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Aversive Training, why is it bad for my dog ?

What is Aversive based training methods and why they are .... well.... Aversive

Unfortunately in dog training and behaviour there is no regulations in place, anyone can call themselves a dog trainer. Because of this there are many unqualified people using outdated methods to train dogs.

There are three main types of trainer out there ...Positive reinforcement trainers, Aversive or Dominance (Alpha) trainers and Balanced trainers.

Firstly, you may be wondering ..What is Aversive training ?

Aversive training is the opposite of positive reinforcement training. This training involves using a negative stimulant to stop a bad behaviour for example , using a choke chain to yank a dog when it pulls on a lead, or spraying a dog with water or using a E- collar to shock a dog into submission.

Unfortunately these techniques get quick results and look impressive but there is a price to pay. Dog’s trained by these methods can become shut down and to frightened to put a foot wrong and the unwanted behaviours are not changed but merely suppressed meaning they will eventually resurface and usually at a greater intensity.

What is a Balanced Trainer ?

A Balanced Trainer will use both positive reinforcement and negative correction, put simply reward and punishment techniques. For example : A dog that is barking on the lead will have a choker or martingale collar and the trainer will yank the collar to stop the dog from barking and then offer him a reward when he is quiet.

The problem with balanced training is that, contrary to the name it is unpredictable, confusing and still aversive to the dog. Imagine working for someone who one minute is praising you up and offering you cookies and the next is shouting at you or reprimanding you and you don't really know why. Balanced training sadlycauses mistrust, conflict and fear in our dogs.

Both Balanced and Alpha or Dominance based trainers use aversive equipment such as choke collars, shock collars and harnesses that tighten. These are detrimental to a dog’s health as well as being uncomfortable and cruel. They may also use physical force, punishment, shouting and throwing things such a bottles full of stones. These training techniques are reactive - the dog displays a behaviour and the trainer reacts to it.

Another problem with using aversives or negative reinforcement and punishment on our dogs is that all this does is suppress behaviours, this means that any unwanted behaviours aren't changed but the dog will not display them through fear of punishment. Eventually the behaviours will resurface because the problem hasn't been solved. This leaves the dog conflicted, mistrusting of his handler and still with the same underlying issues. In fact aversive techniques have been proven to increase aggressive reactions in dogs and lower mental welfare.

Positive Reinforcement training methods involve positively reinforcing wanted behaviours with good things. If the dog displays a behaviour that is negative such as barking on the lead, the trainer works on why the dog is reactive and changes the dogs emotional response to the stimulus through positively reinforcing calm behaviour and associations. There really is no need to punish any dog and contrary to popular belief all animals from lions to birds to chimps to dogs respond well to positive reinforcement training. Positive Reinforcement training is based on science and scientific studies of how animals respond to training methods and we are constantly learning more and more. This type of training respects the dog's needs, improves mental welfare and handler/dog bonds creating trust, teamwork and mutual respect. No pain, no fear and no threat involved.

When looking for a dog trainer it is imperative to find someone who only uses Positive Reinforcement Techniques and is Qualified and Insured, both for the mental and physical well being of your dog and to build and preserve the bond and trust between you.

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