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>

What You Need to Know About Cesar Millan, “The Dog Whisperer”

What You Need to Know About Cesar Millan, “The Dog Whisperer”

< A short link to this page – http://bit.ly/ExpertsCMJAN07 >

A compilation of comments on Cesar Millan appearing in the media published on the Green Acres Kennel Shop website in January of 2007

C’mon, Pooch, Get With the Program

Dr. Dodman [veterinary behaviorist and director of the Animal Behavior Clinic at Tufts University] said: ”My college [American College of Veterinary Behaviorists (ACVB)] thinks it [The Dog Whisperer – Cesar Millan] is a travesty. We’ve written to National Geographic Channel and told them they have put dog training back 20 years.”

The New York Times – C’mon, Pooch, Get With the Program, By Anna Bahney February 23, 2006

A ‘tough love’ dog whisperer spurs some yelps

To call his operation a psychology center is a total paradox,” says veterinary behaviorist Nicholas Dodman, director of the Animal Behavior Clinic at Tufts University’s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine and author of “Dogs Behaving Badly” (Bantam, $14). “I think, like a bullfighter, he understands how to approach and work around a dog, but thereafter he stops. He doesn’t understand separation anxiety. I doubt he knows what obsessive-compulsive behavior is. Basically, with a smile, he’s going to war with these dogs.”

Dodman says Millan relies on two musty tools popularized a half-century ago by heavy-handed military dog trainers and considered out of vogue amid the current emphasis on reward-based training. One is “positive punishment,” where an aversive action – “poking and jabbing and pulling and prodding” – is applied to get the dog to stop a behavior. The other is “flooding,” in which the dog is “basically drowning” in something it doesn’t like, sort of “Fear Factor” for Fido.

Imagine,” says Dodman, “if there was a new Dr. Phil for children, and he said, ‘If your kid is playing too many video games, get a big paddle and whack him on the head.’ People would be incensed.”

Newsday.com – A ‘tough love’ dog whisperer spurs some yelps, Cesar Millan has plenty of believers, including celebs, but veterinarians snarl over tactics, By Denise Flaim, May 17, 2006

Jean Donaldson on “The Dog Whisperer”

Practices such as physically confronting aggressive dogs and using of choke collars for fearful dogs are outrageous by even the most diluted dog training standards. A profession that has been making steady gains in its professionalism, technical sophistication and humane standards has been greatly set back. I have long been deeply troubled by the popularity of Mr. Millan as so many will emulate him. To co-opt a word like ‘whispering’ for arcane, violent and technically unsound practice is unconscionable.”

—Jean Donaldson, Director, SPCA Academy for Dog Trainers, San Francisco.

‘Dog Whisperer’ Training Approach More Harmful Than Helpful

The training tactics featured on Cesar Millan’s “The Dog Whisperer” program are inhumane, outdated and improper” according to a letter sent yesterday to the National Geographic Channel by American Humane the oldest national organization protecting children and animals.

Several instances of cruel and dangerous treatment – promoted by Millan as acceptable training methods – were documented by American Humane, including one in which a dog was partially asphyxiated in an episode. “In this instance, the fractious dog was pinned to the ground by its neck after first being “hung” by a collar incrementally tightened by Millan. Millan’s goal – of subduing a fractious animal – was accomplished by partially cutting off the blood supply to its brain.”

As a forerunner in the movement towards humane dog training, we find the excessively rough handling of animals on the show and inhumane training methods to be potentially harmful for the animals and the people on the show,” said the letter’s author, Bill Torgerson, DVM, MBA, who is vice president of Animal Protection Services for American Humane. “It also does a disservice to all the show’s viewers by espousing an inaccurate message about what constitutes effective training and appropriate treatment of animals.”

– Americanhumane.org – ‘Dog Whisperer’ Training Approach More Harmful Than Helpful – September 6, 2006

Steve Dale on “The Dog Whisperer”

I have serious concerns because his [Millan’s] methods are often intimidating rather than motivating. On TV, the dogs often comply but often they’re being forced to – you can tell by their body language: tail down, mouth closed, ears back, eyes dilated.”

For me, Millan makes too many dog-to-wolf parallels, particularly that we have to dominate a dog like an alpha wolf. Although there are many similarities, dogs are simply not wolves any more than we are chimpanzees.”

Millan has himself told me his training methods aren’t replicable. The cable channel that airs his show, the National Geographic channel, apparently agrees (or its lawyers tell it to) with pop-up warnings ‘not to try this at home.‘”

“I argue that motivating leadership is far more effective than leading through intimidation.”

– Pet World, By Steve Dale December 7, 2006

Don’t Whisper – We Favor behavioral science over showmanship

I Don’t like Millan’s techniques. Many are antiquated and dangerous, for dogs and owners, in my view and that of many of behavior experts I respect (such as Drs. Ian Dunbar, Patricia McConnell, and Nicholas Dodman, as well as our own training expert, Pat Miller).”

Modern behavioral scientists understand that there is lots more to canine interaction than constant displays of dominance and submission, and that humans are probably at their lest effective as trainers when they try to ‘act like a dominant dog.'”

Millan’s ideal is a dog who exhibits ‘calm submission’ to its owner. In contrast, most pet dog owners I know, myself included, want an affectionate, trusting, respectful coexistence with our dogs, not wary subservience… The most effective way to accomplish this, with the least fallout or dangerous side effects, is with the dog-friendly behavior modification techniques we regularly detail in WDJ.”

– The Whole Dog Journal, By Nancy Kerns, December 2006

No. 039 Misguided Expert of the Year – The Dog Whisperer Should Just Shut Up

My position is, Millan is a poseur,” Claudia Kawczynska, editor in chief of The Bark magazine, says of the ex-dog groomer. “He is a hairdresser, not the real guy in terms of being an expert. He doesn’t have credentials. And it is shocking to me how easily people are ready to fall for it… He is doing a disservice to the real experts in the filed…He gives quick fixes, but they are not going to be a solution for most families with problem dogs.”

– Esquire – No. 039 Misguided Expert of the Year – The Dog Whisperer Should Just Shut Up, by Curtis Pesmen, October 2006

©JAN2007, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved