Sargisson, R. J., & McLean, I. G. (2021). Efficacy of Dog Training With and Without Remote Electronic Collars vs. a Focus on Positive Reinforcement by China, L., Mills, D. S., and Cooper, J. J. [Book Review]. Frontiers in Veterinary Science. https://doi.org/10.3389/fvets.2021.629746
Permanent Research Commons link: https://hdl.handle.net/10289/14287
In an experimental analysis of the effectiveness of e-collars, China et al. (1) concluded that “there is no evidence to indicate that E-collar training is necessary” (p. 1). The paper contributes to a wider body of research on the use of e-collars for dog training, much of which is referenced in the paper. In this commentary, we focus on whether the methods and analysis support the findings, point to methodological inconsistencies between this and a companion paper (2), describe concerns with the statistical analysis, and suggest that the conclusions go well beyond the results. E-collars are commonly used to reduce or prevent canine predation or aggression. With reference to welfare concerns, the justification is that predation behavior is life-threatening for both dog and attacked animal. An example is e-collar training to prevent hunting dogs from attacking kiwi [in New Zealand; (3)]. An intense electric shock is paired with a target stimulus (a stuffed kiwi) to produce a classically conditioned aversive response. The shock is delivered only once or twice, establishing a response that produces reliable avoidance of the target stimulus for up to 3 years (4). China et al.'s (1) stated aim is to assess “the efficacy of the use of electronic collars to improve recall … and general obedience in dogs compared to training without E-collars” (p. 2). China et al. (1) do not claim to assess the efficacy of e-collars for the prevention of canine attacks. However, the paper may be used by governments to support a ban of e-collars for all training purposes, including the prevention of aggression (5).
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