CROSSROADS RESOURCES & ARTICLES

Is Pet Training The Career For You?

Pet dog training is a service occupation which often requires that you subordinate your own goals to those of your clients and interaction is primarily with dog guardians, rather than with the dogs themselves. Technical competence as a trainer is of course required, but you apply these skills mostly by proxy through the pet owners, unless you work for a facility that offers boarding and training or daycare and training option. In addition, most professional opportunity in this field involves self employment, so entrepreneurial traits of initiative, marketing and organization are crucial. Much training takes place in the evening and weekends when pet owners are off work, so you must be prepared to give up this time.

Whether you work with behavior problems or simple obedience commands, it is fulfilling to know that you have helped a pet owner understand and communicate with his or her pet through training, may have helped prevent yet another problem dog or cat being relinquished to an animal shelter. Anyone interested in working with pet animals should find an experienced and well-respected mentor in the field and see what options may be available for an apprenticeship. There are many dog-training courses available, but our advice is buyer beware. There is no substitute for hands-on training or working directly with a progressive and experienced behaviorist or trainer. Anyone who would like more information on the training we provide to those interested in a dog training career is encouraged to call. View This Article

The Use of Punishment for Behavior Modification

Our philosophy is that training should focus on reinforcing desired behaviors, removing any reinforcement for undesired behaviors and changing the emotional state of the dog that is driving any undesirable behavior. This approach is supported by the American Veterinary Society of Veterinary Behavior (AVSAB) in their Position Statement on the Use of Punishment for Behavior Modification. In this Statement, the AVSAB suggests that such an approach “promotes a better understanding of the pet’s behavior and better awareness of how humans may have inadvertently contributed to the development of the undesirable behavior”. Although punishment may have its place and it can be very effective in specific cases, it should not be used as a first-line treatment in training due to its potential adverse effects. These effects and the difficulties of its use follow (taken from the AVSAB Position Statement):

1. It is difficult to time punishment correctly. In order that the animal understand what is is doing wrong, the punishment must occur while the behavior is occurring or within 1 second.

2. Punishment can strengthen the undesired behavior, In order for punishment to affect a lasting change, it must occur every time the undesired behavior occurs. Otherwise, the animal is being reinforced during those times when punishment does not happen which in turn actually works to strengthen that behavior.

3. Intensity of the punishment must be high enough. If the first time the punishment is applied it is not strong enough to be effective, the animal may actually get use to it so that the same intensity no longer works and the owner must escalate the intensity. Unfortunately, when used at the intensity required for learning to occur, the punishment may also cause physical harm or fear.

4. Punishment at high intensity may cause physical harm. Choke chains can damage the trachea and can cause damage to the nerve to the eye. Some dogs, especially those with shorter muzzles, can develop sudden life-threatening pulmonary edema.

5. Punishment can cause individuals to become fearful and this fear can generalize to other situations. For example, many people feel that a citronella spray collar is more humane than a electronic shock collar, but a spray collar, especially those with a preceding tone, may react fearfully to alarm clocks, smoke detectors, and other similar sounding items.

6. Punishment can facilitate or cause aggressive behavior. Animals may escalate in their efforts to avoid punishment to the point where they become aggressive and those that already are aggressive may show more intense aggressive behavior.

7. Punishment can suppress behaviors, including those that warn that a bite is about to occur. Because punishment does not address the underlying problem that is causing the undesirable behavior in the first place, it may appear to stop the behavior, but because the animal is now afraid to respond, it may suddenly react (attack) with no warning.

8. Punishment can lead to a bad association, either to the person implementing it or to the environment in which it occurred.

9. Punishment does not teach. Punishment only tells a dog what not to do (assuming it is applied consistently and with correct timing and intensity), but it does not tell the dog what it should do. If it is inconsistently applied, from the dog’s point of view, the owner is inconsistent and unpredictable which leads to a poor pet/human bond. A better approach is to determine what is motivating the undesirable behavior, remove that reinforcement and reward a more appropriate behavior instead.

Crate Training

Crate training your dog may take some time and effort, but can be useful in a variety of situations. If you have a new dog or puppy, you can use the crate to limit his access to the house until he learns all the house rules, such as what he can and can’t chew and where he can and can’t eliminate. A crate is also a safe way of transporting your dog in the car, as well as a way of taking him places where he may not be welcome to run freely. If you properly train your dog to use the crate, he will think of it as his safe place and will be happy to spend time there when needed. For more information on how to train your dog to love his crate, give us a call at 1-800-823-4283. View This Article

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