Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Pawsitive = Fear Free, Force Free

Why we do not use aversives in the delivery of any of our services.  

Originally published October 24 / 2017.

First and foremost, we want to build a rapport and a positive relationship with your pet.  

No bad first impressions, please!  If your pet's first experience with us were to be one of discomfort (say, a jerk on the leash or the pop of a choke collar), then they will likely associate us with that negative experience.  We want your pet eagerly awaiting our arrival for whatever service we may be providing.  We want them to look forward to seeing us, just as we look forward to seeing them.

Secondly, we can deal with unwanted behaviours in a kinder, gentler way.

I promise.  We're not just bleeding hearts, there is decades of research to support an evidence-based and rewards-based approach to modifying behaviour.

Although some behaviours can be frustrating and hard to live with, and punishment may be a tempting way to quickly suppress the behaviour...  doing so is like playing a game of whack-a-mole.  If you don't deal with the underlying factors contributing to the behaviour, it will just pop up somewhere else and repeatedly punishing behaviours can lead to a fearful or shut-down dog.

September 2018 Adendenum:

An experience we had during our summer holidays reminded me of this blog post, and I wanted to add a personal anecdote that reinforces everything I wrote above. 

This summer while on vacation as a family, we stayed at a hotel-style suite on a lake.  A quirk about this place was that all of their smoke alarms were inter-connected and also highly sensitive, so that if one room set off their alarm, every room’s alarm would go off.  

One morning our son was about to go brush his teeth and the alarm went off just as he entered the bathroom.  This scared him, of course, and he came running out.  We comforted him and assured him that everything was fine, it was just the alarm had been set off by someone making their breakfast in another unit.  We checked around and everything was fine. 

Our son was afraid to re-enter the bathroom despite the fact that the alarm had nothing to do with brushing his teeth.   Because the two events had occurred at the same time, his brain made a connection between the two, and caused his “warning system” to activate when he headed towards the bathroom again.  

With loving support and reassurance from his parents, our son was able to overcome this anxiety and continue with his routine, but the next time he needed to go into that same washroom he hesitated.  After a few times he was able to understand that the timing was coincidental, but it took many more times to undo the fear than it did to create it.

This is yet another example of why aversive conditioning is dangerous and can very easily have unintended side-effects, and why we will never, ever use shock collars, choke chains, or other painful or scary stimuli when working with animals (or humans, for that matter!).  A mistake in timing while administering punishment can lead to long-term problems, and why take that risk when evidence-based training has long since demonstrated that there is a more humane (and more fun!) way.  

Additional Readings: 

Aileen Anderson wrote a great blog post about the fallout of aversives which can be found at https://eileenanddogs.com/fallout-aversives-punishment-negative-reinforcement/

If you are struggling with your dog's behaviour, please view our blog post on finding a compassionate, qualified trainer at http://pawsitivepooch.blogspot.ca/2016/04/finding-trainer.html 

If you would like suggestions for alternative methods or tools, please feel free to ask us, we are here to help!

Learn more about us via our Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/PawsPetMB

Visit our website at www.PawsitiveCare.ca

Jillian has been studying animal behaviour since 2009.  She is a certified professional dog trainer, a certified fear-free animal trainer, and a member of the pet professional guild.  To learn more about Jillian's qualifications and experience, please visit PawsitiveCare.ca/about-the-owner


To read more about the risks of aversives, Eileen Anderson also has a blog post summarizing her research and writings on shock collars available at https://eileenanddogs.com/shock-collar-info/ 

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