Effect of pet training aids, specifically remote static pulse systems, on the welfare of domestic dogs: field study of dogs in training

Cooper, Jonathan and Cracknell, Nina and Hardiman, Jessica and Mills, Daniel (2010) Effect of pet training aids, specifically remote static pulse systems, on the welfare of domestic dogs: field study of dogs in training. Project Report. DEFRA.

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Abstract

This proposal aims to assess the welfare of dogs trained with pet training aids, specifically remote static pulse collar systems (excluding electric dog fences).
Whilst many dog owners and trainers consider these devices to be valuable training aids, their use is controversial and electronic devices have been banned in several European countries. Critics of remote static pulse training aids (e-collars hereafter) argue that they cause unnecessary pain; and that other methods, such as positive reinforcement training, should be employed to modify dogs’ behaviour. Those in favour of remote static pulse training aids argue that, when applied correctly, they can successfully recondition undesirable behaviour, especially behaviour that is highly motivated and difficult to control using other methods. Evidence of the impact of such devices on dog`s overall quality of life is inconclusive, in terms of both immediate and the longer term effects of the use of electronic training aids. This proposal aims to address these concerns,
assessing the immediate and longer term physiological, behavioural and psychological effects of the use of these devices.
It has been argued that inappropriate use of such devices, for example, failure to link delivery of the re-inforcer with clear conditioning stimuli, or poor timing of response and re-inforcement, could lead to welfare problems.
For this reason it is considered unethical to induce such bad practise experimentally and avoiding exposure of dogs to additional, inappropriate or unavoidable potentially aversive stimuli is a feature of the project. Indeed this would be deemed a Home Office Procedure. The project will therefore sample adult dogs (over 6 months of age) undergoing training by professional trainers. Dogs recruited to the study will have been referred for problems commonly addressed using e-collars (for example livestock worrying) and will be trained by professional trainers in one of three ways; one using e-collars and two control populations where dogs will not
be exposed to e-collars
1. E-collar group: Trainers with experience of use of e-collars, using e-collars as part of their training
programme.
2. Control A: Trainers with experience of use of e-collars, not using e-collars as part of their training
programme.
3. Control B: Trainers who do not normally use e-collars in training, not using e-collars as part of their training
programme.
Behavioural and physiological data that can be used to assess dog’s state will be collected from dogs in training over a five day period to assess immediate impact of exposure to e-collar stimulus in comparison to control groups, as well as adaptation to training protocols. There will also be a follow up assessment of dogs at 3 months post training, to assess long term welfare consequences of training methods and their efficacy

The project had a single aim, namely to assess the impact of use of remote static pulse electric training aids (ecollars)
during the training of dogs in comparison to dogs referred for similar behavioural problems but without ecollar
training. The specific objective was to use appropriate behavioural and physiological measures to make
inferences about the welfare of subjects including their aversion and anxiety during and following training. A
secondary objective was to evaluate the efficacy of treatment and possible explanations for any differences
between treatment groups. These included owner assessment of severity of problem, population characteristics,
trainer factors and temperament of dogs. The study design was developed following consultation with trainers to
ensure a protocol that was representative of advised best practice in use of e-collars. Adult dogs (n=63)
undergoing training by professional trainers were recruited to investigate the welfare consequences of
behavioural modification incorporating e-collars, in comparison to positive reward based training. Dogs had been
referred for problems commonly addressed using e-collars (recall problems and livestock/wildlife worrying) and
were divided into three populations; one using e-collars and two control populations where dogs were not
exposed to e-collars.

Additional Information:AW1402a
Keywords:Dog training aids, e-collars, Animal welfare, Companion animals
Subjects:D Veterinary Sciences, Agriculture and related subjects > D328 Animal Welfare
Divisions:College of Science > School of Life Sciences
ID Code:11256
Deposited On:16 Jul 2013 14:37

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