Is Your Dog Your Best Friend or a Family Member?

If Yes, Then Please Join Me and Take the Pledge

< A version of this article was published in the October 2017 issue of Downeast Dog News>

Dogs were first referred to as “Man’s best friend” in 1789 by Frederick, King of Prussia. Today it is not uncommon for a person to say that they consider their dog to not only be their friend but to be a member of their family. That is how I view both my dog and cats. In spite of this apparent devotion to dogs, there are still too many people in this country that routinely use electronic shock collars to subject their dogs to shock on a regular basis, all in the name of training and containment.

When a dog receives an electric shock from a shock collar, the shock is meant to be sufficiently aversive to change the dog’s behavior. An aversive typically causes either physical or emotional pain or both. If the dog does not find the shock aversive, the shock will not stop the behavior. That is basic psychology. Rewarding a dog for a behavior causes that behavior to increase, and punishing a dog or adding an aversive, causes a behavior to decrease. Those that insist the shock does not hurt the dog and that it is merely a “stim” or “tickle” are either misleading people or do not understand the fundamentals of psychology and learning theory.

What makes the use of electric shock on animals even more distressing than the fact that we are intentionally hurting our pets, is that science has demonstrated that the use of punishment is unnecessary to train or manage a pet. In fact, we know with certainty, that the use of shock and other aversives can be extremely detrimental. The use of aversives can damage the bond we have with our pet, impair our pet’s ability to learn, and often cause fear and aggression. Considering that shock is unnecessary, its use amounts to nothing less than abuse. So I ask, why would anyone intentionally abuse their best friend or a family member?

Since its beginnings in 2012, The Pet Professional Guild (PPG) has advocated against the use of aversives in the training and management of pets. In 2015, the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), an accreditation body for veterinary practices and hospitals, issued their Behavior Management Guidelines. The guidelines clearly state: “Aversive techniques include prong (pinch) or choke collars, cattle prods, alpha rolls, dominance downs, electronic shock collars, lunge whips, starving or withholding food, entrapment, and beating. None of those tools and methods should be used to either teach or alter behavior.” [Emphasis added]. The experts on our pets health, behavior, and training agree; shock should NEVER be used.

Whether the use of electric shock is intentional, due to casual disregard because “it is just a dog,” or due to ignorance, I and many others believe it is time for this inhumane treatment of our best friends and family members to stop. On September 25th the Pet Professional Guild (PPG) launched the Shock-Free Coalition ( http://www.shockfree.org ) “…an initiative that aims to build an international movement committed to eliminating shock devices once and for all in the care, training and management of pets.” This noble cause is long overdue and one that I support without hesitation. I hope that you will join me in this movement to educate and advocate for the abolishment of the use of shock devices for the management and training of our best friends and family members. Please take the first step, and join me by taking the pledge at http://www.petprofessionalguild.com/Sign-The-Pledge.

What else can you do to support the Shock-Free Coalition?

  • Dog Parents – Ask any and every pet care provider that participates in the care of your dog (animal shelters, boarding kennels, breeders, daycares, dog walkers, groomers, humane societies, pet related periodicals, pet sitters, places you buy pet food and supplies, rescues. Veterinarians, ) if they are aware of the Shock-Free Coalition and if they have taken the pledge. Encourage them to do so. If they chose not to take the pledge, ask them why. Suggest that they do some research and reconsider. You might even provide them with a copy of this column. If they are still unwilling to take the pledge, remember, you can choose who gets your pet related business. Sometimes money speaks louder than words.
  • Pet Care Professionals – Take the pledge and make your support known to your employees, customers, and clients. Tell them about the pledge and ask them to take it as well. Show your support for the Shock-Free Coalition with signs in your facility, articles in your newsletter, information on your website, and with posts on social media. I know that pet parents care about this issue and they want to know that you care too!
  • Dog Parents and Pet Care Professionals in Maine – It is my goal to place an ad in the November issue of Down East Dog News listing everyone one in the state of Maine who has taken the pledge. We need to show that those that still recommend and sell shock collars are a minority. We need to show them that we want to stop the unnecessary abuse of our pets. To make that ad happen, I need your help and some donations. Learn how to add your name to the list for the November ad and to make a donation at http://bit.ly/Shock-FreeME

To learn more about the problems with shock collars, visit these resources:

