Depending on how many dog articles you read, you might come across explanations for the use of positive reinforcement training for dogs quite often. There is a very good reason for this. The current dog training profession is not regulated, meaning there are no required certifications to practice as a professional in the field, and there is a wide variety of quality among the educational courses and certificates that exist. Note: there is one known Florida county that started requiring licensing after trainers failed to properly care for dogs in that location, so we are likely to see more of this in the future. However, that particular license is not likely to change the field’s standards much.
Compare dog trainers with no education to other professionals: doctors, veterinarians, hair stylists, whom all have to have formal licenses to practice. Dogs are our family, so we should have higher expectations for those training them.
Choice of training method would likely not matter too much if the profession was only using and allowing humane teaching techniques. Unfortunately, the profession is essentially allowing abuse and overall negative force/harsh punishments mixed in with acceptable methods. Even things that would normally be considered animal abuse somehow get a pass when it is called training.
Just as we no longer allow teachers to hit our children in schools, nor should we accept this shoddy treatment of our beloved dogs from dog trainers.
Before people knew better, they thought the only way to train animals was to force them to perform behaviors. This included jabbing elephants in the rear end with prods, whipping animals, jerking as harshly as possible to strangle dogs on collars. Using choke chains (it’s in the name!), prong collars (designed to jab the dog in the neck), and zapping dogs with shock collars (again, it’s literally in the name how these tools work, and don’t fall for current trainers’ attempts to rename them remote, electronic, or stim collars; their function is to shock).
Other trainers have used ‘helicoptering’ – hanging dogs by leashes/collars off the ground and swinging them around. Dunking dogs’ heads under water and holding them there for a normal dog behavior like digging. Other techniques include hitting, kicking, throwing objects at them, yelling at, and stomping near dogs to scare them. None of these methods should be tolerated.
The dog training field, while having at its disposal positive reinforcement training methods for as long as people have trained dogs, now has the existence of numerous professionals competently utilizing these methods to train dog behaviors of all kinds, in pet dog training, competitive sports, and working dog training. We have science experiments and practical training experience proving the same thing: that positive reinforcement training methods work! And they work without negative side effects or harming an animal’s well-being.
Stay tuned for more details about training methods and how animal training works.
Future Articles Coming:
- What training methods to avoid
- What training methods to use
- Guide to dog training methods
By Dan Raymer, CTC, BS