Let’s imagine that I was training your dog’s unruly behaviour and I suggested the use of an electric shock collar, would you be happy? According to a recent survey conducted by the Kennel club 73% of us would disagree. Surprisingly it seems that the Scottish Government is now actually promoting or at least condoning the use of electric shock to train dogs.
This issue has recently been debated by the Scottish Government following pressure from many animal welfare groups. Their conclusion? Ignore the request for a ban and instead regulating the sale of electric shock collars and introducing a new qualification to promote the use of these collars on dogs. This decision was made shortly after the Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, announced the government’s intention of increasing the sentencing guidelines for animal cruelty from 6 months to 5 years.
So, why is there not a conflict with the Animal Welfare Act 2006 which involves animal cruelty in relation to animals experiencing pain or cruelty?’. Unfortunately, in order for there to be a prosecution you would need to prove 2 points;
- Is it causing pain?
- Is it necessary?
The second point would be hard to argue and this is where the problem lies. Many would argue that the point in shocking the dog is to train it and therefore it is necessary.
It doesn’t take a qualified dog trainer to tell you that the best way to train a dog is by positive reinforcement, it establishes trust between dog and owner and allows the dog to associate good dog behaviour with reward. With electric shock collars you are relaying to the dog a simple message; if you misbehave or do something wrong you will experience pain as a disincentive. Don’t take my word for it, 1 in 4 dogs showed signs of stress compared to less than 5% of dogs in the non-electric shock collar control group (Defra commissioned study AW1402, 2013).
Animal welfare issues have had a lot of visibility in the national press in the last 12 months and it is an issue that is close to my heat*. In my opinion, the use of these collars is a huge step backwards in our work to promote animal welfare. I will go as far as to say those who use or promote these barbaric collars are lazy, inconsiderate and really need to get back to the drawing board to understand dog behaviour. I am frankly amazed there are people out there still promoting these methods and question how they can call themselves dog trainers of any kind.
The Kennel Club among others are pushing for a full ban on the electric shock collar across the UK and have my full support. Am I wrong or have I missed something? Feel free to comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I would love to hear your views on this explosive issue!
*One issue I personally attended to at the Houses of Parliament was the rising case of dog theft that is sweeping across the UK. To find out more visit markwalden.org/2017/04/dog-theft-awareness-day/