The bad and the ugly of confrontational training methods
Author(s): Herron M
Publication Date: 25 May 2015
Prior to seeking the counsel of a veterinary behaviourist many owners have attempted behaviour modification techniques suggested by a variety of sources. Recommendations often include aversive training techniques, which may provoke fearful or defensively aggressive behaviour. Owners of such dogs often turn to friends, family and the internet for help, while others turn to the advice of dog trainers. There are a variety of methods available for altering problem behaviours. For example many people pursue positive reinforcement training with a clicker, or food stuffed, "pacifier" toys. Some owners use food as reinforcement for desired behaviours, such as teaching a dog to make eye contact on verbal cue in the presence of challenging stimuli. It is also not uncommon to see more aversive techniques, such as the choke or pinch collar, the shock collar, or even as a more extreme example, "stringing up" or helicoptering a dog. Other more confrontational methods involve physical manipulation, such as the "dominance down" and scruffing the dog. A variety of options exist, but what is the reliability of the information available to owners? A study published by Lord et al. found that most owners of dogs with problem behaviours did not seek the advice of their veterinarian. This suggests owners are relying more on trainers and "lay' resources for help. Currently, quality control of the information and services provided by trainers and in the popular media is lacking. Some of the more confrontational techniques may provoke aggression and are dangerous for owners to implement themselves. This lack of standardisation and variable effect leaves dog owners confused and at risk of injury when attempting to correct problem behaviours.