Training “Fido”: Harsh Training vs. Handfuls of Treats. We as humans have a plethora of relationships in and throughout our lives. Harsh words or an aggressive experience in one of those relationships could have long term effects. Also, the establishment of a dominant role and a submissive role in a relationship can either benefit or hinder it. A person’s relationship with his canine is no different. Canine obedience trainers use different methods of training. Some methods of training and corrections are harsher than others.
While some trainers focus more on the positive reinforcement of a desired behavior. The final obedience of the canine may be the same, however, the end result of the relationship may not be. Can harsh training methods have a negative effect upon the relationship between man and his best friend? Relationships can be categorized in several different forms. One type of a relationships are the dominant-submissive roles. To help illustrate, dominance-submission in the societal role is defined as “designating the relations of dominance and submission between individual members of a group. (Oxford University Press).
This is important to acknowledge because it expresses the underlying ideology of obedience training in dogs. The definition of obedience training is “the process of teaching a dog to obey orders. ” (Oxford University Press). These two ideas work together in that while a trainer may be teaching a dog to obey orders they are also designating roles in the relationship. And, when they are designating roles in the relationship it is done by obedience training. Obedience training is used to help correct unwanted behaviors, and encourage desired behaviors.
While there are, many different methods used to achieve these goals, some may have longer lasting, negative side effects when used. A large group of obedience trainers believe in the usage of; shock collars, the “alpha-roll,” and negative reinforcement. These techniques when used in training are often referred to as “punishers. ” “Punishers are responses from the environment that decrease the likelihood of a behavior being repeated. ” (B. F. Skinner 1938). Sense the objective of obedient trainers is to get a dog to obey orders, these methods are easy to use and have been implemented in dog training for years.
In the example of a jumping and barking dog, the “alpha-roll” could be used by the trainer to curb this behavior. Examining the “alpha-roll,” the dog is firmly pressed down and rolled until it is laying on its side, then the trainer will roll the aggressive dog onto its back. This places the dog in a more “submissive posture” elevating the trainer to a more dominant one. The intent of this action is “showing the dog who is boss” (Monks of New Skete 1978). If using the definition of dominance in a social setting, then this action has expressed to the dog, that the trainer is the dominant being.
The dog is no longer able to jump and bark because it is being forced and held down to the ground. With the trainer is hovering over the dog it allows time for the dog to understand that the trainer will forcibly cause it to obey if objections do arise. Another training method that could be deemed necessary by the trainer would be the use of a “shock collar. ” “The term shock collar is a term used in order to describe a family of training collars that deliver electrical shocks of varying intensity and duration to the neck of a dog” (Wikipedia).
If a dog is jumping and barking, the owner/trainer will use the hand-held device to radio the shock collar and the shock collar will deliver an electrical shock letting the dog become aware that it’s behavior is unacceptable. This will cause a negative association between the shock collar and the dog. Furthermore, the dog will learn threw the process of trial and error that the shock collar will deliver the shock and that the behavior it’s emitting is unwanted. “These in combination with other cues, such as verbal commands, offer the potential for avoidance learning by dogs. Which potentially allows the handler to train ore desirable behaviors in a given situation” (Cooper et al. 1).
However, while these methods may produce a desired result there are also underlying consequences for using such harsh methods. A study performed by Animal Behavior Cognition and Welfare Research Group stated “Our results indicate that the immediate effects of training with an e-collar (electric) gives rise to behavioral signs of distress in pet dogs, particularly when used at high settings” (Cooper et al. 11). This would indicate that this harsh method of training has an underlying result on the dogs’ well-being.
An increase in distress in a pet has the potential to also increase the frequency of other undesired behaviors. With the increase of distress in the pet, the pet would be found more restless and could easily become startled. Also, with the increase of distress the pet could express this increase by resorting back to the initial behavior that caused the usage of the electric collar. If the trainer were to instead create a dominant-submissive experience by using the “alpha-roll” there are negative relational issues that would also be caused by this harsh training method.
Bradshaw, Blackwell, and Casey mention “if the owner or trainer approaches the dog and it becomes nervous because the trainer had already utilized the “alpha-roll” during obedience training, the dog will show signs of appeasement, avoidance, and lastly if the first two are unsuccessful it will resort to aggression” (143). One of the obvious negative outcomes would be the loss of trust. This illustrates how the dog did not view the contextual “alpha-roll” merely as a training technique. This also shows that it had a psychological effect upon the pet.
Furthermore, causing distrust and separation in the relationship between the dog and trainer/ owner. Rather than using these harsh methods which are proven to increase stress to the relationship between human and canine we should explore less harsh or more positive methods. Some training methods such as “positive only” or positive reinforcement could have the same behavioral effect without the negative relational effect. The Department of Clinical Veterinary Science conducted a study on the effects of; punishment-based, positive and negative training, and positivebased training methods.
Their findings indicated that “It seems that there is an association between a lower number of potentially undesirable behaviors reported in dogs trained without the use of punishment-based techniques” (Blackwell et al. 216). Positive-based training methods are described in context as “The 3 most frequently used training methods (rewarding the dog’s behavior with verbal praise, food treats, or physical contact) involved positive reinforcement (Blackwell et al. 210). This would exemplify that there is an underlying effect on the relationship based upon which training methods are used.
Another aspect of positive-based training methods is the social effect between the dog and the trainer. The Department of Developmental and Comparative Psychology, experimented to see if there was a difference in relationship between dogs that were ignored over those whom were treated friendly. Their findings unanimous “The first experiment showed that dogs preferred to stay next to the experimenter who behaved in a friendly manner towards them rather than the experimenter who ignored them” (Kaminski et al. ).
This would further exemplify the deduction that there is a noticeable difference in relationships between dogs who are treated/trained harshly, and those whom are treated more positively. With the positivebased training encouraging a bond between pet and owner. In conclusion, evidence points to the understanding that harsh training methods place a strain on relationships between canines and their human owners.
The harsher training methods have been proven to create unwanted behaviors and increased distress and anxiety in the pet. Canines clearly relate to us based on the experiences they have shared with us. Training methods that encourage positive-based techniques should be preferred due to the lack of unwanted behavioral issues harsh training methods incur. Establishing dominant-submissive roles are no longer required if positive training methods are utilized.