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

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Abstract

Training with electronic collars/e-collars (e-stim, shock) is controversial, and regulations concerning electric collars vary from absence to bans across European countries. The main goal of this study was to characterize the everyday use of e-collars by dog owners, in France where there are currently no regulations on their use. A sample (n = 1,251) of dog owners were recruited using an online questionnaire. Data were collected using Google Forms. Factors associated with the use of e-collars were determined using a Chi-squared test. Twenty-six percent (n = 330) of the owners enrolled in this survey did use such devices; 11.9% (n = 149) of the owners reported the use of bark-activated collars, 4.5% (n = 56) reported the use of electronic boundary fence collars, and 14.2% (n = 178) reported the use of remote-controlled collars. E-collar use was found to be significantly associated with 3 factors: dogs weighing over 40 kg, non-neutered status, and dogs used for hunting or security activities. In addition, the data collected showed that e-collars were mainly used on young dogs (<2 years). The vast majority of e-collar users (71.8%) used the collar without professional advice, and 75% of e-collar users tried 2 or fewer other solutions before using the collar. Seven percent of the dogs on which the collar was used presented with physical wounds (n = 23). The efficacy reported was lower than that in many previous studies where conditions of use as specified were designed to be ideal as part of the experimental design (qualified trainer, perfect timing). All collar types were not equal: bark-activated collars appeared to be the least efficient and the most injurious type, whereas remote-controlled collars were mainly used for owner's convenience. In conclusion, this survey highlights a high ratio of e-collar use in a country without regulations. It also shows that real-life conditions are far from the idealized conditions in which experimental studies were undertaken, thereby putting dog welfare at higher risk than what is presented in scientific literature. In addition, this study reveals differences between collar types in terms of efficacy and effects on welfare. These factors should be taken into account to determine a precise regulation. Furthermore, this study shows the urgency to regulate this tool in Europe because dangers of use, which were already known, are proven to be aggravated in real-life situations.

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