1. Home
  2. Companion Animals
  3. Dogs
  4. Training
  5. What are the animal welfare issues with electric shock collars on dogs?

What are the animal welfare issues with electric shock collars on dogs?

The use of electric shock collars on dogs is illegal in several Australian states and territories.

Collar-mounted devices capable of delivering an electric shock to the neck (electric shock collars) are designed to deliberately cause physical and mental suffering ​[​​​​1]​, are tools for deliberate or unwitting animal abuse​ [​​​​2]​, and perpetuate a cycle of violence ​[​​​​3]​.

The use of electric shock collars is associated with animal welfare issues including ​[​​​​1, ​​​​3, ​​​​4]​:

  • Physical harm (e.g.. discomfort, pain, injury)
  • Mental harm (e.g.. fear, anxiety, phobia, negative mood state, learned helplessness)
  • Damage to human-animal bonds
  • Public health risk for dog bites, arising from evidence that punishment-based methods can provoke fear related aggression towards people ​[​​​​5–​​​​8]​

There is overwhelming evidence highlighting the animal welfare issues associated with electric shock devices ​[​​​​1, ​​​​9, ​​​​10]​ in all types of dogs include those kept as companion animals ​[​​​​6]​, livestock working dogs ​[​​​​11]​, police dogs ​[​​​​12]​, and military dogs ​[​​​​13]​.

Electric shock collars on dogs are no longer acceptable

The use of electric shock under the guise of training is not acceptable ​[​​​​14]​. Due to animal welfare issues, veterinary and dog training organisations in Australia and overseas warn against the use of electric shock collars, and their use is banned in several Australian states and territories and international jurisdictions.

RSPCA Australia is opposed to the use of any devices which deliver electric shocks, such as anti-barking collars and invisible boundary systems. For more information see the Knowledgebase article: ‘Should I use an anti-barking collar on my dog?’.

Alternative tools and techniques

Training tools and techniques should be both effective and do the least harm. Given effective and less harmful reward-based training methods are available, the use of shock collars is not desirable or necessary ​[​​​​1, ​​​​14, ​​​​15]​. There is no evidence that punishment-based methods such as electric shock are more effective than reward-based methods for animal training. On the contrary, there is evidence indicating that reward-based training is more effective at addressing target behaviour and general obedience, while posing fewer animal welfare risks ​[​​​​14]​. For more information on reward-based training, see the Knowledgebase article ‘What is reward-based dog training?’.


[​​​​1] Masson S, de la Vega S, Gazzano A, Mariti C, Pereira GDG, Halsberghe C, Leyvraz AM, McPeake K, Schoening B (2018) Electronic training devices: Discussion on the pros and cons of their use in dogs as a basis for the position statement of the European Society of Veterinary Clinical Ethology. Journal of Veterinary Behavior 25:71–75

​[​​​​2] Whiting TL (2016) Pain in human and non-human animals caused by electricity. The Canadian Veterinary Journal 57:883–886

[​​​​3] Overall KL (2007) Why electric shock is not behavior modification. Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research 2:1–4

[​​​​4] Casey RA, Naj-Oleari M, Campbell S, Mendl M, Blackwell EJ (2021) Dogs are more pessimistic if their owners use two or more aversive training methods. Sci Rep. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-97743-0

[​​​​5] Súilleabháin O (2015) Training Methods and Dog Owner Interaction as a Public Health Risk. Zoonoses Public Health 62:489

[​​​​6] Rooney NJ, Cowan S (2011) Training methods and owner-dog interactions: Links with dog behaviour and learning ability. Appl Anim Behav Sci 132:169–177

​[​​​​7] Herron ME, Shofer FS, Reisner IR (2009) Survey of the use and outcome of confrontational and non-confrontational training methods in client-owned dogs showing undesired behaviors. Appl Anim Behav Sci 117:47–54

[​​​​8] Arhant C, Bubna-Littitz H, Bartels A, Futschik A, Troxler J (2010) Behaviour of smaller and larger dogs: Effects of training methods, inconsistency of owner behaviour and level of engagement in activities with the dog. Appl Anim Behav Sci 123:131–142

​[​​​​9] Makowska I (2018) Review of dog training methods: welfare, learning ability, and current standards. Vancouver

​[​​​​10] Cooper JJ, Cracknell N, Hardiman J, Wright H, Mills D (2014) The welfare consequences and efficacy of training pet dogs with remote electronic training collars in comparison to reward based training. PLoS One. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0102722

​[​​​​11] Arnott ER, Early JB, Wade CM, McGreevy PD (2014) Environmental factors associated with success rates of Australian stock herding dogs. PLoS One. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0104457

[​​​​12] Schilder MBH, van der Borg JAM (2004) Training dogs with help of the shock collar: Short and long term behavioural effects. Appl Anim Behav Sci 85:319–334

​[​​​​13] Haverbeke A, Laporte B, Depiereux E, Giffroy JM, Diederich C (2008) Training methods of military dog handlers and their effects on the team’s performances. Appl Anim Behav Sci 113:110–122

​[​​​​14] Ziv G (2017) The effects of using aversive training methods in dogs—A review. Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research 19:50–60

[​​​​15] China L, Mills DS, Cooper JJ (2020) Efficacy of Dog Training With and Without Remote Electronic Collars vs. a Focus on Positive Reinforcement. Front Vet Sci. https://doi.org/10.3389/fvets.2020.00508

Also Read

Updated on March 3, 2023
  • Home
  • Companion Animals
  • Dogs
  • Training

Was this article helpful?