What is aversive dog training?
Dog training and behaviour is a rapidly evolving field. Age old practices are now being challenged thanks to more scientific research in this area over the last twenty to thirty years, meaning we now understand a lot more about dog behaviour.
There are many useful pieces on equipment available to help with training, known as training aids.
Research has shown that dog training is most effective when good behaviour is rewarded using treats or praise as it is more likely your pet will repeat these actions.
Other types of training aids however, include ‘Aversive Training Methods’ which are not reward based and instead act on negative behaviour in the hopes of changing it. They work by using gadgets or collars designed to deliver an unpleasant liquid, make a sudden noise or vibrate when the dog expresses any unacceptable behaviour. Whilst these devices can produce the desired effect of interrupting undesirable behaviour, they are potentially harmful and are much less reliable than using a reward.
What are the risks of using aversive training methods?
Increasing the dog’s fear or anxiety about the situation. Many undesirable behaviours occur because a dog is scared, these devices could make their fear (and therefore the behaviour) worse, especially as the dog is not being taught what is required of them
Decreasing the dog’s ability to learn and causing confusion or frustration about required behaviour. Anxiety and frustration results in dogs being less likely to learn new things
Associating other, coincidental events with a fear-provoking event, especially if the application of the spray, hiss or vibration is poorly timed. This can result in the dog starting to express the undesirable behaviour in even more situations
Causing a new avoidance or aggressive response and damaging the bond between the dog and the owner
A big obstacle with aversive training devices is that it’s very difficult to select a suitable positive punisher for each individual dog. There is no one size fits all when it comes to dog training and it’s extremely difficult to select something that is aversive enough to interrupt behaviour but not aversive enough to cause fear