The Association of Pet Dog Trainers Ireland Calls For Ban on Electric Shock Collars For Dogs

    Statement for media release, prepared February 2018


    The committee and members of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers Ireland (APDT Ireland), a national network of highly skilled dog training instructors, wish to unequivocally lend our support to the ISPCA’s call for the Irish government to follow the examples of the Welsh, and more recently the Scottish governments’ decisions to ban shock collars for dogs, in all of their forms.

    APDT Ireland members are committed to the use of evidence-led, force-free, and effective dog training. Decades of scientific evidence has overwhelmingly demonstrated that the use of positive reinforcement, and concomitant rejection of unpleasant aversive techniques and equipment, is the most effective approach to achieve excellent and consistent results in dog training and management, whilst maximising animal welfare, and improving the bond between owner and dog.

    Scientific studies have repeatedly shown that the use of electric shock collars, both to train dogs and to contain them, to be potentially damaging not only to dogs physically, but also emotionally and behaviourally. Their efficacy relies upon them delivering a highly aversive shock to the dog’s throat, which the dog must find ways to avoid. Use of such “quick fix” techniques or equipment that utilise avoidance of pain, discomfort or startle is known to result in unwanted and troublesome behaviours and welfare deficits, which can be difficult to rehabilitate. The scientific evidence is supported by our own members in an applied setting, who report serious consequences in dogs that have been exposed to training or confinement using electric shock collars, including chronic and disabling anxiety, and aggression directed both towards other dogs, and towards people.

    We at APDT Ireland consider electric shock collars in all of their forms to be highly aversive at best, and very much open to misuse and abuse at worst. Supporters of electric shock collars will defend their use by insisting that they do no harm, or that they only deliver a “small” shock, but this illustrates their misunderstanding of how aversive even a “small” shock can be, particularly when delivered to the sensitive area of the throat. The simple truth is that unless the effect of the shock collar is sufficiently aversive and punitive to dogs, they don’t work. Supporters of their use also minimise the behavioural consequences that our members, and members of other internationally recognised professional dog training and behaviour organisations, commonly report.

    Electric shock collars have no place in dog training or confinement, particularly in light of there being positive, non-harmful, and more effective alternatives available.

    APDT Ireland support for Veterinary Ireland’s call to Minister Coveney to end the current dog breed-specific legislation in Ireland

    APDT Ireland Media Release: September 2017

    On September 9th 2016, Veterinary Ireland released a policy document calling upon Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Simon Coveney, to end the current dog breed-specific legislation currently in force in Ireland.

    The Association of Pet Dog Trainers Ireland wishes to lend our full support to Veterinary Ireland. We join Veterinary Ireland’s call for the repeal of the current legislation in which specific breeds of dog are targeted, to be replaced by new, modern legislation which not only reflects our much-improved, research-led understanding of dog behaviour, but which also supports education of owners and the general public about dog behaviour, and which promotes responsible dog ownership and dog welfare regardless of what breed or type of dog.

    Since the current dog control legislation was introduced in 1986, with the breed specific regulations enacted in 1998, dog bite statistics show no sign of improving in Ireland. Indeed, the number of reported dog bite incidents has increased since the introduction of the legislation, in many cases the dogs involved were not of breeds restricted under the regulations. This has been the overriding experience in other countries wherein breed specific legislation was introduced. In acknowledgement of its ineffectiveness, many of these countries are in the process of repealing, or have already significantly overhauled their dog control legislation.

    The current Irish legislation is over 30 years old, in which time dogs, as a species, have come under intensive scientific behavioural scrutiny in research laboratories across the world. Our knowledge and understanding of their behaviour has vastly improved as a result. Consequently, approaches to training and behaviour have changed to reflect our greater understanding of their learning processes and behaviours. It has become clear that a restrictive legislative policy which singles out specific breeds cannot succeed, as breed alone is not a sufficient determinant of the likelihood of a dog presenting a bite risk. On the contrary, any dog is capable of presenting a bite risk given certain circumstances, and as such, it is incumbent upon all owners to ensure that their dog’s behaviour and welfare are sufficiently catered for in order to ensure their dog is a safe and welcome part of today’s society.

    The 1998 Control of Dogs Regulations (S.I. No. 442 of 1998) requires that the breeds from the list below, their crossbreeds and strains, must at all times in public be securely muzzled, be on a lead not exceeding 2m in length, and be under the control of a person over 16 years of age who is capable of controlling the dog:

    Link: Control of Dogs Regulations 1998