The way in which we train our dogs is extremely important. Using positive training methods is not only effective, but it is safe and leads to a much stronger and more loving and trusting bond between you and your dog. This is true for dogs of any size, breed, history, age, or temperament.
Training your dog in a humane way focuses on positively teaching them what we would like them to do, rather than temporarily suppressing their behavior through the use of intimidation, corrections, punishment, or pain-based tools - which can lead to an array of negative side effects.
Information is only as good as its source.
Here are some position statements from well-respected, professional, and credible organizations:
American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior: a group of veterinarians and doctorate level animal behaviorists dedicated to improving the lives of animals and people through an understanding of animal behavior.
On the approach to training:
- "Based on these factors, reward-based learning offers the most advantages and least harm to the learner’s welfare. Research supports the efficacy of reward-based training to address unwanted and challenging behaviors. There is no evidence that aversive training is necessary for dog training or behavior modification. Reward-based techniques should be used for teaching common training skills as well as to address unwanted behaviors. The application of aversive methods – which, by definition, rely on application of force, pain, or emotional or physical discomfort – should not be used in canine training or for the treatment of behavioral disorders." (Read the full position statement here.)
- "The AVSAB recommends that veterinarians not refer clients to trainers or behavior consultants who coach and advocate dominance hierarchy theory and the subsequent confrontational training that follows from it. Instead, the AVSAB emphasizes that animal training, behavior prevention strategies, and behavior modification programs should follow the scientifically based guidelines of positive reinforcement, operant conditioning, classical conditioning, desensitization, and counter conditioning. The AVSAB recommends that veterinarians identify and refer clients only to trainers and behavior consultants who understand the principles of learning theory and who focus on reinforcing desirable behaviors and removing the reinforcement for undesirable behaviors." (Read the full position statement here.)
On how to choose a trainer:
- "AVSAB endorses training methods which allow animals to work for things (e.g., food, play, affection) that motivate them rather than techniques that focus on using fear or pain to punish them for undesirable behaviors. Look for a trainer who uses primarily or only reward-based training with treats, toys, and play. Avoid any trainer who advocates methods of physical force that can harm your pet such as hanging dogs by their collars or hitting them with their hands, feet, or leashes."(Read more here.)
On finding the right trainer:
- "Look for trainers who use positive reinforcement for good behavior, rather than punishment for unacceptable behavior. Avoid a trainer who offers guarantees. That trainer is either ignoring or doesn’t understand the complexity of animal behavior." (Read more here.)
- "The IAABC strongly warns against the acceptance and use of dominance theory when working with behavior and training with animals. The best way to minimize stress, promote good welfare, successfully prevent, treat, and manage behavior problems, train effectively, and help develop a strong bond between people and their animals is to focus on positive reinforcement." (Read more here.)
- "Ethologists agree that while dominance theory does not describe interactions between different species, it is frequently applied to animal training in a way that promotes adversarial relationships between the animal and human. The term is often used to label an animal’s counter-control behaviors, often as a result of aversive stimulation and coercion. In short, dominance theory is a counterproductive construct that distracts from the functional relationship between behavior, and the environment, which actually causes and explains behaviors." (Read more here.)
On finding the right trainer:
- "Dog trainers who are still steeped in using punitive training methods are often known to use outdated terms such as “dominance,” “pack leader,” and “alpha dog,” all of which have been proven by canine behavior scientists and specialists to be inappropriate and inaccurate in their application to pet dogs. In addition, many such trainers use training methods founded in aversive protocols deemed obsolete and damaging – both physically and psychologically." (Read more here.)