Friday, January 28, 2011

E-collars and e-pinions

A recent blog post by a veterinarian/behaviorist has garnered quite a bit of attention in the online dog training realm. This post discusses an article published in 2004 that claims to investigate whether electronic "shock" collars are painful for dogs:

This blog post has been a topic of discussion in several dog-related forums that I follow, and many have pointed out some of the flaws of the research. My main issue with this article is that it seems to be studying the improper and extreme use of e-collars--that is, what they are describing is the first thing that people are told *not* to do with an e-collar--and using it to condemn any and all use.  All in all, I wish they'd done this study with less bias and a little more training sense--I'd find it far more useful.

gathered a few links that give additional information and/or critiques of the original article.

Here's a good critique of the study:

A little more "heated" critique can be found here:

But what I found really interesting was this link to some additional info about research that has been done on the (lack of) physical harm an e-collar can cause--from the Handbook of applied dog behavior and training, a textbook on applied behavioralism, by Steven R. Lindsay.

This is an issue that polarizes dog trainers, and it is hard to find unbiased information. For many people, the issue is black and white, and it has become politicized by those who would like to see all electronic training collars banned (as happened in Wales in 2010).

I've seen dogs' lives improved  by the careful use of these collars, cases where dogs are permitted freedoms they might not otherwise get, for example, in a yard with an invisible fence (although invisible fences have significant issues that owners must be aware of!) or getting to accompany someone on a long horseback ride or stopping a dog from chasing horses and getting his skull kicked in or preventing a dog from dashing into traffic. Some trainers have found the pulse/vibrate feature on some electronic collars to be invaluable in training distance communication with deaf dogs; other trainers have found that the vibrate feature interrupts the unhealthy behavioral loops of some dogs who are scared and aggressive with new people.

But it's also true that these collars have been overused and abused and over-recommended and inappropriately handled--and dogs have suffered for it. But the same can be said of a leash.


Country Girl said...

Thanks for a thoughtful post. I've long believed that how cruel or effective any tool is, is dependent on the hands of the human controling it. A cane or simple rope could be as vicious or damaging as the e-collar. In my humble opinion...

Sandra said...

If I pinch a dog hard enough he'll yelp. If I pinch a human hard enough he'll yelp too.

Seriously, I don't think their pain tolerance is any harder than ours. If we put an e-collar around our neck and push the button we'll see ourself how bad it is. I am pretty darn sure that it'll be just as painful as it is for the dogs.

I honestly don't like them. They can do a lot of damage in the wrong hands and I don't want to use them on my dogs...ever. Just seen to many people that misused them.