There is overwhelming evidence to suggest that training animals using positive reward-based training is not only better for animal welfare, it also produces more effective and lasting results. .
It is therefore all the more surprising that electric shock collars (ESCs) are still marketed as training aids and falsely sold to dog owners, especially as a quick and humane training method.
They can be easily purchased on the Internet from well-known brands, and the latest models can even be connected to smartphones.
They are legally available in England and the Isle of Man, but they are banned in Wales and will soon be in Scotland.
When installed, the ESC delivers an electric shock via a remote control or an automatic trigger such as a dog bark.
The theory is that after receiving a shock, the dog is more likely to do what is asked of it.
Research commissioned by the UK Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has shown that, perhaps unsurprisingly, many dogs show signs of stress when fitted with a CES .
They also show signs of pain, with numerous barking sounds when they feel an electric shock.
And recent research from the University of Lincoln has shown that using CES to train dogs doesn’t work and that “positive reinforcement” is a better tool.
More than 60 dogs with “ off-leash behavior problems’ ‘were involved in the study which focused on the dogs’ ability to respond to “ come’ ‘and “ sit’ ‘commands.
The dogs were divided into three training groups and received up to 150 minutes of training over five days to improve recall and obedience.
The first group saw manufacturer-appointed dog trainers use CES, and the other two groups acted as a “control” without using CES.
The researchers measured how many times an order had to be given before a dog would do as it was asked, and how long it took for the dog to obey the order given to it.
The team found that trainers using positive reinforcement saw a significantly better response to these commands than those using ESC.
DEFRA says it is committed to banning ESCs for dogs and cats and that this will be implemented in the UK “in due course”.
But what about the Isle of Man? Our animal welfare law should finally make its way into the Tynwald this year, and once the law is in place, it will make it possible to write ‘orders’.
Such an ordinance could prohibit the use of ESCs.
In the meantime, what can we do?
If you come across a dog wearing an ESC (they are usually quite large with a witness box attached), encourage their owner to speak to their vet, or us, about the effectiveness of ESC as a human training tool. .
We must make the use of ESCs morally unacceptable on the Isle of Man and not just wait for the legislation to come into force.
Training relatively accessible dogs is one thing, but training a cat is notoriously difficult and it is very likely that an ESC will cause confusion and stress, and perhaps even exacerbate unwanted behaviors such as wandering, spraying or scraping furniture.
Our cattery team is here to give advice and support to pet owners, and this week they have been well helped in the cattery office by a new receptionist, Avon.
He is very talkative and eager to please – a real “celebrity” – and he very much enjoys sitting on a chair watching visitors come and go.
However, his keyboard skills leave a lot to be desired and so he really needs a new job which is to be someone’s companion and staunch friend.
Avon has had some health issues, so he won’t be ready to move to his new home for a few weeks after he finishes his treatment.
He will need a calm and stress free environment where he can enjoy being the best cat and the center of attention.
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