The results of a recent study have revealed that the immediate effects of training pet dogs with an electronic collar cause behavioural signs of distress, particularly when used at high settings.
The results have been published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal PLOS One.
There are arguments for and against the use of electronic training collars (or e-collars), with groups on both sides having a real concern about dog welfare and wanting to do what is best for their pet.
Nevertheless, limited studies have been conducted on the use of e-collars in the pet population. Academics at the University of Lincoln investigated the performance and welfare consequences of training dogs in the field with manually operated electronic devices.
The research followed a preliminary study using a small sample of dogs that had largely been referred for training because of chasing sheep. Results showed changes in dogs’ behaviour during training, which were consistent with pain or aversion, as well as increased salivary cortisol indicating increased arousal.
However, these trainers did not follow training guidelines published by collar manufacturers so a larger study involving industry approved trainers was conducted to assess if training collars can be effectively used to improve obedience without compromising dog welfare.
The new study involved 63 pet dogs referred for poor recall and related problems, including livestock worrying, which are the main reasons for collar use in the UK. The dogs were split into three groups — one using e-collars and two as control groups.
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