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Electronic Collar Use in France

Karen Lynn C. Sueda, DVM, DACVB, VCA West Los Angeles Animal Hospital

Behavior

|April 2019

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In the Literature

Masson S, Nigron I, Gaultier E. Questionnaire survey on the use of different e-collar types in France in everyday life with a view to providing recommendations for possible future regulations. J Vet Behav. 2018;26:48-60.


FROM THE PAGE …

Electronic collars (ECs) use electronic stimulation (ie, shock) at various intensities to deter undesirable behavior in dogs. When the collar is activated, an electric current is delivered to the skin on the ventral surface of the dog’s neck through 2 metal electrodes. Three types of ECs are commercially available: bark-activated collars (BACs), collars used in conjunction with an electronic boundary fence, and remote-controlled collars (RCCs).

Because EC training involves application of an aversive stimulus, studies have examined its effect on canine welfare.1-5 Behavioral indicators of stress (eg, pinned ears, lip licking,2 appearing tense, yawning, yelping3) were more prevalent in dogs trained with ECs as compared with those that were not, although cortisol levels were similar.3,4 Additional studies have found positive-reinforcement training to be equally or more effective than punishment-based training and to have a lower risk for adverse effects.3,5

Several European countries have banned and/or restricted the sale or use of ECs; France, however, does not have such restrictions.6 To investigate EC use in France, information was gathered from 1251 dog owners via an online questionnaire. Twenty-six percent of respondents (n = 330) had used an EC, with 14.2% having used an RCC, 11.9% a BAC, and 4.5% an electronic boundary fence collar. Weight (>88.2 lb [>40 kg]), intact status, and adoption for reasons other than companionship (eg, hunting, security) were significantly associated with greater EC use. Most (63%) dogs that wore an EC were younger than 2 years. 

ECs were primarily used to address behavior or training-related problems. More than half of the respondents tried only one or no other training option prior to purchasing an EC. Most (75%) respondents purchased their EC online or at a pet or gardening store and obtained information on its use on their own (37.2%), from a friend (23.9%), or online (21.5%). Only 28.2% received professional advice on its use from a veterinarian or trainer.

Efficacy varied with the type of EC used. Owners using RCCs reported the highest success, with 51% stating that the problem behavior resolved without the dog having to wear the collar. Only 25.5% of BAC users reported resolution of barking; 35.9% reported the problem worsened or was unchanged. Depending on the type of collar used, a portion of owners reported that their dog appeared sad or stressed while wearing the collar. Nearly 7% reported their dog was burned by the collar, which occurred most commonly with BACs. Despite this, 42.8% considered that an EC could better solve undesirable behavior issues than any other training method.

The survey determined that, although EC use among French dog owners was high, there was great variability with regard to efficacy and effects on physical and behavioral welfare depending on the type of collar used. The authors advocated for regulation of EC use in Europe and that these factors be taken into account when determining EC policy.


… TO YOUR PATIENTS

Key pearls to put into practice:

1

Because owners may not seek behavior advice from their veterinarian, clinicians should proactively inquire about the pet’s behavior at each appointment (eg, “Does your pet engage in behaviors you do not like?”, “Has your pet’s behavior changed since you were last here?”).

2

Owners may use ECs or other punishment-based training techniques without understanding the potential adverse effects. Handouts (see Suggested Reading) can be provided to inform owners of the potential psychological and physical harm to their pet.

3

Owners should be encouraged to use positive reinforcement-based training, as it appears to be equally effective and less likely to adversely affect the pet’s welfare as compared with punishment-based training.

References

For global readers, a calculator to convert laboratory values, dosages, and other measurements to SI units can be found here.

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