What's wrong with electric shock dog collars?

What's wrong with electric shock dog collars?

The RSPCA is opposed to the use of electric shock collars, or e-collars, on dogs and, their use is prohibited in other Australian jurisdictions including ACT, NSW and South Australia. 

In WA, current animal welfare regulations state: “a device other than an electric fence that is designed or modified to deliver an electric shock to an animal” is classified as an inhumane device. Why then, would the same piece of legislation permit the use of e-collars on dogs?

Indeed, research with working dog owners across Australia found those who used use e-collars for training had less success with their dogs.

Devices that deliver an electric shock to a dog such as anti-barking collars and invisible boundaries are inhumane because they inflict pain and can be used to abuse animals. RSPCA often receives complaints over dogs allegedly being abused with e-collars.

This type of behavioural modification does not tend to be successful because it fails to address the underlying cause of the behaviour.  Dogs bark for many reasons such as play, fear, separation anxiety, frustration, environmental factors or boredom. These devices will not necessarily solve the underlying cause of the barking and will only temporarily mask the problem.

Scientific evidence shows that dogs will eventually habituate to the collar and barking will resume again. The treatment of nuisance behaviours such as excessive barking should begin by determining the root cause of the problem and then attempting to address the underlying cause humanely.

A study titled Environmental Factors Associated with Success Rates of Australian Stock Herding Dogs looked at various training methods via a Farm Dog Survey which gathered information from 812 herding dog owners around Australia. The owners submitted details for 1,806 of their dogs currently working, 864 dogs they had most recently dismissed and 1,357 dogs they had most recently retired.

The results found only 7% of owners used e-collars to train their working dogs. And, those who did had a below average success rate long term with their working dogs compared to those who did not use e-collars.  

Interestingly, the study also found that the more money owners were prepared to spend to save their working dogs in the event of illness or injury, the more success they had with the dogs they acquired for stock work.

You can read the full research paper here

In the next issue of Livestock Welfare Matters, we’ll look at enclosures or kennels and how they impact on working dog performance.

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