Friday, July 14, 2017

Implications of Using Training Techniques

What are the Implications of Using Training Techniques Which Induce Fear or Pain in Dogs?

If a dog shows a behaviour which results in a perceived positive outcome, he or she is more likely to show the behaviour again on subsequent occasions – this is known as reinforcement. If a behaviour results in a perceived negative outcome, the dog is less likely to show the behaviour again – this is punishment. Simplistically, in order to change a behaviour, one could either punish an undesired behaviour or reinforce the desired one.

‘Punishment’ tends to be an emotive word, but scientifically this just means a reduced chance of a behaviour occurring again. Hence, depending on the characteristics and experience of the animal, and the choices of the trainer, a ‘punisher’ could vary from a mild ‘no’ to a very aversive stimulus such as a tightened prong collar around a dog’s neck. Punishment has been used in animal training since animals have lived in close proximity with people. However, just because training techniques based on the induction of fear or pain have been used for a long time, does not necessarily mean that they are the best option in terms of efficacy or animal welfare. In fact, training a dog using such techniques carries a number of risks. These are:

  • Increasing the dogs fear or anxiety about the situation in which it is used
  • Decrease the dog’s ability to learn
  • Associate other, coincidental events with a fear provoking event
  • Inhibit behaviour, but leave the underlying emotional response unchanged increasing the chance of future problems
  • Induce an new avoidance, or aggressive response
  • Cause confusion as to which behaviour is required
  • Cause physical injury
In addition, since training techniques are widely used that do not require the use of severe punishment, there is no need to use techniques which impact negatively on the welfare of dogs. The relative safety and effectiveness of using reward based or punitive training techniques must also be taken into consideration. Read the entire article

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