An open letter from Dr. Overall about shock collars

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Postby TheRedQueen » September 27th, 2010, 9:29 am

An open letter from Dr Karen Overall regarding the use of shock collars.

Date: Tue Dec 6, 2005 4:01:19 PM US/Eastern

No, I have not changed my opinion and it is that there is never any reason
for pets to be shocked as a part of therapy or treatment. If anything, I
have strengthened this opinion. There are now terrific scientific and
research data that show the harm that shock collars can do behaviorally. At
the July 2005 International Veterinary Behavior Meeting, held in conjunction
with the AVSAB and ACVB research meetings, data were presented by E.
Schalke, J. Stichnoth, and R. Jones-Baade that documented these damaging
effects (Stress symptoms caused by the use of electric training collars on
dogs (Canis familiaris) in everyday life situations. Current Issues and
Research in Veterinary Behavioral Medicine, Papers presented at the 5th
Int'l IVBM. Purdue University Press, 2005:139-145. [ISBN 987-1-55752-409-5;
1-558753-409- 8]).

This follows on the excellent work done by Dutch researchers, in cooperation
with their working dog groups and trainers, that showed that working /
patrol dogs were adversely affected by their 'training' with shock, long
after the shock occurred (Schilder MBH, van der Borg JAM. Training dogs
with the help of the shock collar: short and long term behavioural effects.
Applied Animal Behaviour Science 2003;85:319-334).

Research meetings can be attended by anyone paying the fee, and most
published work is available either in the public domain, from an
organization, or from someone with a university library connection.

There is no longer a reason for people to remain misinformed. Let me make
my opinion perfectly clear: Shock is not training - in the vast majority of
cases it meets the criteria for abuse. In my patient population, dogs who
have been 'treated' with shock have a much higher risk of an undesirable
outcome (e.g., euthanasia) than dogs not subjected to shock, and I never
recommend euthanasia. In all situations where shock has been used there is
some damage done, even if we cannot easily see it. No pet owner needs to
use this technique to achieve their goal. Dogs who cease to exhibit a
problem behavior usually also cease to exhibit normal behaviors. The only
data available support the idea that shock is neither an effective nor
suitable training tool.

That said, it's time we replaced everyone's personal mythologies and
opinions with data and scientific thinking. Such opportunities are now
available, but are often not exploited.

For example, the statement: " Major veterinary universities have tested E-
collars since the mid 60's when they were invented. No evidence of any
damage, Physiological or psychological has ever been found." is patently and
wholly false. For the evidence re: data - see above. As for the initial
statement - it's WRONG. It's a MYTH. The specialty college (ACVB) even
conducted a census a few years ago to see if we could find ANY truth to this
and there was NONE. We couldn't get anyone to say that they had - or knew
someone who had - participated in such tests and studies. This pattern of
behavioral repetition is representative of the danger of myth, and also of
the power of the scientific method. Science tells you when you are wrong.
Myth allows you to steal credibility where none is earned. That particular
myth has damaged universities too long, and it has traded on the reputations
of people who neither endorsed that decision, nor supported the finding, and
it must stop.

I hope this helps. I have never thought we could get via electricity what
we couldn't get by advanced training and hard work.

Karen L. Overall, M.A., V.M.D., Ph.D.

ETA link
"I don't have any idea if my dogs respect me or not, but they're greedy and I have their stuff." -- Patty Ruzzo

"Dogs don't want to control people. They want to control their own lives." --John Bradshaw
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Postby mnp13 » September 27th, 2010, 10:14 am

Major veterinary universities have tested E-collars since the mid 60's when they were invented. No evidence of any damage, Physiological or psychological has ever been found.

Well, that's just a stupid statement. There are TONs of problems from e-collars, just like any other training method, a training method can be misused.

There is also nothing inherently wrong with them, when used correctly, there is no difference between an e-collar and another training that involves corrections.

And on a side note, I recently overhead a conversation at the training club about those "horrible shock collars" and how people who use them should be arrested for animal abuse by someone who ten minutes later was telling another person that they were getting Invisible Fence installed at their house. lmao

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Postby maberi » September 27th, 2010, 11:11 am

mnp13 wrote:And on a side note, I recently overhead a conversation at the training club about those "horrible shock collars" and how people who use them should be arrested for animal abuse by someone who ten minutes later was telling another person that they were getting Invisible Fence installed at their house. lmao

I'll never understand that logic :crazy2:
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Postby maberi » September 27th, 2010, 3:43 pm

Here is a link to one of the studies she cites ... collar.pdf
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Postby mnp13 » September 27th, 2010, 7:55 pm

maberi wrote:Here is a link to one of the studies she cites ... collar.pdf

From that study:
Therefore,we set out to investigate the direct behavioural reactions of dogs upon receiving a shock during training, with the aim of finding what behavioural responses are elicited by the reception of a shock. We were interested especially in finding occurrences of pain,fear,avoidance,pain-induced aggression and submission. Secondly,we wanted to investigate what the long-term impact of shocks could be.

