Updated: Feb 19, 2022
Paraphrased from a blog by Don Hanson.
The current scientific data, in addition to the moral and ethical concerns about mental and physical damage to animals subjected to methods using force, fear and/or pain have moved a number of representing professional organizations to advocate for the use of humane training techniques founded on evidence-based learning theories and avoid training methods or devices which employ coercion, pain, force and/or fear (Tudge & Nilson, 2016).
These include, but are not limited to:
- American Animal Hospital Association guidelines oppose aversive training techniques, noting that they can harm or even destroy an animal’s trust in his or her owner, negatively impact the pet’s problem-solving ability, and cause increased anxiety in the animal. The AAHA has published Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines which supports reward-based training.
- Canadian Veterinary Medical Association strongly discourages aversives as they "may cause fear, distress, anxiety, pain or physical injury to the dog.”
- British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals states that "aversive, punishment-based techniques may alter behaviour, but the methods fail to address the underlying cause and, in the case of unwanted behaviour, can lead to undue anxiety, fear, distress, pain or injury.”
- The British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA) “recommends against the use of electronic shock collars and other aversive methods for the training and containment of animals [... as they] may not only be acutely stressful, painful and frightening for the animals, but may also produce long term adverse effects on behavioural and emotional responses."
- British Small Animal Veterinary Association states that the use of devices such as electronic collars [...] is open to potential abuse and incorrect use of such training aids has the potential to cause welfare and training problems. BVA has consulted with experts and examined the evidence. Studies showed that the application of electric stimulus, even at a low level, can cause physiological and behavioral responses associated with stress, pain and fear.
- New Zealand Veterinary Association states that "The use of pain to train dogs is no more acceptable or humane when it is administered by remote control, than if it was delivered as a physical blow such as a punch or kick.”
- European Society of Veterinary Clinical Ethology states that “E-collar training is associated with numerous well documented risks concerning dog health, behavior and welfare" and encourages "promoting positive dog welfare and a humane, ethical and moral approach to dog training at all times.”
In addition to these professional bodies, several countries, including England, Wales, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Slovenia, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland, the province of Quebec in Canada, and the states of New South Wales, South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) in Australia, have already banned electronic stimulation devices. Under recent amendments to ACT animal welfare legislation, anyone who places an electric shock device, such as a shock collar, on an animal, will attract a maximum penalty of AU$16,000 [$11,000] and a year’s imprisonment. In Scotland, “strict guidance” has been published by the Scottish Parliament which provides “advice on training methods and training aids for dogs, with particular focus on the welfare issues that may arise from the use of aversive methods including e-collars. It highlights the potential consequences of the misuse of aversive training aids, including possible legal consequences.”
I'm not expecting anyone to take Don's word, or my word, in opposition to the use of shock collars. But one should really ask themselves: if there's nothing wrong with them, why are there so many professional organizations making public statements in opposition? Maybe reviewing data will shed more light on the topic. In the next blog, we'll delve into what science has to say about all this.