A Closer Look at Dog Training Techniques: Part Two

By Joan Hunter Mayer

Welcome back! In the first part of this two-part series, we defined three of the most common training philosophies for dogs: non-violent, aversive and “balanced”. We examined how reinforcement and punishment relate to animal behavior, compared how each of the three techniques addressed the use of training collars and the use of rewards in training, and reviewed what leading veterinary behaviorists say about the impact of training styles on animal welfare .

The second part continues the discussion with a closer look at how each technique relates in terms of the amount of time required, the potential for fallout, viewing each dog as an individual, the impact of the training methods on the zookeeper, and finally thinking about what it is might like to run a mile on our dogs’ paws.

Expenditure of time

Force-free Methods encourage zookeepers to take the time to train their dogs and teach them the behaviors they want from them in the future. A pet parent on the go may be disappointed that quick fixes don’t really fit here. A training plan to help guardians and dogs achieve their training goals can take some time, patience, and commitment.

In order to make puppies successful, there is a great focus on prevention, in that dog guards are trained to be “problem preventers” and “problem solvers”. Dog parents rely on managing their dogs’ environment, planning ahead, and preparing for real life challenges with lots of short, fun practice sessions to learn and reinforce the desired behavior.

Aversive – It is easy for pet owners to find “experts” who guarantee a quick solution to many common challenges, and for busy dog ​​guards it is easy to find aversive collars that are sold to give dogs “feedback” on unwanted ones “Correct” behavior.

‘Balanced’ – While both correction-based and “balanced” training methods have the obvious advantage of quick results, it can take a lot of time (and resources) to reverse the emotional consequences that can arise.

Unintended consequences

We are people; and like our dogs, we sometimes make mistakes. So what happens to your dog in each of the three scenarios if you “screw up” the method? Let’s take a look.

Force-free – If you “accidentally” give a treat at the wrong time, or if your timing is wrong, you can inadvertently reinforce unintentional behavior, e.g. B. Jumping up instead of sitting. But … the other side effect is that your dog gets an extra treat, which positively strengthens the bond between you – like a winter holiday bonus in July!

Aversive – On the flip side, an accidental shock or pinch can do additional damage and inadvertently trigger a negative conditioned response to anything and everyone at that moment – including you, other pets, and children. This means that people and places that used to produce a happy response or no response at all may now cause your dog to experience fear, anxiety, and stress.

‘Balanced’ – Here, too, the risks of negative fallout in “balanced” training are the same as with aversive training methods, since the focus is on behavior (s) and not on building trusting, loving relationships between humans and dogs.

All dogs are individuals

Force-free Methods approach each dog as an individual and pay equal respect to those who love them. The focus is on promoting the behavior you want by using the rewards that best motivate your dog. At the same time, humane training is suitable for all races, all ages and even all species. The basic concept that reinforced behaviors are repeated applies to miniature poodles, great danes, humans, dolphins, chickens, elephants … you got the idea.

Aversive – You may hear that “all dogs are individuals” means that some may need a “heavier hand” when exercising. Take the earlier example from Part One of a dog having trouble walking on a loose leash. In contrast to this example where we looked at possible underlying causes of the pulling behavior and how to fix them, the solution offered in this category could include a training collar that pinches, chokes, or shocks your dog to give “feedback” to “to help him remember”. not to pull.

‘Balanced’ Training seeks to take into account the individuality of dogs and their people by sometimes including violence, fear, and intimidation into dog training. But not all the time.

Individual personality or race differences do not change the fact that ethical concerns apply to all pets. As their guardians, we are committed to doing our best to understand and care for their basic physical, mental, and emotional needs and to keep them safe and comfortable.

What’s in it for you

Think about what to expect from your relationship with your dog as you go through some of the standout features of each philosophy.

Force-free The aim of the training is:

  • Take care of the general physical and mental well-being of the dog.
  • Use only effective, humane techniques to create and maintain a harmonious household.
  • Strengthen the human-dog bond.
  • Help build and nurture loving, fun, and mutually respectful relationships between pets and their families.
  • Help dogs learn to trust the training process and those they teach.
  • Improve and enrich dogs’ lives so they can thrive.
  • Provide dog guards with a nourishing way to limit inappropriate behavior – without dogs wearing uncomfortable devices.
  • Never ask pet parents to harm, injure, scare, frighten, or annoy their dogs.
  • Go beyond basic “obedience” techniques and develop valuable canine “parenting skills” that will enable you to raise a healthy, happy dog.

Aversive Methods:

  • Often use training collars, which sometimes change undesirable behaviors.
  • Have some pet parents been concerned about whether training collars will harm their dogs. Dog guards might ask, “Is there a ‘right’ way to harm my dog?”
  • Can lead to a false sense of security. For example, electronic fencing systems that use shock collars may not keep pets on the property and / or keep predators off the property, with tragic consequences.
  • Can backfire, leading to retaliation (a bite or attack) and an unraveled bond.
  • Risk of creating learned helplessness: Dogs fearful of harsh corrections can be so afraid to do anything that they decide not to do anything at all and appear “lazy” and “aloof” (when in fact traumatized and shut down ).
  • Over time, dogs can become conditioned to the aversive stimulus and zookeepers will need to increase the intensity of the “correction” in an attempt to change their behavior. Ask yourself, “How far are you ready to go?”

Balanced‘ Education:

  • Has the same disadvantages of aversive methods (through the use of training collars and corrections).
  • It lacks the benefits of power-free training (because it’s not power-free).

If you choose a correction-based or a “balanced” approach to training, is there any chance you won’t harm your relationship with your dog? Yes – in general, dogs are tolerant, loyal, resilient, and adaptable. Does that mean you should risk harming them if there are better, safer options with proven effectiveness?

Final thoughts

When you consider your many training options, their pros and cons, and the attitude of leading veterinary behavioral organizations, there’s one more voice you can add – that of your dog. If your dog had the option to choose, would they go for training games and treats? Or to be squeezed, choked or shocked when engaging in natural, species-appropriate behavior such as sniffing or barking? Or a hodgepodge where she could be praised one moment and punished the next without knowing what to do or whom to trust?

However, the truth is that dogs cannot choose your training style. It’s up to you. Our dogs trust us to stand up for them and make the most scientifically and ethically sound decisions when it comes to their care. And that’s why training techniques are important to you and your curious dog.

The Inquisitive Canine was founded by Santa Barbara canine behavioral consultant and certified professional dog trainer Joan Hunter Mayer. Joan and her team have made it their business to offer humane, energetic and practical solutions that meet the challenges of dogs and their people in everyday life. Let’s bark with the dogs, cheer people and have fun!

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