This is an extremely emotive topic and causes arguments, personal attacks on individuals, bullying, and in some cases death threats, which seems absolutely crazy to me. I 100% stand in the camp that wouldn’t use an E-Collar to train a dog. It doesn’t mean I don’t know how they work, but I agree I am not an expert in their use, and I would never want to be. I don’t think I am a better human than people who use an E-Collar. I do know you would be very very hard pressed to change my mind and would need to show me scientific evidence that using an E-Collar would be beneficial and not harmful to the dog. I don’t automatically believe that people who use a shock collar are mean or don’t love dogs. I would even be happy sit down with some people who use a shock collar to discuss dog training. I have an acquaintance who might use a shock collar, and I still believe they have value as a dog trainer although I don’t agree with these type of tools or their use. Aside for the use of e-collars I believe there are areas where we agree on dog training.
E-Collars. Shock Collars. Training Collars. Whatever you want to call them it amounts to the same thing. They are designed to cause an unpleasant stimulus to the wearer to either stop a behaviour or obtain a specific behaviour. Those who say it doesn’t cause pain, or discomfort, or an unpleasant stimulus are wrong. I don’t often out rightly say people are wrong so I don’t take this lightly – it has to cause something unpleasant to the dog for it to work.
There is 100% science to say using a shock collar to train a dog works. Sadly there is no denying that BUT what about the welfare of the dog and is using an aversive as effective as positive reinforcement training methods.
Studies have shown that positive reinforcement training is more effective at modifying undesirable behaviour than using an E-Collar and the efficacy of positive reinforcement was better than when either an e-collar, or a mixed training method was used.
The argument around the use of E-Collars often includes stopping undesirable behaviours particularly around highly motivating behaviours such as chasing wildlife. In one study it showed that the behaviours come and sit were obeyed on the first command more often in the positive reinforcement training than when other training methods were used. This suggests that recall is trained more effectively via positive reinforcement than with the use of an E-Collar.
Use of an aversive tool raises the issue of welfare. In surveys comparing training methods, owners who used positive punishment or negative reinforcement were more likely to report aggression in their dog.
Researchers also found that dogs which have been trained using negative reinforcement are more likely to display stress related, and avoidance behaviours. It was also noticed these dogs were less likely to look at their owners than those trained via positive reinforcement.
Use of E-collars has been shown to cause an increase in the behavioural signs of distress, which increases as the device settings are increased. In addition, dogs who are trained with either aversive or mixed (aversive and positive) training methods showed greater increases in cortisol levels in salvia after training than dogs trained entirely with rewards. This study concluded that it is better for the welfare of the dog to avoid training with aversive tools.
I will never put an E-Collar, Invisible Boundary Collar, or Bark Collar on one of my dogs or a client’s dog. I will not sell E-Collars, Bark Collars, or Invisible Boundary systems on a dog no matter the profit margin or demand.