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Veterinary Behavior Group Discourages Punishment

Veterinary Behavior Group Discourages Punishment on dominance on show “The Dog Whisperer”

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Veterinary Behavior Group Discourages Punishment newsline Citing the popularity of dominance-based dog training shows such as "The Dog Whisperer" and a resurgence of punishment-based training techniques, the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior has released its position on using punishment only with great care and under specific circumstances.Citing the popularity of dominance-based dog training shows such as "The Dog Whisperer" and a resurgence of punishment-based training techniques, the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior has released its position on using punishment only with great care and under specific circumstances.American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior, AVSAB, Veterinary Behavior

Citing the popularity of dominance-based dog training shows such as "The Dog Whisperer" and a resurgence of punishment-based training techniques, the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior has released its position on using punishment only with great care and under specific circumstances.

The standard of care for veterinarians specializing in behavior and for veterinarians in general is that punishment (i.e., choke chains, pinch collars and electronic collars) is not to be used as a first-line or early-use treatment for behavior problems, according to the new "Position Statement and Guidelines on the Use of Punishment for Dealing with Behavior Problems in Animals."

“A major problem with using punishment is that it suppresses behavior temporarily but does not necessarily modify the underlying cause of the behavior,” said John Ciribassi, DVM, Dipl. ACVB, president of AVSAB. “As a result, it may make animals worse in the long run. For example, a fear-aggressive dog may become more fearful of people making future aggression more likely.”

Punishment may also interfere with the bond that exists between the owner and animal.

“We can have a problem with the pet not trusting the owner because it is unable to consistently anticipate what the owner is going to do in any given situation,” he said. “This occurs because people tend to punish inconsistently and because punishment is often a consequence of the owner’s anger, which leads to its use well after the bad behavior has occurred and in an overly intense level over a prolonged period.”

AVSAB recommends that training focus on reinforcing desired behaviors, removing the reinforcer for inappropriate behaviors and addressing the emotional state and environmental conditions driving the undesirable behavior.

“Punishment should only be used when the above approach has failed despite an adequate effort as part of a larger training or behavior modification program that incorporates reinforcement of appropriate behaviors and works to change the underlying cause of the problem behavior,” the position statement advises.

Veterinary behaviorists and Ph.D. behaviorists tend to focus on positive reinforcement combined with negative punishment. This means that they remove the rewards for the undesirable behavior and then reward the appropriate behavior.

For example, if a dog greets by jumping, they remove their attention (negative punishment) when the dog jumps, and when the dog sits or stands calmly, they reward the dog (positive reinforcement).

For the full position statement and guidelines, visit www.avsabonline.org.

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