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There are many studies that examine this but I love this recent one that was published this year. Full article available: Efficacy of Dog Training With and Without Remote Electronic Collars vs. a Focus on Positive Reinforcement

What I love about this study:
-Professionals from both fields were chosen by their respective organizations.
-Training was done organically (ex. shock trainers were free to also use food)
-The study environment was not a sterile laboratory
-The study group was representative of the pet owning community
-The study chose common and realistic behaviors for training (sit and come)
-The study does not discount the efficacy of P+ or R- training (ALL groups were able to train the dogs)

Here are some quotes that highlight these points. Though the entire article is a very accessible read.

"manufacturer-nominated trainers (ECMA) (chosen to represent best-practice use of the E-collar). Trainers followed approved practice as recommended by ECMA, including assessing the dog's sensitivity to electric stimuli prior to training, and pairing vibration cue with the electric signal with the aim of modifying behavior through negative reinforcement. Dogs in this group also experienced positive reinforcement, such as rewarding dogs with food and negative reinforcement such as lead pressure."....."professional trainers who were members of Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT UK); an organization which does not support the use of E-collars in dog training (chosen to represent best-practice use of positive reinforcement or “reward-based training”) "

"Training mainly occurred in field locations, with penned sheep, penned chickens and other (on lead) dogs, as potential distractors during training."

"Trainers in all groups had access to food rewards and could use them as the trainer deemed appropriate during training."

"Each of the three training groups had successful training outcomes to both “Come” and “Sit” commands."... "These findings are consistent with owner satisfaction with training outcomes as reported previously (31) and should be expected as all trainers were professionals, with extensive experience of training dogs to improve recall and general obedience. "


Absolutely no surprise that positive reinforcement training was found to be most effective, even though all three groups were effective. Many studies support this. I just found this to be a very neat, relatable, fair study.
 

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What is frustrating about this study is no where does it discuss whether or not the dogs being trained UNDERSTOOD the commands of Come or Sit. How trained were they BEFORE the study is an important factor not addressed. As a trainer who uses an e collar and R+ methods I can only respond this way:

1.) NEVER EVER use an e collar to TEACH a new command or a poorly understood command to a dog. Only use R+ to teach. If a leash is needed to keep the dog with you then use that, but free shaping and R+ to TEACH is beneficial. I don't even like a long line to the collar to teach recall. A hungry dog and high value food in a confined space (house or fenced area) is much more effective.

2. NEVER use the E collar to teach OR reinforce Sit command. Ever. If you want to slow the response to Sit, use an e collar and you will most assuredly get a slower and slower sit. The study actually notes this. It is the WRONG place to use Pressure. Trust me.. as one who teaches a dog a moving sit, down and stand you never want to use the e collar for the sit or the stand and I have never needed it for the down.

3.) The ONLY time an e collar is used (or any aversive tool IMO) is when the dog KNOWS the command THOROUGHLY and chooses to blow you off.

MOST pet dogs are not E Collar candidates IMO and IME. MOST pet dogs are disobedient because the OWNER needs training first. MOST disobedience in pet dogs is from the dog not knowing what is being asked. In MANY cases pet dog disobedience is also an aspect of a poor relationship with the owner (this may be due to owners lack of skill and knowledge or the dog having insufficient pack drive/desire to partner with a human.. and there are breeds bred to be work independently from humans).

I will continue to use an e collar but not to teach a new behavior (that is where R+ shines.. first the dog must learn HOW to respond and then learn to WANT to respond).

The E collar is a less personal correction and I prefer it over a prong collar correction (which must be delivered by snapping a loose leash.. and obviously comes from the handler.. and can interfere with relationship). I am not touting either e collar or prong collar for most pet dogs or pet dog owners.
 

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@3GSD4IPO Do you know if there's any movement towards changing the ECMA standards? I can understand the frustration, but also that any study like this is going to need some kind of third party guidelines for best practices and/or trainer certification to ensure that the trainers aren't using the training tools/methods in wildly different ways. Is there a different, established e-collar best practice standard you'd like to see them use instead?

I am glad to hear that you agree that e-collars are not necessary for most dogs or most trainers to achieve reliable and effective compliance, and that extra training and education is needed to use these tools safely compared to other methods. I'm absolutely on board with that. It's a trainer's choice to use methods or tools that work by causing discomfort, once they have a thorough understanding of how these tools work and how to use them - and when absolutely not to use them. So long as all that is kept in mind and the corrections are kept fair and humane, I'm not one to claim e-collar use equals abuse, even if it's not a training method I'd use in most circumstances. But I do question the wisdom of them being marketed towards and easily available to everyone, especially under the auspices that they're a quick and easy fix to many behavior problems, and it sounds like you feel similarly from this post.
 

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Another thing studies like this never speak about is why the dog obeys,,
Ok the dog obeys but is that because they have learned it pleases the owner or is it just to avoid pain/discomfort of a shock.

I mean if you hold a knife to my throat I will do what you want but not because I have any liking or respect for you..
Whearas if you are nice to me I would help or do stuff because I liked and respected you.

Im from a culture where any kind of pain threat or discomfort is considered wrong. We beleive it shows that the owner is not in control. They are unable to bond with a dog enough to communicate without intimidation.

We generally dont smack our children or use capital punishment either.
 

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I have heard nothing about standards for E Collar purchase. I will also say that I have seen e collar abuse by higher level trainers as well as by people who haven't a clue. So, requiring some sort of license or testing process is unlikely to remove bad handling. In the end, regardless of the method used, abuse will occur. Just look at our US society today and how we treat each other. You cannot regulate people out of being abusive.
 

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While the take that we shouldn't bother with making any laws or regulations that aren't 100% effective at prevention is an interesting one, it's not really what I was asking. Let me break it down to try to make my question clearer.

- The study used e-collar trainers specifically nominated by the Electronic Collars Manufacturing Association (ECMA) to represent the best practices in e-collar training according to their use guidelines.

- Your argument against the study was that you disagreed with the way e-collars were used to train, which would imply that you disagree with the ECMA's best practice guidelines for e-collar training.

- With that in mind, do you know if there's another e-collar organization with best practice guidelines for e-collar training that better follows your idea of ideal e-collar use that could be used in a study like this? Alternatively, are efforts being made to get the ECMA to change their best practices guidelines to more closely represent what you accept as ideal e-collar training methods?

I'm asking about best practices for e-collar usage in training, and official standards thereof, not regulations on purchase or use. A study like this would be extremely difficult without relying on some kind of third party standard that ensures the training techniques they're using are both consistent with how most people agree to use them in real life situations, and that the trainers the study uses have some kind of certification or guarantee that they adhere closely to these standards. As such, I'm wondering how a study would be structured for comparing your specific e-collar training methods to other training techniques. I'm not in the e-collar world, obviously, and live where they're outright banned, so if these other standards or organizations exist outside of the ECMA I'm ignorant of them, hence why I'm asking you.
 
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