This article consists of a list of dog training techniques to avoid using. It will be updated as needed to cover new training methods.
The word “aversive” is a scientific concept from the psychology field. Aversive stimuli (or things) are anything dogs want to avoid because they are startling, scary, or painful.
When a dog is exposed to something aversive until he does a desired behavior and the trainer ends the aversive thing, that behavior can increase by negative reinforcement. The dog will do it again to end the aversive (scary or painful thing).
Or if a dog does a behavior and an aversive is applied to him, he will do that behavior less. This strategy uses positive punishment to decrease unwanted behaviors. Positive in this case is not a good thing, it simply refers to adding or doing something to the dog that is scary or painful to him. Whereas in the situation mentioned above, negative refers to removing the aversive thing.
Force training refers to using aversive methods. The trainer forces a dog to comply or do a behavior.
Overall Concepts to Avoid Using
- Negative reinforcement (because it uses aversives)
- Positive punishment (because it uses aversives)
- Force training (sometimes also called compulsion training)
- Balanced training (which means using aversives sometimes and good techniques like positive reinforcement sometimes)
Specific Techniques to Avoid
- Yelling at
- Thssst, or other sounds (used to scare the dog or are paired with a harsh correction)
- Stomping near
- Pressuring with your body – for example leaning over until it backs the dog up into a sit or down
- Choke chains
- Prong collars
- Pinch collars
- Shock collars
- Remote collars
- E-collars (electronic)
- Pulling/jerking on leash with any type of collar
- Slip leads used to correct dogs
- Pinning Down
- Alpha rolls (forcing the dog to roll onto his side or back and holding there)
- Scruff shakes
- Forcing to hold position (for example, multiple people pinning a dog down at a veterinary exam)
- Hitting with newspapers
- Throwing objects at dog
- Spraying with water bottles
- Drowning dog – dunking head into pool of water
- Spitting on or in dog’s mouth
- Jabbing dog in neck with hands/fingers
- Ear pinching
- CAT (constructional aggression treatment) – is a negative reinforcement method
- Forcing dog over upset threshold
- Flooding (forcing a dog into a scary situation until he submits)
- Rubbing dog’s nose in house-training mistakes
- Forcing dog to bite a spoon (to decrease taking treats hard)
- Using airhorns to startle dogs
- Using air cans to startle dogs
- Using citronella spray as a correction
- Using bark collars of any kind (citronella, etc.) as a correction
- Using molding/modeling to force a dog into a position, like pushing on a dog until he sits or lies down
- Electronic/invisible fences (that shock dogs when they get near the barrier)
You may have tried some of these in the past, possibly even at the recommendation of a professional dog trainer, which could be upsetting. This article isn’t intended to make anyone feel bad. It’s basically a do-better-when-we-know better type of situation. The good news is it is very easy to switch over to reward-based training methods, and help your dog learn in a happy, fear-free way.
Some of these techniques are used in emergencies by professional dog trainers to stop dog fights. These are not training situations, where you let two dogs play and punish them for bad behavior, but legitimate emergencies where you have to get the two dogs to stop fighting and injuring each other.
So for example, normal training would never involve setting dogs up to fail so you could blast their ears with an airhorn or spray water in their faces, but in an actual emergency may use an airhorn or dump a water bucket over the dogs heads to get them to release their bites. And then the situation would be assessed to prevent the situation arising again in the future.
By Dan Raymer, CTC, BS
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