Electric Shock Training Collars – illegal for humans but OK for dogs? by Peter Wedderburn


Electric shock training collars – illegal for humans but OK for dogs?

By Peter Wedderburn Last updated: May 8th, 2009

There’s a report today about a father in Oregon who used an electric shock collar on his four children, all less than ten years of age. He’s in custody, charged with “criminal mistreatment” of the children.

My question today is: if it’s not OK to use these in children, why should it be acceptable to use them to train dogs? The video report of the case states that some dog trainers justify their use by saying that “dogs have a higher pain threshold than humans”. This is news to me – how do you think they’ve worked that out? Give a dog an electric shock, then ask the dog “how much does that hurt?” Then compare the dog’s response with a human?

Electric shock collars are used on dogs by some to apply an electric shock to the dog’s neck when a dog behaves incorrectly. The shocks, understandably, cause pain and confusion for the dog, affecting it physically and mentally. There’s no doubt that electric shock collars have a powerful effect, but there’s also no doubt that they’re cruel.

New research published by the University of Pennsylvania has shown that aggressive pets which are trained using confrontational or aversive methods (such as electric shocks) by their owners will continue to be aggressive unless training techniques are modified. The year-long study, which has been published in the February 2009 issue of Applied Animal Behavior Science showed that using non-aversive or neutral training methods such as additional exercise or rewards elicited very few aggressive responses.

The Kennel Club has been campaigning for many years to have the sale and use of electric shock collars banned, and at last, some progress may be about to happen.

The Welsh Rural Affairs Minister, Elin Jones, announced in June 2008 that she intended to ban the use of electric shock training devices, including collars, mats and leads. Since then, the planned legislation has been gradually moving through the system, with an initial consultation period that is drawing to a close later this month. Anyone who wants to make a submission to this consultation needs to visit the Welsh government website before 27th May, where they can review the draft regulations. The Kennel Club is encouraging Welsh dog owners to respond, and to contact their local Assembly Member to ensure that effective legislation is drafted.

It’s well known that pain and fear are not humane methods to train dogs (or humans). Positive, reward-based training methods are both kinder and more effective. Trainers using these methods are able to teach dogs quickly, easily and reliably, with absolutely no fear, pain, or damage to the relationship between the human and the dog.

If you search YouTube, you’ll find plenty of videos featuring humans trying out electric shock collars on themselves. You’ll see they nearly always start off in jest, but end up being seriously upset by the electric shocks. The human response? They take the collar off, something which our unfortunate canine friends are unable to do.

How long until Scotland and England follow the lead of Wales on this? The sooner, the better.