Is an electronic collar a good choice to train a dog who is demonstrating behavior that might lead to his owner surrendering him to a shelter? Not according to a recent UK study, which found dogs trained with e-collars demonstrated signs of stress not seen in dogs trained with positive methods:
The new study involved 63 pet dogs referred for poor recall and related problems, including livestock worrying, which are the main reasons for collar use in the UK. The dogs were split into three groups – one using e-collars and two as control groups.
Trainers used lower settings with a pre-warning function and behavioural responses were less marked than during the preliminary study. Despite this, dogs trained with e-collars showed behavioural changes that were consistent with a negative response. These included showing more signs of tension, more yawning and less time engaged in environmental interaction than the control dogs.
Following training, most owners reported improvements in their dog’s problem behaviour. Owners of dogs trained using e-collars were, however, less confident of applying the training approach demonstrated.
These findings indicate that there is no consistent benefit to be gained from e-collar training, but greater welfare concerns compared with positive reward-based training.
Jonathan J. Cooper, Nina Cracknell, Jessica Hardiman, Hannah Wright, Daniel Mills. The Welfare Consequences and Efficacy of Training Pet Dogs with Remote Electronic Training Collars in Comparison to Reward Based Training. PLoS ONE, 2014; 9 (9): e102722 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0102722