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The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior's Position Statement on the Use of Punishment for Behavior Modification in Animals (PDF)
The adverse effects of punishment and the difficulties in administering punishment effectively have been well documented, especially in the early 1960s when such experiments were still allowed. For instance, if the punishment is not strong enough, the animal may habituate or get used to it, so that the owner needs to escalate the intensity. On the other hand, when the punishment is more intense, it can cause physical injury. For instance, electronic anti-bark collars can cause burn marks on dogs. Choke chains can damage the trachea, increase intraocular pressure in dogs thus potentially worsening or contributing to glaucoma in susceptible breeds, cause sudden collapse from non-cardiogenic pulmonary edema (water in the lungs) due to temporary upper airway obstruction, and cause nerve damage. The risk of damage is greater when the choke chain sits high on the dog’s neck. Even when punishment seems mild, in order to be effective it often must elicit a strong fear response, and this fear response can generalize to things that sound or look similar to the punishment. Punishment has also been shown to elicit aggressive behavior in many species of animals. Thus, using punishment can put the person administering it or any person near the animal at risk of being bitten or attacked.Punishment can suppress aggressive and fearful behavior when used effectively, but it may not change the underlying cause of the behavior. For instance, if the animal behaves aggressively due to fear, then the use of force to stop the fearful reactions will make the animal more fearful while at the same time suppressing or masking the outward signs of fear; (e.g., a threat display/growling). As a result, if the animal faces a situation where it is extremely fearful, it may suddenly act with heightened aggression and with fewer warning signs. In other words, it may now attack more aggressively or with no warning, making it much more dangerous...A more appropriate approach to problem solving is to determine what is reinforcing the undesirable behavior, remove that reward, and reinforce an alternate desirable behavior instead. For instance, dogs jump to greet people in order to get their attention. Owners usually provide attention by talking or yelling, pushing them down, or otherwise touching them. A better solution would be to remove attention by standing silently and completely still and then to immediately reward with attention or treats once the dog sits. This learning-based approach leads to a better understanding of our pets and consequently to a better human-pet relationship.
Vets on Behavior Proclaim, Never Use Shock Collar
The attending vets in the behavioral medicine group (including a vet from Spain, three vets from Australia, and three from Canada) created a document with a list of recommendations for choosing a dog trainer. The document is based on science, and supports trainers who use praise and reward rather than punishment. Seksel, who is from Seaforth, Australia says in most places in Australia, these collars are actually considered illegal... Overall, a researcher in the psychiatry department at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA, agrees, “I’ve seen so many animals damaged by shock. And I’ve seen people devastated when they realize that the dog who they love has been made a nervous wreck or aggressive because they’ve chosen the wrong training method.”... The veterinarians who crafted the recommendations also urged avoiding trainers who use chain link choke collars (also called training or correction collars) and prong collars (also called pinch collars, blunt metal prongs are fitted around the dogs’ neck)... Overall adds, “For example, we know how dogs learn best, and this equipment may actually discourage learning, not to mention potentially hurt the dog. Dogs that are chronically yanked and popped may have recurring laryngeal nerve paralysis and other physical injuries as a result, not to mention seriously damaged psyches.” Dr. Tamera Cole of Ft. Wayne, IN was among the group of vets who created the recommendations for choosing a dog trainer. She says she realizes many trainers around the world use inappropriate equipment, but that doesn’t make it right. “We’re reaching for an ideal here, and it’s all based on what we know about training dogs.
Not Using Force in Police Dog Training (PDF)
I know about compulsive training because I spent my first fifteen years training two K-9s and a number of other dogs using compulsion. I’ve been around long enough to have owned or tried almost every training method formulated and piece of training equipment made (except an “electric sleeve”- too expensive). So I am very familiar with training systems. I now choose to work non-compulsively because it gives me and the teams I train better results...First, non-compulsive training produces less stress in the dog, less stress in the handler and enhances rather than hurts the relationship between the handler and dog. Less stress means faster learning by the dog and handler and healthier dogs because stress causes disease and injury... Fifth, non-compulsively trained dogs need less retraining in obedience work than compulsively trained dogs... Sixth, my work with highly bred working dogs with extreme levels of drive and high pain thresholds has convinced me that many of these dogs can only be taught effectively using non compulsive methods. Trying to correct these dogs into submission when they are doing protection work often results in aggression towards the handler or a dog which puts up with the corrections and still does just what he wants when off lead.
You Don't Know Sit
He looked for the bus while standing right on top of Jordan. It seems that Kip did not actually know the meaning of, “Where’s Jordan.” I was mistaken and presumed far too much. Dog owners often complain that their dogs know obedience commands and house rules. They say, “He KNOWS sit, but he won’t do it.” Assuming that a dog knows the meaning of a phrase or word implies that the dog is refusing to obey. Labelled as stubborn, defiant and dominant, owners start looking for ways to make the dog submit and obey. It opens the door to a wide array of concocted punishments to ensure the dog obeys the commands that it supposedly knows. Plenty of dog training methods feed into these notions perpetuating needless discipline.
Pain: When in Doubt, Leave it Out
The ability to tolerate pain differs from one individual to another. Studies on electric shock found that some people felt pain when shocked with 0.30 mA of electricity. Others could tolerate up to 2.0 mA. Each individual feels things differently... Unpredictable pain makes us sensitive and less tolerant to unpleasant and painful situations. Research shows that as little as three mild shocks can trigger this hypersensitivity. It’s like watching a scary movie and then jumping at every bump in the night... What it boils down to is that pain is complex. You cannot measure pain based on a technique. There will be variation that can increase, decrease or mask pain. This raises concerns because pain is not about actual physical harm. It’s about our perceptions and even the anticipation of pain... Many dog training techniques are at risk of triggering these problems.
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