Mar 4, 2010

Why not advise Aversive Techniques on the Net

Many people that advocate the use of aversive or negative techniques often say that they DO work and that its worked wonders for their dogs. I don't think we can argue with them on that point, because if they didn't work then trainers back in the 1960's who were using them wouldn't have had a job! Of course the more modern trainers don't question IF they work but rather how, why, and for how long they work. But thats a different story that we may touch upon on another blog. I just want to focus on the following two points of why its not appropriate to advise using aversive techniques on the internet.

The Skill Required

The skill to effectively administer an aversive training technique is not present in everyone. In an article I wrote debunking the alpha theory, I wrote a little about why punishement wasn't an appropriate tool for average owners. It explains how most people's emotions rule the severity and length of the punishment and how timing and consistency is usually not a strong point in those that aren't well acquainted with how dog's think.

Simply because an aversive method worked for you personally doesn't make it ok to go on the internet and argue with those that offer more dog friendly methods and suggest that others use it because it worked for them. People reading that may not possess the skill to do the same thing and have it work for them. Not to mention used incorrectly aggressive methods have been proven to cause aggressive behaviors in dogs. Suggestions of this nature have only made the problem worse when it could have been avoided with more modern and positive techniques.

Just because someone had sucess using a punishment to rid themselves of a problem behavior doesn't mean that they should be giving other less knowledgeable owners a false sense of security in that it works and can be done by everyone; remember that every dog and owner is different. It would be a different story if that person where there to guide the owner to doing it correctly but posting things of that nature on the internet makes that impossible.

Quick to Accept and Pleasing Too!

Another reason to avoid the topic all together is that people are often too quick to accept the idea that punishing their dog is an effective way to eliminate a problem behavior. They don't, in the least, know why they are doing it, what the root of the problem is or what consequences there may be; they just know that someone on the internet (someone that they think knows more on the subject that they) said its ok and that it'll work.

The problem with aversives is that over time they aren't even used mainly to try and cure a problem but rather as a vent in which to channel the anger that a problem behavior causes. In other become rewarding to the punisher. The idea sounds sickening and barbaric, no? Because thats exactly what it is. I don't mean that the owner will hit the dog because he's had a bad day, but I'm saying that it will relieve the frustration he feels because, lets say, the dog had another accident on the new carpet.

In the end.

Its not that those that offer dog friendly methods think we are higher or more elite than those that advocate aversive methods. Its that they are not only more humane but they offer a stress free way to solve common dog problems while at the same time opening a door to the owner to understanding how and why a dog works the way it does.

Its not a matter about whether those methods work or not, like I said in the begining; but rather a matter about acknowledging the possible consequences that they may pose to both dog and owner as compared to other more modern techniques. If you think that there is no way to completely teach a dog without using punishments of some sort I highly recommend that you read Reaching the Animal Mind by Karen Pryor, an see what modern training techniques have to offer.

Feel free to comment on the subject either here or at my dog message board and maybe we can have a nice discussion.

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