Monday, January 4, 2010

Punishment Used for Modifying Human or Dog Behavior Only Useful if Done Correctly and Enforced Consistently if at All!

2010 is in full swing! And with a brand new year that means brand new laws going into effect. You've probably read about some of the new California laws for 2010: Blueberries, paparazzi and cow tails just to name a few. Sure, all have their place in our legal system, but just like all laws they're only good if they're enforced! Otherwise, they're just empty threats.

Why does this little dog trainer in Ventura bring this subject up? Mainly because:
  1. Punishment is still being used too often as a first-line treatment of dog behavior issues: Fancy, gimmicky, popular techniques have people focus in on undesired behaviors, then use methods that "dominate" and "control" with such maneuvers as pinning, pinching and poking! Ouch!
  2. When it is used, it's not being used correctly: Consistency! Timing! The former is usually absent and the latter is usually off.
  3. The more common type of punishment techniques being practiced are less of the humane type and more of the nasty bully type (aka: aversive/coercive): Alpha rolling, pinning, squirting, zapping, and choking which often leads to additional behavioral issues that end up being more difficult to treat than the initial problem behavior!
Okay, first off allow me to clarify once again that just because I'm a certified dog trainer who practices positive reinforcement reward-based dog training methods, whose philosophy is in the science camp of dog training, and one who will take the path of least resistance whenever possible, doesn't mean I don't use punishment. I do. However, not as the first step of any training plan. As a matter of fact I don't even bring it up until midway into my dog training classes at Ventura College or my dog training studio. I also use the type of punishment that causes the least amount of nasty side-effects, if any at all.

What's the basis of my punishment approach if I indeed need to go that route? Simple, reward removal! Similar to sending a basketball player to the bench for one too many fouls, not allowing a dog to participate in an activity (greeting someone or a rousing game of tug) is the punishment.

There's no reason to head down the "dark path" by kicking, smacking, choking, alpha rolling or "showin' him who's boss" in order to get your point across. What do most animals learn when faced with threats and physical harm? How to avoid the punisher! As opposed to which behavior you wanted in the first place. One more reason why punishment should be used as a last resort and with a well thought-out dog training plan!

For additional information on aversive dog training techniques and punishment, please check this dog training tips post from last November.

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