet suffering from physical damage as a result of the misuse of electronic training devices.
The opinions of veterinarians ‘against’ the usage of these collars have been bolstered not just by the examples of abuse they have seen in their clinics but also by the instructions and guidelines of animal welfare organizations which recommend not using aversive collars for dog training. In addition, several trials and experiments have clearly demonstrated the harmful impact of these collars in practice. Furthermore, there are a plethora of studies that support the claims reported by these experiments.
For example, Australian Veterinary Association has a stance that the use of electric shock as a means of training dogs is out of line and that the use of shock collars should be banned. The Humane Society of the United States and the British Veterinary Association also consider the use of a shock collar or an electric fence not a humane method of training dogs. Moreover, the organizations like The Kennel club have been supporting a complete ban on the sale and use of these collars, which have been already banned in many parts of the world like Denmark, Australia, Germany, Scotland, as well as in some regions of Canada and Wales.
Well! The problem that lies here is not the use but the ‘misuse’ of E-collars in practical terms. It will not be the proper use of remote training collars by competent trainers that will lead to their abolition, but rather the misuse of them by individuals who have never been trained to use them. Read the article below to know how these collars work and why they are considered inappropriate as the training tools for dogs by the vets and dog behaviorists.
Principle of Shock Collar Function
The idea of using a shock collar for training is based on the principle of Operant conditioning, also called instrumental conditioning. Operant conditioning is a type of learning method in which the outcomes of an animal’s behavior determine the likelihood of that behavior being repeated. Using this type of conditioning, an animal’s behavior that is rewarded is more likely to be repeated. The process is called positive reinforcement. Whereas the penalized behavior is less likely to be repeated, a method known as positive punishment. Shock collars work particularly by the latter principle.
The term positive means to add something. Positive punishment can directly add an unpleasant stimulus like the ‘shock’ following an unwanted response. The main flaw of this system is that it doesn’t guide the animals toward the desired behaviors as reinforcement methods do. Our companion animals thus remain unguided and end up being frustrated. Moreover, such a punishment-based training method is not very effective, as you need to be consistent most of the time. The animal will forget the behavior no longer after the stimulus has been removed.
How Do Remote Electronic Training Collars Work?
The dog trainers use E-collars or electronic collars for off-leash training of the dogs. A shock collar consists of two parts, a receiver and a transmitter. The transmitter is fitted in the remote control that comes with the collar, and the receiver has been fitted on the collar itself. These remote collars work by sending an electric signal that marks the dog’s negative behavior and forces him to rectify that particular behavior. The trainer immediately presses the remote control button whenever the dog shows an unwanted response. The transmitter in it sends the electric impulse to the dog’s collar.
The collar has a rectangular enclosure that encloses a receiver. The receiver receives the electrical stimulation and conducts it to the neck of the dog via the two metallic pins that make contact with the skin of the neck. The electrical stimulation then gradually spreads from the neck towards the rest of the body. When repeated over a few times, the dog will be able to associate his bad behavior with the unpleasant sensation of the collar and will end up quitting the action once and for all. The electric shock will play the role of a deterrent to prevent bad behavior like scolding your dog.
Are Shock Collars Humane?
Electronic shock collars are clearly not a humane method of training pets, and this is also why their use for training dogs has been banned in many countries. However, the ‘shock’ undeniably works as a punisher to deter the dog’s unwanted behavior. For such punishment to be effective enough to train the pet, one must meet three essential criteria: the precise timing, the constancy, and the intensity of the stimulus. In other words, the aversive stimulus must be given within one or two seconds after the behavior occurs in order to mark that particular behavior. Secondly, the punishment must be administered each time the unwanted behavior occurs; one should remain consistent. Lastly and most importantly, the stimulus must be unpleasant enough to cause the behavior to cease.
