Join our daily dog discussions

Shock tactics

Shock tactics

The Scottish Government’s decision to regulate, rather than ban, the use of shock collars for the training of dogs, has sent shock waves through the dog world.

Welfare, training, and behavioural organisations across the UK have reacted with dismay, and MSP Maurice Golden has launched an online petition in a bid to get the collars banned.

You can read the full story about the Scottish Government’s decision and the reaction to it in this month’s Your Dog Magazine.

CLICK HERE to sign Maurice Golden’s petition.

And see below for more reaction from some of the UK’s leading professional organisations:

Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA)

Scottish SPCA chief superintendent Mike Flynn says: “As Scotland’s animal welfare charity, the Scottish SPCA believes that any training or control device that can inflict pain on an animal, from which it has no means of escape, should not be used or offered for sale; therefore we are opposed to the sale and use of electric shock collars.

“We can see no reason why they should be allowed for sale to the public, given that the Home Office banned their use by trained military and police personnel almost a decade ago.”

Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors (APBC)

The use of positive punishment (adding something to stop a behaviour) only works if the thing you add is sufficiently aversive to have any effect. If it isn’t aversive enough it won’t work, thus the use of a shock collar is going to cause welfare issues for the dog however you dress it up. Research shows ‘there is no consistent benefit to be gained from e-collar training, but greater welfare concerns compared with positive reward- based training’, so why use one?

An aversive technique such as a shock collar (‘stimulus collar’ is a term which attempts to hoodwink the public about how these devices work) will only be effective in preventing unwanted behaviours if you make it so unpleasant that the dog feels pain and thinks: ‘I won’t do that again’. If that is the result, is the Scottish Government seriously proposing to teach people how to abuse dogs using these devices?

Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT)

The Association of Pet Dog Trainers does not believe that it is necessary to use electric shock collars in training.  The term ‘stimulus’ sounds quite gentle, but if the stimulus doesn’t startle or shock the dog then it will not work. The time it takes for the anxiety to subside after the shock/startle varies, but however long it takes, it starts with fear. How the dog reacts following a shock varies — some might ‘shut down’, become lethargic and disinterested in their owners; others might become aggressive. There is no way of knowing how a dog will react until it is used.  

One of the things claimed by the supporters of shock collars is that the shock is not associated with the handler. That might sound like good news. But what might the dog associate that sensation with? Possibly it will associate the sensation with whatever it is looking at, which might be a person, an animal, or the owner. If the dog’s reaction is aggression, who is it going to be directed at? Again, there is no way of knowing until it is used. Why would you risk it?

Even if these risks did not exist why would anyone want to frighten their dog in order to train them? It is just not necessary. There are training methods available which (a) will work and (b) will maintain, and hopefully improve, the relationship between dog and owner.”

Also see the Pet Professional Guild (PPG).

COAPE Association of Pet Behaviourists and Trainers (CAPBT)

Using fear and pain under the guise of training is tantamount to abuse and CAPBT is surprised that, despite the evidence, the Scottish Government is considering regulation and developing a course to qualify people in the use of shock collars.

The Animal Welfare Act 2006 is clear: Section 4 (1) states that a person commits an offence if an act of his causes an animal to suffer, that he knew, or ought reasonably to have known, that the act would have that effect or be likely to do so, and that the suffering was unnecessary.

Evidence presented at the meeting at the Scottish Parliament scientifically demonstrated that the use of such devices causes suffering. Positive reward-based trainers are regularly achieving success in the worst-case scenarios and therefore the use of such devices is unnecessary, and the suffering caused by them is also unnecessary.

If the government pursues the development of a SVQ in the use of electronic devices, it would not only be qualifying individuals to break this law, but we would argue that the Ministers themselves are also breaking it as their actions (in developing the course) are empowering others to causing unnecessary suffering.

Battersea Dogs & Cats Home (BDCH)

Battersea has long called for a complete ban on the use of electric shock collars and devices on dogs. These devices enforce behaviour through fear and suffering, and we believe that this can never be justified. Positive reinforcement techniques are both more caring and more effective at making long-term behaviour changes. At Battersea, we see some of the most challenging dogs come through our gates and yet we are achieving outstanding long-lasting results without ever using electric shocks. Our expert behaviourists know that there is no justification on training grounds for this suffering.

Battersea is disappointed that the Scottish Government has not chosen to completely ban the use of these barbaric devices, which cause pain, unnecessary suffering, and confusion to dogs. Simply tightening the regulations around the use of electric shock collars is not enough to end the physical and psychological pain inflicted on dogs from these devices. Battersea therefore urges the Scottish Government to reconsider its position and take action towards a complete ban, just as the Welsh Government did in 2010.