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  • Writer's pictureHilary Webster

Training Methods That Could Be Holding You & Your Pup Back From Success

Updated: Oct 25, 2023

rewards based dog training methods

The risks of shock & prong collars and other aversive training methods

Aversive training methods, such as prong and shock collars, are still being used regularly. As a dog guardian I'm sure you’ve heard of these before, you may have even used them. These tools are falsely marketed as "safe", despite having many scientifically proven associated risks.

As a professional dog trainer, this is a topic that I am thoroughly passionate about. The field of dog training is unregulated, meaning there is no governing body that tells clients the information that they are getting is true and up-to-date. Anyone can decide that they know enough about dogs and open a dog training business. This results in many challenges as you can presume. (Please check out the BCSPCA's list of AnimalKind trainers to find a qualified professional)

Dogs as sentient beings, are the ones who suffer from the misinformation. Using tools that are harmful (such as shock collars, prong collars, choke chains, penny bags, spray bottles, etc.) can result in detrimental side effects. Dogs are associative learners, which means they make pairings of events and consequences very easily. If you are working with behaviours that are rooted in fear (one example being reactivity towards other dogs), you risk the dog pairing that aversive event (a shock, leash correction, water spray to the face) with that other dog that is ALREADY eliciting a fearful response.

Some trainers will tell you that you need to "correct" these reactive behaviours

but that is not the case. What you're actually doing is giving the dog yet another reason to fear the other dog. Additionally, you risk creating learned helplessness. This is when a dog realizes that their actions do not matter and their emotions are not being heard, resulting in a dog that feels hopeless. Externally the dog becomes shut down, which to some may look like you have "fixed" the reactivity when in reality you have suppressed the behaviour and have not successfully changed the emotional response.

You will be relieved to hear that shock collars and corrections in dog training aren't necessary and there are more positive and humane ways to address behaviour challenges.

What can we do instead?

Instead of using aversive training methods we can work to change the emotional response and give your dog a viable behavioural outlet in these moments. This means making a positive pairing with the scary stimulus (for example, another dog). This will result in a HAPPIER and more FULFILLED dog, and you will feel so much better throughout the process. ALL types of behaviours can and should be modified using rewards based training. Even reactivity and aggression.

Always reach out to a qualified professional, like a BCSPCA AnimalKind accredited trainer to science-based behaviour modification help.

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