When you start out a study knowing what you want to find, you usually do find it.

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Postby furever_pit » September 27th, 2010, 8:42 pm

I've seen plenty of dogs trained with e-collars who have made it through just fine. And who have not just made it through, but have excelled in their chosen venues and who have not demonstrated behavioral deficiencies as a result of the shock collar. The trick is in the method, not in the tool. Sure the e-collar can be misused and abused and can cause issues especially when it is not introduced properly and the dog doesn't understand it or what the stimulation is supposed to be telling them. But that doesn't make the e-collar and its use as a whole abusive.
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Postby tiva » September 27th, 2010, 9:02 pm

In Chapter 9 of Stephen Lindsay's HANDBOOK OF APPLIED DOG BEHAVIOR AND TRAINING, Lindsay reviews the research on electric collars for training. His chapter is illuminating. He's a renowned positive trainer who advocates minimally aversive, minimally intrusive, relationship-based training. After reviewing the research, he concludes that, used correctly with modern low-stim techniques, e-collars can be substantially less aversive than gentle leaders and other head collars, and that they can be very effective for many training situations. I was surprised, to say the least, but he's an excellent trainer and scientist, and I really respect his work. We've used an e-collar on Vanya (when he began chasing the neighbor's cattle, after we invested in thousands of dollars of double-fencing). I was very reluctant to go that route, but for my dog anyway, it results in much less stress than being trained with a flat collar or a gentle leader. Modern e-collar training works on a low-stim negative reinforcement model, and the dog learns that she can turn off the stim by offering a particular behavior (the stim is aversive, but at a very, very low level--it's mildly annoying).

As another well-known positive trainer named Greta writes about Low-stim negative reinforcement training:

"Plenty of bird dog training is done this way and it involves training the dog that he can turn off the very low stim level by choosing a behavior or obeying a cue. The trainer starts with the dial turned down very low, and then turns it up one notch at a time until she sees the dog react just a little, e.g. stop what he is doing and look perplexed. Once this level is established (which looks like an equivalent of a human hearing an unfamiliar noise or noticing a slight itch and trying to figure out where it is coming from), a behavior is elicited and when the dog does the behavior, the stim is turned off. Once the dog understands how to turn off the stim, the behavior is shaped in higher and higher distraction environments. At first the dog is escaping — the stim is turned on, and then turned off when the dog follows the cue. After that, the dog is avoiding — the stim is never turned on since the dog is following the cue promptly. For a while, if the dog doesn’t follow the cue promptly, there will be a nick — a very short burst of stim — to remind the dog that it should avoid, i.e. perform the cue promptly. When distractions get very big, yes, the dial will be turned up, and pain may or may not be inflicted depending on the dog, the trainer, the distraction… but this shouldn’t happen many times. (And, in my limited exposure, the dog isn’t necessarily feeling it a whole lot more than he felt those initial little test stims — instead, the level is higher because on those occasions when it “needs” to be turned up, the dog is higher on adrenaline and is not feeling small sensations at all anyway — this is a physiologic state that has been studied a whole lot. So the perceived discomfort may not be so great anyway.)

This can work great with very high drive dogs, and it works through conditioning.

After all, people say that clicker training a recall can never work with their dog because there is no food in the world that can compete with chasing a deer. And what do clicker trainers say to this? They say “but you don’t just wave food at the dog when he is chasing a deer. You teach him in low-distraction situations that it’s always rewarding to come running when called, until it is a reflex and that reflexive learning takes over even when the dog sees a deer.” We don’t claim that food can, in fact, with no training, outcompete a deer. And the same can be true with LSR- collar training — it’s not the strength of the current that “works” when there’s a deer, it’s all the prior training that produces a reflexive turn-and-run-to-handler, that can kick in even when there is a deer out there." ( ... /#comments)

My experience with Vanya correlates closely with what Greta describes. I'd say that 99% of my training with Vanya is based on the two quadrants familiar to positive trainers: rewards for the behavior I want, withdrawal of attention or reinforcement when he offers behaviors I don't want. But I have found that an e-collar is much more effective for certain behaviors that are important for Vanya's long-term health. Ie, with an e-collar, I can allow him off-leash freedom on our 20 fenced acres, and I can take him off-leash in the hunting lands that surround our farm. Without the e-collar, he wouldn't have those options available.
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Postby dlynne1123 » September 28th, 2010, 9:33 pm

I agree with above, if shock collars are so abusice why is the invisible fence one of the biggest sellers out there? Can no one teach a re call anymore? Can no one teach the boundaries?

