Let's Talk About dog Training Methods
I believe in transparency when it comes to trusting your dog trainer.
The training industry is unfortunately a very unregulated world. Anyone who has had a dog in the past can call themselves a 'trainer'. People often claim they have a certain background without the verification of that background.
And I do not want to be a part of that.
So in order to be as transparent as possible, I am providing the public with my certifications, and memberships along with their ID numbers. If you want to skip the training jargon and just check out my history, click below.
Now, down to the nitty gritty.
The first thing most trainers will post about on their page is their years of experience.
But we want to remind you that the duration of a profession does not equate to skill and know-how.
We find many trainers that have been going on for 15-30 years, are still practicing the same old, military style and aversive techniques. You may hear these trainers describe themselves as "Alpha", "Balanced", or "Dominance" trainers.
Aversive dog training is a method of training that uses positive punishment, which is the addition of something uncomfortable or undesirable for the dog to decrease the targeted behavior, or negative reinforcement, which is the removal of something uncomfortable or undesirable to increase the goal behavior.
This might include scolding your dog after they have an accident during potty training, using a shock collar to stop barking or using a prong collar or choke chain to stop pulling on the leash.
This teaches the dog to do a goal behavior to avoid a consequence.
Negative Reinforcement for humans may look like putting on sunscreen to avoid getting a sunburn or cleaning up the kitchen to avoid conflict with a spouse.
Positive Punishment for humans may look like yelling at a child when they misbehave or making them do an unpleasant chore as a consequence.
It happens often in our world, but there are better ways to teach behaviors than telling the students that they should fear the outcome should they do otherwise.
Aversive dog training methods are often used because they are thought to be faster or more effective for dogs with major behavioral concerns than positive reinforcement methods (which focus on increasing desired behaviors by adding something the student finds valuable to increase the goal behavior. These include treats, toys, play, interaction, and other things the dog finds naturally reinforcing and pleasant).
However, aversive training methods can have long-term negative consequences for your dog's behavior.
They are not faster than positive reinforcement-based training because all training takes repetition.
Most often, aversive methods will suppress the problem behavior, and this does not mean that the behavior will not return later.
Have you punished your dog for jumping on the counter, only to find them to continue to do it in secret?
Punished them for drinking too much water too quickly, now they avoid water and have chronic UTI's?
This is also why so many people struggle to remove the aversive tools (prong collar/shock collar) because your goal behavior would struggle without the use of that added tool.
Dogs trained with positive reinforcement have been found to have fewer problem behaviors than their counterparts.
Additionally, dogs with major behavioral concerns like aggression or reactivity have an increased probability of aggression toward the owner when using aversive methods.
Recap: The FALLOUT that comes from AVERSIVE METHODS.
Many problem behaviors in dogs arise due to being fearful, anxious, and stressed.
The implementation of aversive or punitive measures often enhances negative emotional states, resulting in further problem behaviors such as aggression.
The student often may associate the application of the aversive with an unintended and coincidental event.
Such as utilizing a shock collar as your dog runs towards the end of the yard towards a child. Since dogs are considered 'forward thinkers', what they look at when an additional punitive measure is activated, could possibly see a rise in fear/aggressive response towards children because, in their eyes, the child caused the startle/pain response.
The suppression of behaviors in which punishment is applied, yet not addressing the underlying emotional state, potentially leads to the subsequent return of the problem behavior or alternative responses.
Suppressing means they do not perform the behavior in front of you to avoid the consequence, and will instead do it in secret. The reasoning behind the behavior is still there.
Aversive often causes confusion and frustration in dogs.
Punishment alone for a problematic behavior does not teach the dog to understand or that there is an appropriate, alternate response.
Punishment can risk causing physical injury and pain to dogs.
While it was believed by many that dogs did not feel pain while on choke or prong collars, your dog will flinch when they feel a fly on their back. Imagine using pressure to teach.
While aversives may show results in the short term, they often have long-term consequences on behavior as well as the well-being of the dog.
A reduction in trust and choice-making can put a dog in a state of "learned helplessness" where the student freezes and no longer trusts making decisions on their own.
We believe everyone deserves transparency in the training techniques being presented to them. And we respect everyone's ability to make informed decisions and choices about the training methods they use. This is why we decided to bear all for our clients.
Pet parents, please do not feel bad if you have used aversive methods in the past. Even if they were possibly suggested by friends or family, celebrity dog trainers, and the like. We have all been there at some point in our learning journey. We often utilize what is most common in our environment, and aversive training has SATURATED the market.
We can only do what we can with the knowledge available to us.
But we are here to help you learn, grow, and discover new ways of communicating with your canine companion.
MYTH: REWARD-BASED TRAINING IS ALL ABOUT BRIBING YOUR DOG.
This is one of the biggest reasons people avoid reward-based training, but it may feel true for those who currently lack the training skills to fade rewards. Behavioral professionals have no issues introducing and removing a reinforcer to encourage continued behavioral success, and we strive to share these skills with you.
Otherwise, our treat budget would be astronomical.
Most people start off training by having the treat in hand first. This is common with the lure technique or with rapid-fire delivery or jackpots.
But the biggest hang-up humans have is our own impatience. We expect the dog to perform the cue the moment it is prompted, no matter how new it is to them. Try to keep in mind that your dogs are still learning. They need a moment to hear/see the cue, process the cue, and have time to respond.
Have you ever found yourself over-cueing because the dog did not respond immediately? "Sit..Sit...SIT..SIT SIT SIT SIT"- only then to reach for the treat bag to make the behavior happen faster? That might be where the idea of 'bribe' comes in.
A bribe is introduced to elicit a behavioral change.
Reward-based tactics utilize rewards as just that...REWARD. This means the behavior, once understood, must ultimately be completed first.
We strive to teach our human students how the dog's brain and body work, and how to ask for what you want. And only having to ask once.
The steps to good training techniques include:
Building the behavior
Naming the behavior
Beginning to Fade the Reward: Only if consistently doing well (80%)
Build Criteria-May Reintroduce Treat, and re-fade as proofing continues.
This allows your dog to have the most success as we go in small manageable chunks to allow the learning to take hold.
You deserve the best training there is. With the most up-to-date and current information that has been empirically reviewed, and studied, and we are here to bring it to you.
Reward-Based Training is supported world-wide!
Leum is working towards being a Certified Behavioral Consultant under the IAABC standards of ethical care and training of animals.
The International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants is LIMA (Least intrusive minimally aversive) compliant and stands by the science that has found that punitive measures are unnecessary methods to training.
They mentioned celebrity dog trainers like The Dog Whisperer, and Dog Daddy perpetuate misinformation and harm in the training world.
The American Veterinary Medical Association has stated that positive methods help address the underlying cause of behavioral complications and that punitive measures should never be considered the first course of action for behavioral modification.
The CCPDT acknowledge that the dog training world is an unregulated industry and decide to mandate that behavioral professionals be certified before working with families and pets.
The Certification Council of Professional Dog Trainers has released its position on utilizing LIMA-based trainers as the desired path for behavioral modification and preventing animal abuse from aversive measures.