The Unintended Consequences of Shock Collarhttp://bit.ly/ShockCollars

PPG Shock-Free Coalitionhttp://www.shockfree.org

Shock-Free Maine Information and Donation pagehttp://bit.ly/Shock-FreeME

PPG Guiding Principles – https://www.petprofessionalguild.com/PPGs-Guiding-Principles

Green Acres Kennel Shop Position Statement on Pet-Friendly, Force-Free Pet Care – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2006/02/01/no-pain-no-force-no-fear-green-acres-kennel-shop-position-statement-on-pet-friendly-force-free-pet-care/

AAHA Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines – https://www.aaha.org/professional/resources/behavior_management_guidelines.aspx

________________________________________________________________________
Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop ( greenacreskennel.com ) in Bangor. He is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC) and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). He produces and co- hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show heard on The Pulse AM620 WZON and streamed at http://www.wzonradio.com/ every Saturday at 9 AM. A list of upcoming shows and podcasts of past shows can be found at www.woofmeowshow.com. Don also writes about pets at his blog: www.words-woofs-meows.com. He is committed to pet care and pet training that is free of pain, force, and fear. The opinions in this post are those of Don Hanson.

©1OCT17, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved
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No Pain, No Force, & No Fear – Green Acres Kennel Shop Position on the Use of Dominance and Punishment for the Training and Behavior Modification of Dogs

<Updated 2MAR17>

This position statement is based on the understanding that:

  1. As our dog’s guardian we have a moral responsibility to meet their physical and emotional needs1.
  2. We can train our dogs to a very high level of compliance using a variety of reward-based training methods, but we cannot dictate their emotional responses to situations. Most serious behavioral problems are not due to training or a lack thereof, but are the result of emotions like fear and anger.
  3. Expecting 100% compliance to obedience cues without also managing the dog’s environment is not a reasonable expectation for most dogs.
  4. Dogs, like humans, are social species and usually enjoy the company of others. However both species consist of a broad spectrum of temperament types and must be viewed as individuals. Not all individuals within the population will enjoy social interactions. As much as we may want a dog to “like” a specific person or pet, we cannot make them do so.

The goal of our training and behavior consultation programs is to help you and your pet become and remain best friends for life. We believe that healthy friendships are based on mutual respect, acceptance of one another’s unique needs, and a desire to share life’s ups and downs while enjoying one another’s company.

Our approach to training or modifying the behavior of an animal may include any and all of the following; 1) managing the dog and its environment to prevent the undesired behavior, 2) eliminating or at least reducing the dog’s stress and anxiety by managing the dog and its environment, 3) defining clear boundaries and rules that are taught to the dog through reward-based training, 4) establishing or increasing the trust between person and dog so the dog sees its guardian as a kind leader and provider, 5) desensitizing the dog to the stimuli that causes the undesired behavior, and 6) rewarding the dog for desired behavior.

We will NOT recommend any methods based on the dominance construct (e.g. being the alpha or “top dog”, alpha rollovers, scruff shakes, etc.) which basically involves correcting behavior via physical, mental or emotional intimidation. While the dominance construct has been popular for many years, and is currently promoted on a popular reality TV show, it is based on flawed science and has been refuted by experts in the field of dog and wolf behavior.2,3,4,5,6 The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) and the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT), the world’s two largest organizations of  dog behavior professionals, have both published official position papers outlining the problems with using the dominance construct for training or resolving problem behaviors like aggression.7,8,9 Attempting to be dominant over a dog is only likely to create and/or increase behavior problems and aggression.

We will NOT recommend any tools (shock collars [remote or underground fencing systems], choke, prong, or anti-bark collars) that are specifically designed to punish or “correct” the dog by causing pain or discomfort. Our own experience in dealing with dogs that have behavioral issues, as well as scientific research by experts in the field, indicates that using tools that cause pain and fear can actually elicit or increase aggression and other behavioral problems.4,10 Fear, anger and confrontation are all stressful. Physiologically a dog’s body will react in the same manner as a human’s when stressed. Stress causes an increase in the hormone cortisol as well as other biochemical changes.11 Studies completed in Japan and Hungary in 2008 demonstrated that dogs that were strictly disciplined had higher levels of cortisol and that these increased cortisol levels were linked to increased aggressive behavior. The many adverse effects of using punishment led The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) to publish guidelines on the use of punishment in training in 2007.12

