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Efficacy of Dog Training With and Without Remote Electronic Collars vs. a Focus on Positive Reinforcement

By Lucy China, Daniel S. Mills, Jonathan J. Cooper

Category Journal Articles

We assessed the efficacy of dog training with and without remote electronic collars
compared to training with positive reinforcement. A total of 63 dogs with known
off-lead behavioral problems such as poor recall were allocated to one of three training
groups (each n = 21), receiving up to 150min of training over 5 days to improve
recall and general obedience. The 3 groups were: E-collar—manufacturer-nominated
trainers who used electronic stimuli as part of their training program; Control 1—the
same trainers following practices they would apply when not using electronic stimuli;
and Control 2—independent, professional trainers who focused primarily on positive
reinforcement for their training. Data collection focused on dogs’ response to two
commands: “Come” (recall to trainer) and “Sit” (place hindquarters on ground). These
were the two most common commands used during training, with improving recall
being the target behavior for the subject dogs. Measures of training efficacy included
number of commands given to elicit the response and response latency. Control 2
achieved significantly better responses to both “Sit” and “Come” commands after a single
instruction in the allocated time. These dogs also had shorter response latencies than
the E-collar group. There was no significant difference in the proportion of command
disobeyed between the three groups, although significantly fewer commands were given
to the dogs in Control 2. There was no difference in the number of verbal cues used in
each group, but Control 2 used fewer hand and lead signals, and Control 1 made more
use of these signals than E-collar group. These findings refute the suggestion that training
with an E-collar is either more efficient or results in less disobedience, even in the hands
of experienced trainers. In many ways, training with positive reinforcement was found
to be more effective at addressing the target behavior as well as general obedience
training. This method of training also poses fewer risks to dog welfare and quality of the
human-dog relationship. Given these results we suggest that there is no evidence to
indicate that E-collar training is necessary, even for its most widely cited indication.


Marcy Wilhelm-South

Purdue University

Date 2020
Publication Title Frontiers in Veterinary Science
Volume 7
Pages 11
DOI 10.3389/fvets.2020.00508
Language English
Additional Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal roles
  2. Animal training
  3. Animal welfare
  4. Dogs
  5. Electronics
  6. Mammals
  7. Pets and companion animals
  8. punishment
  9. reinforcement