With such a wide variety of dog training options available, it can be difficult to know where to turn for guidance in reaching your training goals. The dog training industry remains unregulated, leading to a variety of opinions about what methods are the “right” methods. We want to offer you an explanation of the methods we use at the East Bay SPCA and why we choose to use them.
Why Positive Reinforcement?
Recent scientific evidence in support of positive reinforcement-based training has been overwhelming. Studies show that positive reinforcement leads to improved welfare of pet dogs, has a positive influence on the human-animal bond, and is effective in achieving training goals.
We pride ourselves on remaining up-to-date and incorporating the latest information that the scientific community has to offer regarding companion animal training and animal welfare. Our staff regularly participates in continuing education to ensure that they are versed in the latest understanding and best practices pertaining to shelter husbandry, private dog training, group dog training classes, and adoption counseling. We feel it is our responsibility to provide top of the line behavioral education to our community.
Least Intrusive, Minimally Aversive
East Bay SPCA uses an ethical framework known as LIMA (Least Intrusive, Minimally Aversive) to guide our training assessments and interventions. In addition to first ruling out a medical cause for undesirable behaviors and making sure a dog’s needs are met, we aim to teach companion animals what we want them to do rather than to punish what we do not want them to do.
In addition to minimizing the potential for increasing fear or aggression that can occur in response to aversive- or punishment-based training methods, our goal is to ensure that the training scenario is a highly enriching experience for both human and dog, thereby strengthening the human-animal bond. Following the LIMA framework ensures that we are using the least intrusive and least aversive, scientifically supported training strategies to modify behavior.
Read the full IAABC (International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants) statement on LIMA (Least Intrusive, Minimally Aversive) principals.
What Other Types of Training Methods Are There?
You may have seen or heard references to “alpha,” “dominance,” “pack leader,” or “balanced” training methods while researching dog training options. Training based in the idea that many undesirable behaviors in pet dogs are rooted in the motivation to be “alpha” or “dominant” is not supported by scientific evidence, and knowledgeable behavior professionals reject this notion based on both ethical and scientific grounds.
For more information, read the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior’s position statement regarding the use of Dominance in Behavior Modification.
Why Don’t We Use Aversive-Based Training Methods?
- The use of aversive-based methods and equipment, including e-collars, prong collars, choke chains, and other tools can result in fallout including:
- Escape/avoidance behavior
- Learned Helplessness (apathy)
- Generalization of fear to other elements in the environment (including the handler)
- We aim to foster the human-animal bond within the training scenario by increasing understanding between humans and their pets, establishing clear communication, and putting the welfare of both human and animal first.
- The science of behavior across species is well-established and has been studied for decades through fields such as applied behavior analysis and animal welfare science.