You can still see the streets and squares, dog training shock collar around their necks and owners who try to control them from a distance.
They remind me a bit of small children using remote-controlled cars, with the difference that, in this case, it’s about animals and not objects with “remote control”.
The issue is that there are those who question whether the electric collar for dogs is harmful or not. And I, as a canine behavior professional, have been investigating the subject for some time now.
I’m going to tell you some things that will make you understand why you should not use it. And, if someone disagrees, I invite you to participate in the debate by leaving your comments here.
1- It promotes avoidance behavior, but never cooperation
No alternative learning to the dog is offered. He is only punished for what he has done wrong but he is not taught what else we want him to do instead of what we are punishing him for.
The possibilities of reorienting the behavior that we want to eliminate towards a new one, incompatible with the previous one and that is not annoying for us or dangerous for the animal, disappear.
2- Risk of generating unwanted negative associations
As humans, we are not perfect nor do we always have the gift of immediacy. Therefore, it is possible that more than once we apply the discharge of the electric collar at the wrong time. Because we realized that the dog was eating what was not due to the soil too late, for example. Or because not being by his side we could not see well what he did until after a while since he started.
If we apply the electric shock untimely, the dog may not understand well why we are punishing him. It is possible that he misinterprets the punishment and associates it with something we do not want.
Again I give an example: we applied the discharge to catch our dog in flagrante eating a piece of bread from the ground in the park. But it turns out that, at that precise moment, a child was passing by. Who tells us that the dog will not associate that child, and not the bread, with the punishment? Are we interested in that happening?
3- It does not favor the reflection capacity of the owner
Karen Overall, in one of its editorials for the Journal of Veterinary Behavior, provides another compelling argument to reject the use of the electric collar that I find very interesting and that I fully share.
Overall is positioned against this tool because it does not favor the ability of the owner to reflect.
That is, using the electric collar many times we stop thinking about what we are doing wrong with our dog, if acting otherwise we would get better results, or if we are correctly covering the needs of the animal. With the necklace, we simply concentrate on eliminating “bad behavior” through punishment.
4- The dog obeys only when wearing the electric collar
Since we have not taught him what else we wanted him to do instead of what was wrong, the dog only knows that he does not have to when he wears the electric collar. He has not understood that, in reality, what we want is for him to do something else. So when he’s not wearing it … will he obey us?
5- Deterioration of the bond between us and our dog
Instead of generating a relationship based on trust and cooperation, the electric collar builds a relationship based on fear of punishment.
6- In some dogs, the use of the electric collar leaves visible signs of fear and long-term stress
In a study conducted at the University of Utrecht it was found that the shocks could produce traumatic reactions in some dogs. In fact, one of the animals used in the experiment still behaved as if it were going to receive a shock during the training exercises despite the fact that it had been more than a year and a half that no electric collar was used.
7- It is NOT true that the electric collar is more effective than positive reinforcement
In another study, carried out in the United Kingdom in 2014, it was proved, for the first time, the effect of the use of the electric collar on dogs “of company” and not of work. That is, normal and ordinary dogs and standard owners were used to analyze the actual effectiveness of the electric collar when it comes to improving obedience.
In this case, it was intended to eliminate persecution conducts. They were dogs that chased sheep and other animals when they were taken to the mountain …
For the first time, as I say, a scientific study addressed the effectiveness of the electric collar used by non-expert hands. Which is, after all, the most common situation of using this device.
The conclusion was that there were no real benefits when using an electric collar instead of positive reinforcement when correcting behavior. However, there were greater negative implications for the welfare of the animals.