Study indicates that confrontational or punishment-based dog training linked to aggression and other behavior problems in canines
Lorrie Shaw | Contributor
Sadly, it's one of the most cited reasons for a dog owner to make the decision to relinquish a pet. In some cases, if a dog is deemed behaviorally unsound and they cannot be rehabilitated, euthanization is necessary.
I field countless phone calls and emails per year from people who are reaching out for help to address their pet's problem behavior — which most often is aggression or fear-based — and are seeking a referral to a reputable behaviorist or trainer.
I find that in the majority of these cases, the wrong resources have been tapped: books written by unqualified people (lest we forget the television shows) offering training or rehabilitation advice, self-professed trainers who are either unskilled in understanding canine behavior and/or use techniques that actually do more harm than good.
As it's been said: "...the road to Hell is paved with good intentions."
I think most people genuinely want what's best for their pets. Sometimes, with all of the information and opinions out there, it can be challenging to know what is helpful and what's downright dangerous.
The good news is that aggressive behavior in dogs is more easily prevented than resolved.
Reputable canine professionals know that using positive reinforcement methods and to train dogs from the start elicits the favorable outcome that everyone is looking for. They also understand the importance of relationship building and trust when it comes to a dog and their humans (as opposed to the "pack leader" mindset).
But is the public-at-large getting the message?
To some degree, those of us who are in the trenches so to speak, see that this isn't the case.
Herron and her colleagues cite in their 2009 study that what they had suspected was true: dogs who are exposed to confrontational or punishment-based training techniques are more likely to exhibit aggressive or fear-based behavior responses.
The study was conducted using surveys from pet owners who made appointments at the school to address their dog's behavioral issues.
The alpha roll is just one thing the researchers cited as something that should never be used in the process of dog training or obedience classes. Sadly, I have found that some local trainers incorporate this concept as part of their "curriculum" and implore people to use it on their weeks-old puppies and older dogs to either stave off aggressive behavior or correct it.
The technique, where a dog is essentially flipped over on its back and is held in that position, usually by the throat is not only counterproductive, but a dangerous thing to do: the inherent risk of being harmed by a dog — well-balanced or not — who is suddenly thrust into that situation certainly is imminent.
The survey asked how the unwanted behaviors were addressed, what response the dog elicited, and where the training technique used by the owner was learned from.
The bottom line is that unwanted behaviors in canines are best prevented than corrected. How can this be achieved? By empowering yourself. Most dog owners who get to a point where they seek help feel inept and deflated — not a good place to be.
- Know that much of dog training is actually "human training." Most unwanted behaviors in canines are a result of a inconsistencies or shortcomings on the human's part, regardless of the breed — along with inadequate socialization. In the training process, dogs do best with consistency as well as predictability and a calm, friendly approach. When pet isn't responding favorably, stop and ask, "What am I doing to influence this behavior?"
- Before hiring the services of a dog trainer, understand that the field of canine training is unregulated. This means a bit more work on your part; check the professional's credentials and ask a lot of questions about their philosophy on training and what methods they use. Don't be afraid to request references from their past clients that you can actually talk to and visit with one-on-one. If you don't feel comfortable with the trainer, there's probably a good a reason why. Click here for a bit more on the topic.
- Avoid the use of a training program that utilizes forceful leash corrections, choke or pinch collars and I can't emphasize enough — the use of shock collars — in the process.