“If peace is our goal, then our means must be peaceful.”
Martin Luther King Jr.
I am a firm believer that the process we use to train our dogs is just as important as the end result. If two different people can successfully teach your dog to sit on command, but one uses force and aversion while the other uses reward, which would you choose?
Veterinary schools of behavior at UPenn, Tufts, Cornell, UC Davis, and others have described aversive training as unsafe, unnecessary, and ineffective over a longer period of time.
What is aversive training? Aversive training is all about the “or else.” Do this, or else I’ll yank on your collar. Don’t do that, or else I’ll shock you.
On the other hand, reward-based training uses the dog’s innate motivations to encourage obedience. In other words, it says to the dog “do this and something great will happen!” This consistent praise encourages the development of a confident dog, eager to learn and please. Aversive training fosters fear and teaches aggression. It may even lead to learned helplessness, a condition in which the animal learns that he has lost control and completely gives up trying.
The University of Bristol’s Department of Clinical Veterinary Science conducted a study and summarized it best:
“Because reward-based methods are associated with higher levels of obedience and fewer problematic behaviors, we suggest that their use is a more effective and welfare-compatible alternative to punishment for the average dog owner.”
The end does not justify the means. Physical force and aversive stimuli aren’t necessary. Together, we’ll learn how to completely remove these methods from our training repertoire.