I would say, even clients that say shock collars are bad, don't see they themselves are using it to boundary train their dogs at home.

And though I don't recommend them (as most of my clients dogs ignore it), the majority of our vet clients have invisible fence!

Same argument with prongs and chokes and gentle leaders. We have adversaries in the office between prongs and gentle leaders. We have seen more neck injuries in the office from clients yanking on gentle leaders than any prongs or chokes used wrongly. 'Its a 'gentle leader' not a breaking lunge line! Any tool can be used in great ways or horrible ways. As a trainer I am not opposed to using tools when necessary (as in a action needs to be addressed NOW, not six weeks from now) but I always start with the basics first and each dog is its own!

One time at the vets office a dog that was trained on the invisible fence collars 'freaked out and bit three people' when it heard the thermometer 'beep' in the exam room (anyone in the viscinity). This would show me it may be used improperly! However when 'hunt' training, my brothers dog barely makes eye contact at a beep and jumps to the occasion when given the proper out, whether it be 'whoah or you get shot' or just a little to the 'left!' Now its all graduated to whistle. Personally, when used right, I have no problem with any training tools. I've seen them all do great things to dogs would have or could have been euthanized. I have also see the trauma when used wrong.
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Postby Ino » September 28th, 2010, 10:25 pm

I used a shock collar on Ino a few months ago. I never thought I would go that route- especially after working for that boot camp trainer for the few days I stayed. He had Cane Corso's and used shock collars but they must have been turned up because they yelped and jumped around when he gave them a correction (or many). I assumed initially that was just how they worked and swore I would never use one because what was done to those dogs was cruel. Where I lived n NY, we were pretty much in the middle of nowhere surrounded by woods. Ino was raised mostly off leash and had a great recall -but a problem with drop it surfaced and his recall when he had something he shouldn't sucked. It was only when he was off leash so it was hard to correct. Him not dropping toys were annoying to a degree- but that wasn't what convinced me to use the collar. He started picking up pieces of rabbit and deer that the coyotes left and would not drop them (some sharp bones in it). It became a game of chase if you went to get it from him and if you said drop it- he ignored me and if you chased, he swallowed it whole. Then came the day when he grabbed something out of the burn barrel ashes that my genious neighbor dumped over the hill :cuss: . I did not know what it was and Ino ignored the drop it so I just stood there because if I chased him- I knew he would swallow it whole while running from me. The neighbor burned anything and everything (including car parts, chemicals- which I prayed burned off, plastics, etc) so knowing that and hoping for the best I fed Ino when we got back up to the house, which was only a few minutes later and gave him several doses of peroxide. Luckily the food encased the sharp pieces of pork chop bone that came up. I at that point felt it was a life or death problem and I would much rather use an electric collar on him than have him die. I had already tried attaching a long lead to him before that to catch him but it did not work- he swallows whatever he has before you can reel him in. I bought an electric collar, a meaty bone, and a peanut butter hoof from the store and planted the bone and hoof on the trail and gave him the command first and when he did not listen, I used the lowest setting. He did not respond, so I moved up to level 2 (out of 8) and it worked. He backed up but did try a few more times in the next 2 days and received maybe a total of 4-5 corrections and he was solid with the drop it. Ino does have other issues that we need to work on; however, I don't feel the need to use the collar for those behaviors. I am sure the collar was a less than pleasant experience for Ino- but I am sure a blockage or internal bleeding would be more painful- so I did what I felt was right. I did not feel great about having to use it and I am sure it can be said that I found ways to justify it but it was all I had. I did not know of any trainers in the area so I did what I could :| .
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Postby pitbullmamaliz » September 29th, 2010, 7:18 am

I have no problems with e-collars used in a humane manner. Inara has an e-collar (that we haven't used in a long time) and it has 127 levels. Her working level was generally less than 10 and I couldn't feel it when I tried it on my hand. It's the people who buy a cheap e-collar from the pet store and have nobody to teach them how to use it properly and then just shock the crap out of their dog that annoy me. Or the people who use it at a high enough level ON A CONSISTENT BASIS to make their dog yelp or jump. I think they need to only be used under the tutelage of a SKILLED trainer (NOT Sit Means Sit). Inara found hers far less aversive than the head collar.
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Postby BigDogBuford » September 29th, 2010, 12:14 pm

I use an e collar with Buford because he fence fights with the little obnoxious boston/bulls next door. Now he still runs the fence with them, he just does it silently. :crazy2: I tried the lowest four settings and they did nothing and I had to order the extra long prong for him and use it on level 5. He still seems to barley notice it. About half the time I turn it on and half the time I don't so now he's stopped testing it. Other than those obnoxious dogs next door he's got a great 'quiet' command. They just rile him up so much.....

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