Positive Reinforcement Dog Training or Just Marketing Hype?
Are Dog Trainers Really Force-Free Positive Reinforcement-Based or Just Marketing Hype?
It is very trendy now for dog trainers to say that they are “positive reinforcement dog trainers” as they pop your dog’s leash, suggest you eat before your dog, sleep in a higher more comfortable position than your dog, walk outdoors first, practice dominant theory, spray water at them and toss a can of pennies at their feet to scare them. It goes without saying, you have to be careful when choosing who will educate you and your pet. From my experience dog training in Miami, here are some tips: do not rely solely on a dog trainers web site, at a minimum, they should be members of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC) and the Certification Counsel for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT) international, independent certification organizations that maintain the standards of professional competency for animal training and behavior professionals and they should be professional members of the Pet Professional Guild (PPG) the association for force free professionals and actively take annual continuing education classes in dog training and ethology. Make sure you check these organizations websites and call them to verify that your trainer is up-to-date and affiliated at the level he/she states they are. Keep in mind that members of the IAABC and the CCPDT have signed a code of ethics and it is unethical to make guarantees about behavior and dog training results. Professional members of the PPG, have signed a Code of Professional Conduct and Responsibility that also advocates force free, dog-friendly training and continuing education. Lastly, look for relevant applied behavior analysis (ABA) coursework or certification. At the very least, when searching for a dog trainer look for these organizations, education levels, and professional certifications.
Forceful, traditional, punitive “trainers” were very cutting edge and all the rage in the 1940’s. Since then, educated, modern, force-free positive reinforcement dog trainers, through the advent of education and scientific studies, understand the most effective, humane and efficient ways of modifying behavior and training a dog while increasing the bond and love between a pet parent and dog. Aversive trainers do not accomplish this, and their practices are inefficient, inhumane and typically not founded in science.
The pundits might argue that there is evidence showing that punitive style “trainers” are more effective and build a better bond. I disagree and ask for evidence from one credible educated source from a leader in the field of canine ethology, learning theory, animal husbandry, psychology, evolution or physiology that makes that claim and the science that proves it.
Professional Community Dog Training Awareness
For the benefit of pets and their parents, it would be helpful if dog trainers, staff members, and board members that work with and for the APDT, CCPDT and veterinarians took more of a concrete stance, marketed, advertised, position statements, ran more public relation campaigns and really voiced their opinions more openly and bluntly to try and rid the industry of ignorance, inhumane and traditional style “trainers” (as a leader, the PPG already does this). Unfortunately, at the time of this writing, too many veterinarians in the Miami Florida area do not advocate force free positive reinforcement dog training and their benefits, but are conversely advertising and displaying punitive, force-based dog trainers in their practices. We try to educate them and the public daily. We often have to undo the trauma and problem that was compounded unnecessarily by a traditional style “trainer” that was subsequently recommended by organizations such as humane societies or veterinarians in Miami that ironically are the ones who are supposed to be up-to-date and take a proactive role in education, science and ethology but instead have clearly jettisoned their responsibilities in serving the public. Now that you are more informed, you can make the responsible, humane, educated decision to hire a professional to help you and your dog with training or behavior issues.
Science is wonderful because it offers controlled studies that would otherwise be too expensive, intricate, difficult or unreasonable to attempt on one’s own. As author and professor Hal Herzog, Ph.D. noted “Trying to explain things-and testing our explanations- is what we get paid to do.” Experiments and research that are conducted by people who have dedicated their lives to education and the understanding of canine and feline ethology, psychology, dog training, evolution, physiology, neurobiology, sociology, learning theory and animal husbandry are the types of professionals pet parents should be taking dog training and behavior advice from, not outdated traditional “trainers.”