This type of training requires an increase in the strength or intensity of the aversive stimulus to continue behavior modification in the dogs, particularly concerns for veterinary psychologists. Such a consistent aversive stimulus in the form of an electric shock is obviously a painful and inhumane means of training. Moreover, while going over and over in daily training sessions, satisfying these three conditions in real practice, outside a world of science and standards, is very difficult for a dog trainer and impossible for a dog owner. As a result, the shock training won’t be effective at all. Whether these criteria are fulfilled or not, the dog’s well-being is at risk in both cases.
Why Do Vets Not Agree With the Use of Shock Collars?
Since there are hundred percent successful and effective positive training methods available out there, vets claim that electric shock in the name of training is nothing other than a type of abuse that targets the well-being of canines. Therefore, most veterinary behavior specialists postulate that electric training collars should no longer be common in the modern pet industry, whose ethnology consists of approved methods, positive techniques, and training concepts free from doubt.
The reason veterinarians demonstrate that utilizing electric shock collars for training and caring for dogs is both ineffective and detrimental is mainly due to the ethical concern. When a dog can be trained through positive reinforcement methods based on rewards, the use of aversive stimuli, for example, electric stimulation, is absolutely pointless for caring for and managing your pet or modifying negative behavior in him.
Using an electronic training collar without following ethical guidelines is akin to driving a vehicle without following the rules of the road. But besides all that ethical dilemma, there are also many other reasons why E-collar training is considered unnecessary and harmful by the animal veterinarians. Some of these reasons are listed below:
Cause Physical Harm
One of the major reasons why vets don’t recommend trainers and dog owners to use shock collars for dog
training is because most pet owners would never comprehend the necessity for ‘fitting protocols’ of the shock collar. These protocols actually specify in what way and exactly where the collar should be placed on the dog’s neck. These include some guidelines that also suggest how long the collar should be worn. The wrong wearing practices can lead to injuries to the neck and internal tissues in dogs. Data from veterinary medicine has linked the use of an aversive collar, like pinch collar, choke chain collar, or a shock collar, to the immobility of cervical muscles in dogs and degenerative arthritis.
The long-term use of these collars can lead to nerve paralysis in the neck, especially in the region of the larynx and pharynx. This paralysis can compromise the dog’s voice, affect his breathing, or may alter his swallowing capacity and other functions. In addition, thereof studies show that the increased neck pressure by collars can increase the intraocular pressure (the pressure in dogs’ eyes). Therefore, in long run, it is harmful to the vision and may put the dogs with weak corneas at the risk of glaucoma and eye injuries such as laceration of the cornea.
The timing is also crucial when using an electric shock. The contact points of a shock collar should not be pressed against a dog’s neck for more than 24 hours. If left for such a long period, it will lead to tissue necrosis or pressure necrosis. It is a condition in which the underlying tissues undergo severe damage due to a lack of oxygen in that area. This condition is commonly known as bed sores. Another problem can be the contact allergies in some dogs. This is due to longer exposure of the dog’s skin to collars, in which the dog’s immune system will begin recognizing the collar as a foreign agent. It will result in severe inflammation.
According to animal behaviorists, shock is not a form of training; rather, it falls within the scope of victimization of pets in the great majority of cases. Likewise, compelling your dog to obey to evade shock will not improve the bond between you and your pup; instead, it may harm your pet’s relationship with you. E-collar training is unlikely to produce an atmosphere conducive to healthy and practical learning. Instead, it induces constant fear in dogs. This fear will be clearly visible when they yawn, cower, or tuck their tails between their hind legs. If the dog learns somehow that the sensation of shock is associated with your presence, he may also begin to fear you.
In addition to temporary feelings of fear, a dog frequently exposed to unpleasant stimulation, such as shock, may experience a condition commonly called ” shut down” or “global suppression,” characterized by a complete lack of behavior in pets. You will notice certain signs of this shut down in dogs like freezing, constantly staring at walls, zoning out, and acting as if they have never been there. Pet owners sometimes mistake it for a dog that has been trained only because the animal remains submissive and exhibits little or no behaviors at all. In contrast, in reality, the animal will have been showing this submissive behavior out of fear. If your dog refuses to execute any activity at all in difficult situations, this condition is known as “learned helplessness.” In such a situation, the dog may attempt to isolate himself in order to escape unwanted stimuli. Isolation is a specific sign of extreme fear in dogs.
