My Position on The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior’s Training Position

The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior has strengthened their position statement on training methodology and has come out to say they recommend reward based training methods only for training. You can read that position statement here.

What does that mean in English? No shocks, no prongs, no mother’s bites, no choke chains, no “stim” collars.

Coming from an education background this is no surprise to me. I tell people if I would not put it on a child, I’m not going to put it on a dog. And yes, as a substitute teacher I will fully admit there were moments where I wish I did have an easy way to correct the children, and as a dog trainer I’ve had those moments where I’ve lost patience and thought about a prong collar. But I don’t, because I don’t want to rely on pain and threats to teach.

And yes, prong collars, mother’s bites, shock collars, stim collars, choke chains, etc – they rely on pain. Aversive tools work by creating an experience the dog (or person) wants to stop – an aversive experience. So the dog will change their behavior to stop the bad thing from happening. That means the dog stops pulling because it hurts to pull. If it did not cause pain, or a negative feeling, it would not work any differently then a regular collar. And if you have heard some say they do not hurt because of pressure distribution, etc, etc, you might want to read this post here.

But pain aside, I have not seen them to be effective teaching tools. I have seen them manage behavior, but teach? If they taught a dog not to pull then a dog would not need to wear it once they learned. But that is not what happens. I see it all the time with dogs who have been on prong collars their whole life and then come to class to do their Canine Good Citizen test and suddenly lose all their “training.” Aversives too often are used to manage, not teach. They are a way to control a dog’s behaviors so they appear to be well trained, but, once the equipment is off and the dog has the freedom to choose, you can see that the behaviors were not changed, just repressed.

I do not want to repress behaviors, I want to teach dogs new ones.

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