While punishment can temporarily stop a behavior it often causes new and additional problems. A study published in Animal Welfare by EF Hiby in 2004 concluded that dogs trained with punishment were more likely to demonstrate behavior problems and were less obedient than those trained with positive, reward based methods.13 Another study, published in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior by Emily Blackwell in the fall of 2008 found that dogs trained with punishment had higher aggression scores while those trained with rewards had the lowest scores for fearful and attention seeking behaviors.14

Footnotes

1 Hanson, Don, 2010, Brambell’s Five Freedoms, Green Acres Kennel Shop web site, (http://www.greenacreskennel.com/pages/Articles/ART_Brambells_5_Freedoms.html )

2 Mech L.D. 1999. Alpha Status, Dominance, and Division of Labor in Wolf Packs. Canadian Journal of Zoology. (http://www.wolf.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/267alphastatus_english.pdf)

3 Mech L.D. 2008. Whatever happened to the term alpha wolf? International Wolf. (http://www.wolf.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/winter2008.pdf )

4 Bradshaw J.W.S., Blackwell E.J., Casey R.A. 2009. Dominance in domestic dogs – useful construct or bad habit? Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, May/June 2009, pp 135-144. (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/248577607_Dominance_in_domestic_dogs_Useful_construct_or_bad_habit)

5 Coppinger, Raymond & Lorna: Dogs – A Startling New Understanding of Canine Origin, Behavior & Evolution ©2001, Scribner

6 Ryan, David. 2010. Why Won’t “Dominance” Die? Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors website, www.apbc.org.ukhttp://www.apbc.org.uk/articles/why-wont-dominance-die

7 American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior 2009. AVSAB Position Statement on the Use of Dominance Theory in Behavior Modification of animals. (https://avsab.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Dominance_Position_Statement_download-10-3-14.pdf )

8 Association of Pet Dog Trainers 2009. APDT Position Statement on Dominance and Dog Training (http://www.apdt.com/petowners/choose/dominance.aspx )

9 Association of Pet Dog Trainers 2009. Dominance Myths and Dog Training Realities (http://www.apdt.com/petowners/choose/dominancemyths.aspx )

10 Herron M.E., Shofer F.S., Reisner I.R. 2009. Survey of the use and outcome of confrontational and non-confrontational training methods in client-owned dogs showing undesired behaviors. Applied Animal Behavior Science, 117, pp. 47-54. (http://vet.osu.edu/assets/pdf/hospital/behavior/trainingArticle.pdf )

11 Scholz, Martina, and von Reinhardt, Clarissa: Stress in Dogs,©2007, Dogwise Publishing,

12 American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior 2007. AVSAB Position Statement – Punishment Guidelines: The use of punishment for dealing with animal behavior problems. (https://avsab.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Punishment_Position_Statement-download_-_10-6-14.pdf )

13 Hiby, E.F., Rooney, N.J., Bradshaw, J.W.S., 2004. Dog training methods—their use, effectiveness and interaction with behaviour and welfare. Anim. Welfare 13, 63–69. (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/261106650_Dog_training_methods_Their_use_effectiveness_and_interaction_with_behaviour_and_welfare)

14 Blackwell, Emily J., Twells, Caroline Anne, Seawright, Rachel A. Casey. 2008. The relationship between training methods and the occurrence of behavior problems, as reported by owners, in a population of domestic dogs. Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, September/October 2008, pp 207-217. (http://www.journalvetbehavior.com/article/S1558-7878%2807%2900276-6/abstract )

Recommended Reading for Further Education

Dogs: A new Understanding of Canine Origin, Behavior and Evolution, Raymond and Lorna Coppinger, University of Chicago Press, 2001.

Dominance: Fact or Fiction, Barry Eaton, 2002.

Dominance Theory and Dogs Version 1.0, James O’Heare, DogPsych Publishing, 2003.

Don’t Shoot the Dog – The New Art of Teaching and Training (2nd edition), Karen Pryor, Bantam Books, 1999.

On Talking Terms With Dogs: Calming Signals, Turid Rugaas, Dogwise Publishing, 2006.

Stress in Dogs, Martina Scholz and Clarissa von Reinhardt, Dogwise Publishing, 2007.

The Culture Clash, Jean Donaldson, James & Kenneth Publishers, 2005.

The Power of Positive Dog Training, Pat Miller, Howell Book House, 2001.

Recommended Resources

Articles on Don’s Blog (http://www.words-woofs-meows.com)

 

Green Acres’ First Statement on Being A Pet Friendly-Facilityhttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2006/02/01/green-acres-first-statement-on-being-a-pet-friendly-facility/

©01JUL10, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>