Pet Shock Collars – Are They Banned?

 

It seems incredulous to think that the UK has still not imposed a ban on these devices used to train animals – namely pet dogs. Proposed legislation on this issue has not been forthcoming. This, despite the announcement last year (2023) that shock collars would be banned in the UK by February 2024. Animal welfare campaigners are calling on the Government not to do a U turn on this ban. Holidays4Dogs finds out more.

Wales imposed a ban on these collars back in 2010 – so, the UK lags far behind in terms of improving animal welfare. There are eight other European countries who have made shock collars illegal, as well as three states in Australia.

The issue of shock collars is once again on the political agenda. However, while regulations have been passed by the House of Lords, they have yet to be read in the House of Commons. Therefore, as yet, it is not a statutory instrument of law. You can read the draft item legislation here.

In August this year, the British Veterinary Association were calling on vets to keep up the pressure to ensure the government demonstrates solid commitment to banning e-collars.

What are electric shock collars?

E-collars are operated by remote control. The operator can ‘stim’ the dog with a static shock at varying levels. Many manufacturers and some trainers, maintain the dog never actually receives an ‘electric shock’, but rather a static sensation, akin to walking on nylon carpet.

Some collars emit various levels of vibrations. Others omit noxious substances such as citronella or, blasts of air, directly under the dog’s nose. These collars are currently available for anyone to buy, which has long been of great concern to animal welfare organisations.

How do shock collars work in dog training?

The e-collar is designed to produce an unpleasant (aversive) sensation, said to discourage un-desirable behaviour in the dog. The collar is operated by remote control, at a distance, and is typically used in cases of predatory behaviour such as livestock chasing. They are also used in cases of excessive barking, whereby the dog receives a shock each time it barks. In the U.S. shock collars are frequently used to train hunting dogs.

Historically, the use of aversive methods was the most common way to train dogs.

Why do people still use these devices to train dogs?

Many complain positive dog training has gone too far because they believe there must always be some form of ‘punishment’. Nevertheless, professionals – including veterinary organisations – wholeheartedly believe there is too much scope for animal abuse surrounding the use of shock collars.

Many novice dog handlers may believe these collars offer an easy, ‘quick-fix’, for their dog’s undesirable behaviours. However, surveys have shown that many users have poor understanding of how to use these devices and very little awareness of dog behaviour principles.

Many ‘old-school’ trainers, both here and abroad, favour this type of aversive training – largely because its the way they learned how to train dogs in the past. The armed forces/military have historically trained dogs using aversive techniques as a means of quickly training animals to respond. Many people do not care to take the time to learn new ways of training. Other’s pooh-pooh force-free training as being too soft and believe, therefore, it cannot achieve effective results.

However, in recent decades experts have developed a better understanding of how dogs learn and, as a result, there has been much more focus on reward-based training.

Why are campaigners calling for the ban on shock collars?

Numerous experts are critical of this method of training. Not least because, e-collars can cause physical pain, as well as, psychological harm. In addition, these devices can potentially cause more behaviour issues than there were present in the first place.

Indeed, research has shown that, dogs trained with shock collars display more negative responses than dogs trained by positive methods. In addition, studies have proved that reward based non-aversive training methods work equally as well.

Given the vast inroads and understanding of positive training methods and our increasing knowledge of dog behaviour, there is no justifiable reason to employ this outdated method of dog training. E-collars can so easily cause more harm than good.

Dogs Trust are one of many experts who concur that positive methods of dog training are much more successful than e-collars, in comparative studies of outcomes between the two approaches. As a result, they would like to see shock collars banned in the UK.

In 2018, Dogs Trust released the following YouTube video as part of their #ShockinglyLegal Campaign. The aim was to further press Government to ban the sale and use of electric shock collars. Five years later, efforts are still going on by lobbyists to make this happen, but there has been a worrying lack of progress in recent months.

At the time of writing – (June 2024) – Holidays4Dogs could find no further information regarding the proposed ban on shock collars. We will update as soon as we find out more.