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Clinical signs caused by the use of electric training collars on dogs in everyday life situations

By E. Schalke, J. Stichnoth, S. Ott, R. Jones-Baade

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The use of electric shock collars for training dogs is the subject of considerable controversy. Supporters claim that they are a reliable means of eliminating self-rewarding behaviour and that they can be used over greater distances and with less risk of stress and injury than mechanical devices, such as choke chains. Opponents cite the risk of incorrect or abusive use and temptation to use electric training collars without thought or time given to alternative training methods, regardless of the fact that their use may be associated with pain and fear. The aim of this study was to investigate whether any stress is caused by the use of electric shock collars or not and in this way to contribute to their evaluation with respect to animal welfare. Fourteen laboratory-bred Beagles were used to ensure standardised breeding, raising and training. Heart rate and saliva cortisol were used as stress parameters. The research project lasted for 7 months, during which each dog was trained for 1.5 h per day. To exclude circadian deviations of salivary cortisol values, each individual was allocated a rigid timeslot. Training as well as the experiments themselves were conducted in a secluded storage building to exclude the influence of external stressors. Three experimental groups were used. Group A (Aversion) received the electric shock when the dogs touched the prey - a rabbit dummy fixed to a motion device. Group H (Here) received the electric shock when they did not obey a previously trained recall command during hunting. Animals of group R (Random) received the electric shock arbitrarily, i.e. the shock was administered unpredictably and out of context. The main experiment lasted for 17 days. All animals were allowed to hunt unimpeded for the first 5 days. For the next 5 days the dogs were stopped from hunting by a leash. Every day, the stress parameters were determined. These values were compared with the values that were obtained during the use of the electric training collars. The collars were used over a period of 7 days as described previously. After 4 weeks the dogs were brought back into the research area without receiving an electric pulse. Group A did not show a significant rise in salivary cortisol levels, while group R and group H did show a significant rise. When the animals were reintroduced to the research area after 4 weeks, the results remained the same. This led to the conclusion that animals, which were able to clearly associate the electric stimulus with their action, i.e. touching the prey, and consequently were able to predict and control the stressor, did not show considerable or persistent stress indicators.

Date 2007
Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 105
Issue 4
Pages 369-380
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
DOI 10.1016/j.applanim.2006.11.002
Language English
Author Address Department of Animal Welfare and Behaviour, Veterinary School of Hannover, Buenteweg 2, 30559 Hannover, Germany.
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal behavior
  2. Animal rights
  3. Animal welfare
  4. Carnivores
  5. Clinical aspects
  6. Cortisol
  7. Dogs
  8. Electricity
  9. Heart rate
  10. Hydrocortisone
  11. Mammals
  12. peer-reviewed
  13. Pets and companion animals
  14. Stress
  15. training of animals
  1. peer-reviewed