Lead to Stress and Anxiety
Even if the use of a shock collar does not pose any immediate physical harm to your pet or produce any apparent signs of injury, it is likely to result in long-term negative psychological effects on him. For example, he may show a behavioral response in the form of anger or may end up suffering from emotional disturbances. The most common of these include stress and long-term anxiety problems. If the stress and depression become severe, it can lead to a nervous breakdown, congestion of the heart, and respiratory paralysis.
There are different studies that support the claim that the use of electronic training collars causes stress. The experiments were set up to notice the change in the level of cortisol in the dogs’ bodies while they were being trained through shock collars. The release of cortisol hormone is associated with stress. These experiments showed that the dogs being trained through remote electronic collars had increased levels of cortisol in their bodies. High levels of stress hormones will affect digestion, heart rate, and respiration.
If a dog undergoes global suppression due to extreme anxiety, he may stop responding to the stimulus at all. The trainer will thus continue to increase the intensity of the electrical stimulus to gain the dog’s attention. However, the increased intensity will not be able to compel him to show a certain response. Instead, it will add to the anxiety and fear. In most cases, a fearful dog may show the problem behavior with greater intensity than before. In this way, the problem for which the collar was originally implemented will end up worsening over time.
Provoke Aggressive Behavior
Aggression is one of the common problems in canines. According to research, 72% of the dogs are generally shown to have behavioral problems, the most common of which is aggression. Some breeds are generally more aggressive than others. The aggressive behavior was also seen in previously very submissive dogs and had no history of such behavior. Later, many studies demonstrated that one of the reasons for aggression in dogs is the use of aversive tools for training. One such example is a remote training collar that employs electric shock for behavior correction.
Aggressive behavior due to the use of an electronic collar may also be directly associated with the dog’s sensitivity. Some dogs are more sensitive than others. Therefore, any training method operating on the basis of aversion is likely to cause depression and fear in them. This fear of dogs will manifest itself in the form of aggression. The dog may appear to be violent on the outside; he will actually be living in the fear of punishment. Biting is the most common form of such type of induced aggression in dogs.
Sometimes, the dogs begin to correspond the specific aversive stimuli with the things or individuals they may be focusing on during the time they got punished. Let’s take an example; you have a really friendly dog at your home who loves to greet others. You’ve recently installed an invisible electric fence pet containment system in your backyard. Your dog wanders in the backyard freely. When he sees your neighbors or their pets, he will move forward to greet them. No sooner he crosses the electrical fence; he will experience a shock. After multiple experiences, your dog will begin to associate the painful sensation of shock with the presence of your neighbors or their pets. He will think that they are trying to harm them. As a matter of self-defense, he will start barking and growling at them whenever he sees them. In this way, your friendly dog will end up being aggressive just because of the use of an electric fence.
Another point of concern for animal behavior specialists regarding the use of shock collars is over-correction. It happens when the stimulus given to the dog is too strong to mitigate a perceived error or rectify some behavioral issue. When it comes to dog training using shock collars, it is very necessary to discipline the pet for the right actions at the right time to avoid over-correction. On the other hand, our human reactions are frequently out of context. We don’t realize the need for the dog and give them shocks by going out of line. It’s pointless to shock the pet repeatedly when his behavior can be modified by using a slight vibration or shocking him for a certain behavior 4 hours later.
Sometimes, the owners don’t want to shock their dogs, but the shock occurs out of the blue due to some malfunction in the collar. Occasionally, it may also happen if the owner is not present to supervise the intensity or frequency of shock when administered. Take an example of automatic bark collars, which go off, shocking the dogs every time their sensors detect the barking sound. Or the electric fences which shock the dog every time they go near it. These unintentional and frequent shocks may cause the dogs to become perplexed because they were fixing the problems that didn’t even exist in the first place. Thus, proper administration to verify that the E-collar is correcting the behaviors as needed and not more than this is extremely critical when using it.
