Aversive Training Methods

Feb 7, 2019   Tracey Aston   Training

Aversive training, or positive punishment, is just what it says - punishment. According to the dictionary it's “behavior conditioning in which noxious stimuli are associated with undesirable or unwanted behavior that is to be modified or abolished.”  It's shock collars, and choke collars and pain – physical and mental pain. It leaves a pet confused, fearful and stressed. It breaks with trust bond with an owner and leaves a dog feeling broken. It's not showing “who's the boss”; it's teaching a pet who trusts you how to fear you.

Dogs react to aversive training by either fighting, running, freezing or appeasing. A dog prone to fighting will learn to bite, be fearful of humans, a dog prone to running will attempt to avoid the conflict and hide out of fear and stress or a pet will freeze and simply not move. Some dogs will appease, meaning do what you say, but not out of respect or training, out of fear. Does that sound like a way to try a respected and loved family member? Making them choose between fighting you, running or hide from you and fearing you? That kind of thinking is outdated and has no basis in training a better behaved dog. 

Aversive training methods include, dominance rolls (alpha roll), withholding food as punishment, rubbing a pet's face into their urine or feces or hitting them with a rolled up newspaper. 

Regardless of what's been said on popular television shows, pets don't need to be told who's in charge or shown who is dominant or pack leader to be a well behaved trained member of the family. Throwing a dog on its side doesn't train them in anything other than to fear you. Also, it puts the owner in serious danger, as stated above, there are 3 ways a dog will react, either by fighting, running or freezing – by laying on them, the option to run is taken away and the odds of the owner getting bitten have been seriously raised.  Dominance is not a training method. It teaches the pet nothing – not what is expected of them, not word association, and it doesn't give incentive to behave properly. 

Never hit a dog with a rolled up newspaper or anything else for that matter! Disciplining dogs with pain doesn't work to teach them anything other than to fear humans or the objects hitting them. Hitting a pet or yelling NO is not a training command. It doesn't teach anything. Other than chasing a dog with a slipper in their mouth while yelling no, trying working on the “leave it” command. Leave it is a command, the dog will know what to do. It's word association with an action. No doesn't train them, as it doesn't allow them to associate a word with an action. 

Another outdated aversive training method is to rub a puppy or dog's face into urine or feces as a way to teach them not to eliminate in the home. Dogs live in the moment, coming home from work and finding a mess and then rubbing a dog's nose in the mess doesn't mean anything to them. Dogs don't understand this. Now they're confused, frightened and don't know what they did wrong. This method won't stop them from eliminating in the house, but out of fear they will attempt to hide it. To them, they will eliminate anywhere that isn't where they eat. It's the owners job to teach them where they are expected to eliminate, whether a yard or a pee-pee pad. Taking the pet outside after they eat, first thing when they wake up, and every few hours and then praising them when they do their business is teaching them what is expected of them.  If the pet has been house trained and is now eliminating in the house, consider if they're sick, have a health concern or need to see a veterinarian. 

Our pets deserve patience, kindness, and respect. They deserve to be treated as members of the family. Dogs can't teach us how to communicate with them, but we can teach them how to communicate with us, by word association, positive training, and incentives. If a pet is trained properly, with guidance, time and patience, there will never be a need for punishment. Give them the best chance to succeed.

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