June 23, 2018

Study Shows No Credible Scientific Evidence Justifying Electronic Shock Collars

A new survey of pet owners in France describes the injurious effects of electronic collars and provides recommendations for future regulations.
By Kerry Lengyel
Austria, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Norway, Slovenia, Scotland, Sweden, Wales, and some parts of Australia all currently have a ban on electronic collars for dogs. Animal activists have been attempting to issue a Europe-wide ban on their sale and use, while no movement on a ban has been created in the United States.

But according to a new study published in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior, “there is no credible scientific evidence to justify electronic collar use and the use of spray collars or electronic fences for dogs.”

The study considers 3 types of electronic collars: anti-bark collars that give a shock when the dog barks, electronic boundary fences that give a shock when the dog crosses the boundary, and remote-controlled collars that give a shock at the will of the pet owner.

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Through an online questionnaire, 1251 dog owners from France—a country without any regulations on the use of electronic collars—responded. Of those, 26% reported that they did use 1 of the 3 types of electronic collars.

According to the questionnaire results, anti-bark collars appeared to be the least efficient and the most injurious device. Remote-controlled collars also appeared to be used mainly for pet owner convenience.

The responses outlined the reasons why pet owners may use these electronic collars, including wanting fast results, they tried it on themselves and it didn’t hurt much, they think the risks are lower in the long-term than other alternatives, and that they are cheaper than hiring a dog trainer or behaviorist.

As a rebuttal, the study’s authors provided scientific evidence to counter each of these reasons. For example:
  • Human skin and dog skin are vastly different, which can cause the shock to feel much more intense to a dog.
  • Studies show that using shock may result in increased fear, aggression, or learned helplessness.
  • People who use shock collars may end up paying even more money on a dog trainer or behaviorist if using the collar affects the human-animal relationship or the welfare of the dog.
  • One study showed a higher risk of escape associated with electronic fences compared to physical fences.

But the No. 1 defense mentioned in the study is the fact that dog welfare is put at higher risk when electronic collars are used.

According to the study’s authors, these factors should all be taken into account to determine precise regulations across Europe and other countries where bans are not in place.

“Furthermore, this study shows the urgency to regulate this tool in Europe because dangers of use, which were already known, are proven to be aggravated in real-life situations,” the authors wrote.

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