No Positive Reinforcement
As with any training, rewarding the positive behaviors with affection, clapping, playtime, some toys, or a small treat is always a good idea. But this is not the case with E-collar training. No doubt, a shock collar can effectively inhibit bad behaviors in your dog. However, it does not encourage good behaviors in him. If not used by an expert trainer and allowed to operate on their own, the electronic collar will never provide positive reinforcement. For example, it won’t be able to say ‘that’s my boy!” or “very good” whenever the dog does something pleasant. It won’t pet the dog or give him a nice treat for his good behavior either.
Furthermore, the animal is more likely to forget the behaviors that have been corrected solely through the application of punishment rather than a combination of rewards and treats. Dogs, like humans, do not wish to remember terrible experiences. Their brain erases unpleasant memories faster than happy recollections. As a result, the poor behaviors learned as a result of punishments are wiped along with the bad memories. E-collar training will be effective and produce results quickly, but it will be a one-time learning experience. The dog will forget the learned behavior as soon as you stop using this dog collar.
Do Dog Trainers Recommend Shock Collars?
A professional dog trainer will use a remote training collar to help rectify the undesirable behavior of a pet. But, he will never recommend using a shock collar for dog training at home. It is because there is a huge difference in training techniques deployed by experienced trainers and those used by individuals with no prior knowledge of animal training. Professional trainers comprehend an animal’s behavior in a better way and will use the shock only when necessary. On the other hand, an inexperienced trainer will never bother these things when using an electric training device. Instead, they use E-collars just because these are a much faster and inexpensive way of training pets.
Search the price of shock collars on Google; the very first result you see will be; canine shock collars can be purchased for $30-250. This price range shows that they are a far less expensive option for a trainer or the dog owner. The professional trainers that use positive methods of training, the dog behaviorists, and veterinary behavior experts obviously charge more than this. Still, one can clearly see the difference in the dog’s behavior in each type of training. Therefore, we recommend you go for training programs that use positive methods, even if you have to pay some extra bucks for them.
Best Alternatives the Behaviorists Suggest
Regardless of the dog owners’ best possible efforts, problems of unwanted behavior can still arise in dogs due to a number of different factors. These may be in the dog’s genes or may also be the manifestation of his environment, any experience of abuse in the past, or his early learning experiences. However, pet owners should be informed that such behavioral problems can be steadily, safely, and effectively remedied — or at the very least controlled — using compassionate and sophisticated, science-based training methods which have been associated with positive reinforcement. Some of these training methods which serve as the best alternatives to aversive training methods and do not need negative stimuli like pain or shock are listed below.
Positive Behavioral Training
Instead of using negative reinforcement and positive punishment methods of training to fix up the dogs’ behavior, pet owners should go for positive reinforcement methods that are based on rewards. A positive reinforcer is an impetus that increases the likelihood of the same behavior being repeated when offered after a certain behavior. This stimulus can be basically anything that the dog loves and will consider a reward for his good behavior, for example, a treat, an interesting game, a clap, a pat, or a toy.
Whenever your dog does something good, you should reward him immediately. This will be a win-win situation for both of you. Your dog will be able to get a reward in the form of a treat or something else pleasant, and you will get a reward in the form of a well-behaved dog. Engage your dog in exercises and games so that he remains healthy and vigilant. Most dogs pick up new ideas quickly if they are mentally and physically healthy. For behavioral training, you can also enroll your dog in a professional training program that uses positive methods for learning.
One of the most effective methods of training pets is clicker training. It’s sometimes referred to as “mark and reward” training. This method of training reinforces a desirable behavior in the dog by rewarding it as soon as he shows it rather than punishing him for not doing it. It’s similar to other reward-based training but with the extra bonus of a clicker. A clicker is a little noise-making device that the trainer can hold in his or her hand. The clicker sound is important because it tells your dog exactly what behavior you’re rewarding him for. You can mark the instant your dog does what you ask him to do by clicking at the proper time.
