There is overwhelming evidence to suggest that training animals using positive reward-based training is not only better for animal welfare, but 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, in particular, as a fast and humane training method.
They can be easily purchased on the Internet from well-known brands, and the latest models even connect 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.
Research commissioned by the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has shown that, perhaps unsurprisingly, many dogs show signs of stress when fitted with an ESC .
They also show signs of pain, with lots of barking when they feel an electric shock.
And recent research from the University of Lincoln has shown that using ESCs 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 using ESCs, and the other two groups acted as a “control” without using ESCs.
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 enacted in the UK “in due course”.
But what about the Isle of Man? Our animal welfare law is expected to finally make its way through Tynwald this year, and once the law is in place, it will allow ‘by-laws’ to be drafted.
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’re 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 training device. human.
We need to make the use of ESCs morally unacceptable on the Isle of Man, and not just wait for legislation to come into force.
Training relatively affordable dogs is one thing, but training a cat is notoriously difficult, and there is a high likelihood 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 on hand to advise and support pet owners, and this week they were expertly assisted in the cattery office by a new receptionist, Avon.
He is very talkative and eager to please – a true “human person” – and he very much enjoys sitting in a chair and watching visitors come and go.
His keyboard skills, however, leave a lot to be desired and so he really needs a new job, one that involves being 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 medication.
He will need a calm and stress free environment where he can enjoy being the best cat and the center of attention.