Electric shock collars - Issue statement

 

The Kennel Club believes that electric shock collars have no place in a civilised society. The majority of dog lovers and the welfare and veterinary bodies hold similar views.

An electric shock collar trains a dog to respond out of fear of further punishment - having received a shock when it does not perform what is asked of it - rather than from a natural willingness to obey. This is not the type of training method that the Kennel Club would endorse. Unwanted behaviour in dogs is best resolved by positive training methods.

Furthermore, an angry or inferior trainer or even novice owner could misuse a collar to abuse and punish. It is unacceptable that these products are readily available by mail order, via retail outlets and on the internet, and are therefore available to anyone who, with no training or supervision whatsoever, can place them on a dog and administer 'correctional' treatment.

Since 1997, the Kennel Club has not allowed electric shock collars to be sold at Kennel Club licensed events. This reflects the Kennel Club's Code of Practice which states 'Preference should be given to motivational methods of training which take into account the breed and nature of each individual dog'.

Police dogs, armed forces dogs and assistance dogs may also not be trained using electric shock training devices. Similarly the two largest German Shepherd Dog clubs in the country (the British Association for German Shepherd Dogs and the German Shepherd Dog League of Great Britain) have banned the use of electric shock collars from their training grounds.

In March 2010, the Kennel Club greatly welcomed the Welsh Assembly's ban on the use of electric shock collars, mats and leads, which was passed unanimously. Subsequently, the Welsh Assembly decision to ban was cleared by the European Commission and the Royal Courts of Justice, which quashed the judicial review called for by the Electronic Collar Manufacturers Association against the ban.

The Kennel Club believes that the ruling paves the way for all UK governments to go for a ban after the Welsh Assembly led the way in animal welfare by proving legislating against these devices is legitimate.

Despite being provided with peer reviewed scientific evidence which proves that the use of electronic training products is 'not only unpleasant but also painful and frightening' and 'may influence the dog's well-being in the long term in a negative way', Defra began conducting further research in 2007 and 2010.  The first research project exceeded its original budget, costing a total of £538,925 to the taxpayer, and raised many concerns regarding its ability to provide true representative data; for example by using skilled dog trainers and heavily biased training protocol when exposing the dogs to shock collars, instead of general dog owners who are most likely to use the devices with little to no guidance.

Both project findings have now been published. The initial research identified negative behavioural and physiological changes in a significant proportion of dogs which were trained with an electric shock collar in comparison to the non-electric shock collar control group of dogs in the study. It also provided evidence that some owners even failed to consult the accompanying instruction manual before using the device on their dogs. 

The second piece of research, which involved the Electronic Collar Manufacturers Association, also concluded that electric shock collars are not more effective than positive reinforcement methods (such as reward based training) for recall and chasing, which are cited as the two main reasons for the use of electric shock collar training on dogs.

In light of the findings of these studies, the Kennel Club expects that Defra and the rest of the devolved administrations will announce a ban on electric shock collars and will continue to lobby for this.

Last updated - November 2013

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