Evidence on How Shock Collars Negatively Affect Dogs

Evidence on How Shock Collars Negatively Affect Dogs

Evidence on How Shock Collars Negatively Affect DogsIn a not so shocking results of a study, it was revealed that the immediate effects of training your dogs with an electronic shock collar can potentially cause behavioral signs of distress in canines. It was also observed that this will be especially true if shock collars are used on a higher setting.

It’s time dog owners reconsider what have been known to us as a safe method of training your canines as more evidence emerges on the negative effects of using these training electric collars on dogs. Results of the new study have been published in the PLoS One journal [1].

CompanionAnimalPsychology blog have previously written an interesting piece on the possible end of shock collars for training canines, and a Canadian site BanShockCollars have compiled a good deal of various related studies on the subject.

Now the research from a few months back, which was conducted by animal behavior specialists at the University of Lincoln, England indicates that, in the sample of dogs studied, there are greater welfare concerns around the use of so-called “shock collars” than with positive reward-based training.

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.

Study on shock collars for training dogs

Cynology Evidence on How Shock Collars Negatively Affect Dogs
Training dogs with shock collars has no superior response compared to regular training collars / Photo credit: Maja Dumat

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’ behavior 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.

Trainers used lower settings with a pre-warning function and behavioral responses were less marked than during the preliminary study. Despite this, dogs trained with e-collars showed behavioral changes that were consistent with a negative response. These included showing more signs of tension, more yawning and less time engaged in environmental interaction than the control dogs.

Following training most owners reported improvements in their dog’s problem behavior. Owners of dogs trained using e-collars were, however, less confident of applying the training approach demonstrated. These findings indicate that there is no consistent benefit to be gained from e-collar training, but greater welfare concerns compared with positive reward-based training.

Lead author Jonathan Cooper, Professor of Animal Behaviour and Welfare at the University of Lincoln’s School of Life Sciences, said:

“E-collar training did not result in a substantially superior response to training in comparison to similarly experienced trainers who do not use e-collars to improve recall and control chasing behavior. Accordingly, it seems that the routine use of e-collars even in accordance with best practice, as suggested by collar manufacturers, presents a risk to the well-being of pet dogs. The scale of this risk would be expected to be increased when practice falls outside of this ideal,” said Jonathan Cooper, lead author of the study and Professor of Animal Behaviour and Welfare at the University of Lincoln’s School of Life Sciences



  1. Jonathan J. Cooper, Nina Cracknell, Jessica Hardiman, Hannah Wright, Daniel Mills. The Welfare Consequences and Efficacy of Training Pet Dogs with Remote Electronic Training Collars in Comparison to Reward Based Training. PLoS ONE, 2014; 9 (9): e102722 doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0102722

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