Electric Shock Collars Banned in Wales

by Gajan Retnasaba on May 9, 2010

Using and selling electric Shock collars was banned in Wales this year because of concern for cruelty to animals. This from the BBC.

The use of electric shock collars to train dogs or cats is to be banned in Wales, the assembly government announced. The ban, which would be the first of its kind in the UK, is subject to the approval of assembly members.

The move has been supported by animal welfare groups, who said pain and fear were not humane training methods.

The RSPCA said it was a “great day for animal welfare in Wales” and the Kennel Club said it was a “huge milestone”.

The collars are sometimes used to train dogs and cats by giving an electric shock when the animal is deemed to have behaved badly.

Rural Affairs Minister, Elin Jones, said: “This has not been an easy subject to examine.

“There is genuinely a large degree of concern about how these devices are improperly used, in contrast to responses from people who have used them and found they have worked in stopping an animal from misbehaving. However, the Welsh Assembly Government takes animal welfare very seriously and I am confident that the approach I am announcing will go a long way to promote the welfare of dogs and cats in Wales.”

Most responses to the consultations were said to support a ban on electronic training devices.

Electric dog fence, are rarely used outside of the United States, but are beginning to get traction in Europe, and Australia. This ban was instituted with remote activated training collars, like the one on the IUC-5100 in mind, rather than dog containment systems. So with that in mind, this blog post is going to focus on training collars, although similar arguments apply to both.

There are definitely some people that misuse training collars. I have

Opponents to electric training collars really fall into three camps.

The minority are those that think (of feel) anything that causes a dog pain is inherently wrong – these people would say it does not matter what the benefits are, there is no circumstance under which you should deliberately do something that is going to cause a dog any distress should be unlawful. I think this is a fringe position, and is not really tenable. We do lots of things to our dogs that cause major discomfort, pain and suffering – much worse than a correction from a shock collar, in order for some greater good. Most people get their dog’s vaccinated, will get an operation if the dog needs it, and will castrate their dog. These things are all clearly unpleasant for the dog, but as a society we condone them – even encourage them because they serve a greater good.

The second objection, is that negative training such as electric training collars produce no benefits. That shocking the dog is not a helpful way of training. Again, this is a fringe position – there is certainly a lot of anecdotal evidence of instances where an electric training collar helped. Nearly all hunting dogs are trained with an electric training collar, and I would venture that those that do not use training collars use some other negative training as part of the training. It would be very surprising if negative training did not work at all, after all if it did not work – nobody would do it. It certainly stands to reason that if you want to stop a dog doing something, pairing the action to a negative consequence would lead in most cases to the dog stopping. This is just basic operant conditioning.

The third objection, is that while electric training collars may work, there are better less intrusive ways of training a dog – with positive reward based training usually sited as a better alternative. This is I think the strongest argument. There are lots of good positive training methods, such as clicker training or using treats. These methods work well for most dogs in most situations. What critics miss, is that there are however some problems which even with wonderful training are very hard to fix without some sort of negative consequence in addition. No dog owner wants to shock their dog. For example, in some dogs excessive barking is very difficult to stop without using some sort of negative stimulus to make the dog associate – there are a lot of positive training techniques you can try – but there is population of dogs for whom all these things will fail.

These stubborn problems like barking, escaping fences, and chasing can put a dog in danger. They also make a dog difficult for the owners to keep which increases their risk of being placed for adoption, abandon, or worse. We think that correction collars, used intelligently, give another chance to these dogs and owners to work on these stubborn issues.

All that said, we are dog lovers and very sympathetic to people trying to stop unnecessary suffering to dogs. There are definitely people that misuse remote correction, usually out of ignorance or frustration. We would propose a more targeted approach – perhaps one idea would be to only allow remote training for those licensed or under the supervision of a licensed trainer.

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