American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSB) Position Statement on Humane Dog Training.
Evidence supports the use of reward based methods for all canine training. Bk9T promotes interactions with animals based on compassion, respect, and scientific evidence. Based on these factors, reward-based learning offers the most advantages and least harm to the learner’s welfare. Research supports the efficacy of reward-based training to address unwanted and challenging behaviors. There is no evidence that aversive training is necessary for dog training or behavior modification.
Reward-based techniques should be used for teaching common training skills as well as to address unwanted behaviors. The application of aversive methods – which, by definition, rely on application of force, pain, or emotional or physical discomfort – should not be used in canine training or for the treatment of behavioral disorders.
Our goal is to minimize and eliminate the use of shock devices from training and behavior work, and to do so by modeling, educating, and providing members with effective alternatives.
Position On Aversive Tools & Confrontational Methods
Learning is a process, and we understand that change is difficult, especially in an ongoing practice of training and behavior.
Bk9T will work to minimize and eliminate the use of these tools while helping our clients live successfully with their dogs.
Before applying shock or using shock devices, Bk9T will consult with the IAABC Supervision Team to review the case and ensure that all possible, less intrusive and aversive options have been worked.
Survey studies have shown an association between the use of aversive training methods and long-term behavior problems including aggressive behavior towards people and other dogs, and anxiety-related behaviors such as avoidance and excitability.*
“LIMA” is an acronym for the phrase “least intrusive, minimally aversive.” LIMA describes a trainer or behavior consultant who uses the least intrusive, minimally aversive strategy out of a set of humane and effective tactics likely to succeed in achieving a training or behavior change objective. LIMA adherence also requires consultants to be adequately educated and skilled in order to ensure that the least intrusive and aversive procedure is used. 1
LIMA does not justify the use of punishment in lieu of other effective interventions and strategies. In the vast majority of cases, desired behavior change can be affected by focusing on the animal's environment, physical well-being, and operant and classical interventions such as differential reinforcement of an alternative behavior, desensitization, and counter-conditioning.
LIMA requires trainers/consultants to work to increase the use of positive reinforcement and eliminate the use of punishment when working with animal and human clients. In order to ensure best practices, we are committed to pursue and maintain competence in animal behavior consulting and training through continuing education, and hands-on experience. We will not advise on problems outside the recognized boundaries of their competencies and experience. 2
Baltimore k9 Tutors supports a Least Intrusive, Minimally Aversive (LIMA) approach to behavior modification and training.
Positive Reinforcement and Understanding the Learner
Positive reinforcement is always the first line of teaching, training, and behavior change program considered, and will be applied consistently. Positive reinforcement is associated with the lowest incidence of aggression, attention seeking, avoidance, and fear in learners. 3
We believe the learner determines what may be reinforcing. To best do this we will assess any handling, petting, food, tool, and environment each time the learner experiences them. Personal bias must not determine the learner’s experience. The measure of each stimulus is whether the learner’s target behavior is strengthening or weakening, not the our intent or preference.
Systematic Problem Solving and Strategies
We are committed and responsible for ensuring learner success through a consistent, systematic approach that identifies a specific target behavior, the purpose of that behavior, and the consequences that maintain the behavior.
A variety of learning and behavior change strategies may come into play during a case. We always problem solve to understand the impact of each action on the learner, as well as sensitivity toward the learner’s experience.
We seek to prevent the abuses and potential repercussions of inappropriate, poorly applied, and inhumane uses of punishment and of overly-restrictive management and confinement strategies. The potential effects of punishment can include aggression or counter-aggression; suppressed behavior (preventing the trainer/consultant from adequately reading the animal); increased anxiety and fear; physical harm; a negative association with the owner or handler; increased unwanted behavior; and, new, unwanted behaviors. 4
Choice and Control for the Learner
We agree to LIMA guidelines which require that trainer/consultants always offer the learner as much control and choice as possible. Trainer/consultants must treat each individual of any species with respect and awareness of the learner’s individual nature, preferences, abilities, and needs. 5
What Do You Want the Animal to do?
We focus on reinforcing desired behaviors, and always ask the question, “What do you want the animal to do?” Relying on punishment in training does not answer this question, and therefore offers no acceptable behavior for the animal to learn to replace the unwanted behavior. These LIMA guidelines do not justify the use of aversive methods and tools including, but not limited to, the use of electronic, choke or prong collars in lieu of other effective positive reinforcement interventions and strategies.
When making training and behavior modification decisions, we understand and follow the Humane Hierarchy of Behavior Change – Procedures for Humane and Effective Practices. 6
* American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior position statement