If you want to improve recall in your dog, the best option is to use dog whistles instead of E-collars. The whistle is used because it has a higher pitch than the normal voice of a human and is easily audible to the dog, especially from long distances. These will work exactly like a clicker. Just blow the whistle when you want your puppy to come back to you. When he obeys you, give him a treat. Very simple and positive! Right? Besides recalling, you can also use the dog whistles to avoid excessive barking in dogs and for general obedience.
It’s time to put up a containment system for your dog if he likes to go around, chase other animals, or terrify your neighbors’ dogs. We recommend that you utilize the conventional method of containing pets, which is a fence, a physical wooden fence because invisible walls use shock to prevent this behavior in dogs. A wholly enclosed backyard will allow your dog to run about freely while still remaining within the confines of your home. Unless you take him on a walk by yourself, he will not have access to the outside. Outdoor fencing is also quite useful for off-leash training your dog.
Citronella collars are the type of spray collars that function by spraying citronella on the face of the dog whenever he tries to show an unwanted response. It is actually the smell of citronella that will deter the dog from that response. These have been specially designed to prevent excessive barking in dogs. Although not all spray collars are safe for dogs as some contain toxic chemicals, the ingredients and their respective concentrations used in citronella collars are considered safe for canine use.
According to research at the Animal Behavior Clinic at Cornell’s College of Veterinary Medicine, Citronella dog collars appear to be much more successful for behavior correction than electric shock collars. In addition, they are a more humane way of training pets as compared to all other aversive collars. Especially since the different studies have been proving the harmful psychological consequences of electric shock collars on dogs, these collars have grown in favor.
Efficacy of Dog Training With and Without Electronic Collars
To check the efficacy of dog training with and without electronic collars, research was conducted by the scientists at the University of Lincoln. A total of 63 dogs were included in the study, all of which needed to be trained. The goal of the training was to improve the recall and general obedience of these dogs. The dogs were grouped into three categories, each consisting of 21 dogs. One was the experimental group which was to be trained through E-collars under the supervision of manufacturer-nominated trainers. The second group was the Control group 1, which was to be trained by the same professionals but without using electric collars. Finally, the third group was the Control group 2, which was to be trained by professional trainers who employed only positive methods of training based on rewards.
All the three categories of dogs were trained for 5 days through a training session of 150 minutes each day. The two most common commands for which the results were recorded included “Come” and “Sit,” with the former one being the major target to improve recall. The efficacy was determined on the basis of the frequency of commands and the response latency for each group of dogs. The results of the research were somewhat like this:
- Control group 2: Showed significant improvement in behavior even on the first instruction. The shortest response latencies were shown by the dogs of this group. Used least cues and hand signals.
- Control group 1: Required greater frequency of commands as compared to group 2. Showed comparatively longer latency periods. Made more use of cues and hand signals.
- Experimental group or E-collar group: This group gave the largest number of commands to this group. Showed longer latency periods. Made less use of cues and hand signals.
These results clearly showed that the efficacy of training in dogs trained through reward-based methods was greater than in those trained using shock collars, as the dogs of control group 2 learned more quickly than the other dogs. Moreover, there is no evidence supporting the need for E-collars for dog training.
Veterinarians and dog behaviorists don’t recommend the use of shock collars for dog training. In fact, many organizations and teams of veterinary experts are against their use. Many of them have also demanded a complete ban on the unregulated selling of these collars. The biggest concern is associated with the misuse of the shock collars putting the animal welfare at risk. These are aversive tools for training that inflict pain and stress on dogs, causing them physical and mental harm.
The proper use of E-collars is not as harmful as its misuse. This is why the absence of regulation in the use and selling of shock collars is what worries us the most. We believe these collars should only be sold by behaviorists or veterinarians themselves to ensure quality and should be used by expert trainers only in order to prevent fear, discomfort, and harm. Moreover, people should spread awareness about using reward-based training methods to create a healthy learning atmosphere for pets.