I want to be the voice for those that cannot speak for themselves and help animals live their best lives in honor of my soul dog Odin J. Sharing the valuable lessons I have learned from the amazing animals I have encountered. LIFE IS SHORT HAVE FUN AND BE SILLY WITH YOUR PET I would also like to honor life with LOVE by sharing my book "Furry Philosophy and Memoirs Set in Stone" honoring those at the rainbow bridge and life lessons from animals.
I would like to thank Chelsie Blaine, a friend, I admire very much for being a guest writer on my blog.What she has to say here is so well written and resonates with my beliefs very much.
I am thankful to have her story to share. I believe this message should be shared everywhere, it is so important, it could save a life.
Chelsie is a staff member and dog trainer at Muskegon Humane.
Shown here are her personal pack she has adopted in to her home.
Written by Chelsie Blaine, CPDT-KA, PMCT-1
Navigating the world of dog training can be confusing at
best; a quick Google search will yield a head spinning amount of results, with
no shortage of conflicting information and ideas on the best way to go about
it. To add to the confusion, the dog training industry is completely
unregulated. Anyone can start a business and call themselves a dog trainer- or
even a behaviorist- regardless of their skills and education level, or lack
thereof, with no repercussions. One would hope that when enlisting the services
of someone with the title of ‘professional’ they could trust that their pet is
in safe hands. Dog owners can easily find themselves in the hands of an
unqualified person using antiquated training methods on their dog, and it can
have devastating consequences.
A dog very near and dear to my heart, Buddy, a dog that I
fostered was the unfortunate victim of a painful training device still used and
on the market today; a shock collar. Buddy was adopted from MHS in 2016 by a
wonderful family. They loved, cherished, and spoiled him- he was a part of the
family! We received many pictures of Buddy enjoying his new life and happy
updates about how great Buddy was. He did bark and sometimes growl at
unfamiliar people, but this was something they knew he struggled with and
wanted to work on with him.
Buddy’s family found a trainer to help them with his
behavior, and in their next update reported how well he was doing. We didn’t
hear from them again until a few short months ago when I took the phone call
that made my hear sink- Buddy had bitten someone quite seriously.
His family was completely caught off guard- he had been
doing so well! And the bite, his owner said, was ‘completely unprovoked’. Those
words, “completely unprovoked’, immediately trigger my mind to ask more
questions. More often than not, this is not the case. It may appear that way
from the human point of view, but from the dog’s perspective something very bad
or scary was going on that warranted the bite.
Through the conversation, I learned that the trainer they
hired not only advised that they stop using all treats and rewards for any
training at all, but that a shock collar was also used to correct him for barking
and growling at strangers.After 6
months, they thought the problem was solved- he no longer barked and growled at
strangers. So when he “went nuts”, charged out of the house, and latched on to
the leg of an unsuspecting pedestrian they were completely stunned. What on
earth could cause him to do that?
The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior states,
“When used effectively, punishment can suppress the behavior of fearful or
aggressive animals, but it may not change the association underlying the
behavior problem. For instance, if the animal is aggressive due to fear, then
the use of force to stop the fearful reactions will make the dog more fearful
while at the same time suppressing or masking the outward signs of fear. Once
it can no longer suppress its fear, the animal may suddenly act with heightened
aggression and with fewer warning signs of impending aggression. In other
words, it may now attack with no warning.” (AVSAB Position Statement: The Use
of Punishment for Behavior Modification in Animals).
So, applying this
information we know that what likely happened is that they had suppressed
Buddy’s behavior; using the shock collar did not change his underlying stress
around strange people. By treating his aggressive behavior as ‘being bad’ or
‘misbehaving’ rather than what it truly was- an attempt to communicate that he
was uncomfortable- they unintentionally strengthened his negative association.
He was able to mask his outward behavior for a period of time to avoid the
painful shock, but when it became too difficult handle he reacted with
heightened aggression. This is one of the unfortunate behavioral side effects
that can come with using aversives to correct a behavior problem.
While Buddy’s story is one of the more extreme cases of what
can happen as a result of the use of force in training, it is the reality of
what can happen. The majority of dogs will go their entire lives without ever
biting anyone, regardless of what training methods are used. For a portion of
dogs, punishment works; but that does not mean it comes without consequence.
The more common scenario is that the dog will ‘behave’ out of fear of being
punished. The end result may be a well behaved, model canine citizen, but it
comes at the cost of a diminished relationship with the dog and a reduced
quality of life.
Without regulation or universally accepted industry
standards, how do you make the best, most humane choice for your furry best
friend when it comes to training? Jean Donaldson, respected behavior
professional and author, suggests asking these three questions before hiring a
trainer: “What will happen to my dog if he gets it right? What will happen to
my dog if he gets it wrong? Are there any less invasive alternatives to what
you propose?”- make sure you are comfortable with their answers.Any ethical and professional trainer should
not make you feel pressured, have your dog’s comfort and safety as a priority,
and be able to explain to you exactly how and why the methods they advice work.
Seek out a trainer who utilizes force-free training methods.
Force-free training focuses on a combination of positive reinforcement (the dog
gets it right, we reward him- the behavior increases), management (preventing
the dog from practicing unwanted behaviors), and negative punishment (the dog
gets it wrong, we with hold the reward- the behavior decreases). Force-free
training strengthens your bond with your dog, promotes active learning, and
best of all- it can be fun! Use caution if the trainer practices traditional
training methods, as they often utilize force. This can cause the dog to shut
down to avoid corrections, have unintended behavioral side effects- such as
increased fearful or aggressive behavior, and it does not teach the dog what we
would like to him do instead.
Certifications and memberships to professional organizations
are also good indicators that they are committed to continued education and the
most modern, science based training techniques. Two reputable websites to start
your search for a trainer are The Certification Counsel for Professional Dog Trainers
and The Pet Professional Guild (www.petprofessionalguild.com).
I hope that by sharing his story, I can prevent this tragic
situation from happening to other dogs. We owe it not only to our dogs, but to
our communities to make humane choices when it comes to training options for
our dogs. Buddy is an unfortunate example of how our choices affect not only
our dog’s wellbeing, but the safety of others in the community as well. Until
we have the needed changes and regulations made in the industry, it is
imperative to be your dogs best advocate and do your research when selecting a
trainer and training equipment.
American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior. 2007. AVSAB
Position Statement The Use of Punishment for Behavior Modification in Animals.