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A study compares electronic collars to positive training.

A recent study suggesting that the use of electronic collars on dogs causes distress will do little to close the divide between impassioned opponents and advocates of the devices. [-collars allow trainers and owners to administer a shock of varying intensity to a dog's neck through remote control.

Many manufacturers say the collars, originally introduced to train gun dogs in the field, can safely prevent undesirable or dangerous behaviors on low settings. Some explicitly advise against using them to control barking. In contrast, the Humane Society of the U.S.

says, "The least humane and most controversial use of the shock collar is as a training device. There is a greater chance for abuse (delivery of shocks as punishment) or misuse (poor timing of shocks)."

Now animal behaviorists at the University of Lincoln in the U.K., in carefully guarded language, say their research has found "greater welfare concerns around the use of so-called shock collars than with positive, reward-based training."

The researchers took 63 pet dogs who had poor recall (response to coming when called) and related problems, including livestock worrying (chasing), which are the main reasons for collar use in the UK, the university says. They divided the dogs into three groups--one using e-collars and two groups as controls using positive training.

The result: 92 percent of all owners said their dogs problem behavior improved. "There was no significant difference in reported efficacy across groups," the researchers say. However, dogs trained with the e-collars spent significantly more time being tense, yawning more often--which can be a sign of stress--and had less interaction with their environment.

"It seems that the routine use of e-collars, even in accordance with best practice, as suggested by collar manufacturers, presents a risk to the well-being of pet dogs," I lead author Jonathan J. Cooper, Ph.D., professor of animal behavior and welfare at the University of Lincoln's School of Life Sciences, concludes in the journal PLOS One. "E-collar training did not result in a substantially superior response to training."

Nor did it seem to be a hit with owners of dogs trained with the collars. They were less confident about applying the training to their dogs, Dr. Cooper says.

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Title Annotation:SHORT TAKES
Publication:Dog Watch
Date:Dec 1, 2014
Words:366
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