Have I been wrong about dog training this whole time?

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1. The effects of using aversive training methods in dogs—A review: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1558787817300357

2. Do aversive-based training methods actually compromise dog welfare? A literature review: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0168159117302095

3. Review of Dog Training Methods: Welfare, Learning Ability, and Current Standards: https://spca.bc.ca/wp-content/uploads/dog-training-methods-review.pdf

4. Does training method matter? Evidence for the negative impact of aversive-based methods on companion dog welfare: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33326450/

5. Effects of 2 training methods on stress-related behaviors of the dog (Canis familiaris) and on the dog–owner relationship: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1558787814000070

6. The Welfare Consequences and Efficacy of Training Pet Dogs with Remote Electronic Training Collars in Comparison to Reward Based Training: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4153538/

7. Training methods of military dog handlers and their effects on the team's performances: https://tinyurl.com/t27vvsec

Training dogs with help of the shock collar: short and long term behavioural effects
: https://tinyurl.com/3b9njtx2

9. Behaviour of smaller and larger dogs: Effects of training methods, inconsistency of owner behaviour and level of engagement in activities with the dog: https://tinyurl.com/42jvsa7c

10. The use of electronic collars for training domestic dogs: estimated prevalence, reasons and risk factors for use, and owner perceived success as compared to other training methods: https://tinyurl.com/y2zupwwf

11. Human directed aggression in domestic dogs (Canis familiaris): Occurrence in different contexts and risk factors: https://tinyurl.com/32hftmuu

12. Inter-dog aggression in a UK owner survey: prevalence, co-occurrence in different contexts and risk factors: https://tinyurl.com/zp449dfv

13. Survey of the use and outcome of confrontational and non-confrontational training methods in client-owned dogs showing undesired behaviors: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0168159108003717

14. Dog training methods: Their use, effectiveness and interaction with behaviour and welfare: https://tinyurl.com/4872up4r

15. National survey of owner-directed aggression in English Springer Spaniels: https://avmajournals.avma.org/doi/pdf/10.2460/javma.2005.227.1594

16. Carrots versus sticks: The relationship between training methods and dog-owner attachment: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0168159119300127

17. Efficacy of Dog Training With and Without Remote Electronic Collars vs. a Focus on Positive Reinforcement: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fvets.2020.00508/full

18. Training methods and owner–dog interactions: Links with dog behaviour and learning ability: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0168159111000876

19. Questionnaire survey on the use of different e-collar types in France in everyday life with a view to providing recommendations for possible future regulations: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1558787817301351

20. Exploration of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal function as a tool to evaluate animal welfare: https://tinyurl.com/cwjw3yzc

21. The Encyclopedia of Applied Animal Behavior and Welfare: https://tinyurl.com/8ta5td9s


The Welfare Consequences and Efficacy of Training Pet Dogs with Remote Electronic Training Collars in Comparison to Reward Training.

Comparison of Stress and Learning Effects of Three Different Training Methods: Electronic Training Collar, Pinch Collar and Quitting Signal.


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48 Comments on “Have I been wrong about dog training this whole time?”

  1. Oh wow! I fully admit that in the past I used adversive trainings at times as an inexperienced dog owner. I’m getting better at getting further away from that. But, I honestly didn’t realize anything other than “balanced” training existed, other than fully adversive training, which frankly seems abusive to me.

    I agree that dealing with large, aggressive dogs with a “bad reputation” is a special case. But even then, like with humans I’d assume going with reward-based training leads to better long-term outcomes. But this is great news and hopefully helps puppers & their people. 💚🖤💚👍🏿

    1. Keep watching positive trainers and reading positive trainers! But I have to respectfully disagree with your statement that “large, aggressive dog with a ‘bad reputation’ is a special case”. Perhaps I’m misunderstanding what you meant, but these dogs can be trained using positive methods only, as well (and you’re right–with better long-term outcomes). Matter of fact, I wouldn’t use anything OTHER than positive methods to train such dogs. We know (from research) that using aversive methods can result in aggression. I work with Great Danes (and Irish Wolfhounds–have NEVER met a Wolfhound with an aggression issue). These are HUGE dogs and I’m not a very large person. There is NO way I can “manhandle” these dogs. These dogs could literally kill me if they wanted to given their size and my size (under 5 feet tall and under 90 lbs). I would NEVER use aversive methods with an aggressive Dane! Not ever. I believe it would be foolhardy to do so. I don’t have a death wish, so I wouldn’t think of using aversive methods with dogs that large (especially aggressive ones with a ‘bad reputation’).

    2. @Spots that’s called fear. They don’t respect you. They’re only afraid of you. If adverse methods cause negative mental health in humans, then it should be no different for animals.

  2. I love videos like this and hearing all different points of view! I love how diplomatic you both are about this sensitive topic. I hope you guys continue to make videos like this!

  3. There was a similar bombshell in Finland not too long ago when a shock collar video came out. It has been really great. Those trainers are getting weeded out of the finnish kennel association.

    1. I know shock collars are illegal in many European countries (I wish there were illegal here in the U. S.). I thought they were banned in Finland? Do so “trainers” still use them despite the ban?

    2. @Jan Hankins
      There are a group of people within
      german shepard society and protection training community that seemingly have used painful methods trying to train their dogs.

  4. I have been training my own dogs in the UK since 1971. I am embarrassed to remember using a choke collar back then.
    In the eighties I rescued a German Shepherd who had been taught to attack if anyone said “kill”. I used a Halti on him. It was the only way I could hold onto him. You would be surprised how many children say “Kill” to a strange German Shepherd. He taught me that the secret for dog training is that dogs are naturally cooperative members of the family.
    This century I have mainly had collies. I find them easy to train without aversive methods because they have been bred to be obsessive and all you need is to get them obsessed with something that you have control over eg. bubbles, squeaky balls etc. I did have a cross breed wished upon me – half wolfhound. She was so possessive and attacked my collie so much, I had to teach her a new game called sharing.
    When that collie was young we would walk in the park and sometimes meet a lurcher who wore an e-collar. One day they forgot to switch it on and he attacked my Jasper. Watching the lurcher’s behaviour, I think he thought it a joke.
    My current pooch finds the noise of chinking metal totally aversive. It is very difficult to lock the front door quietly. But it works for dangerous circumstances.
    I would like to add that the trainer whose advice I found most useful when I had a dog who became reactive after being attacked as a puppy was Turid Rugaas who wrote “On Talking Terms with Dogs: Calming Signals”.

  5. I commend you on being able to give George up. It was obvious you bonded with him. Sometimes though, the greater good requires tough decisions and what you’re doing is amazing. 👏👏👏

  6. Zak, the most negative I’ve ever seen you with a dog is saying, ‘No’, which I too deemed necessary. Your training is very positive and you’ve taught me a lot about positive reinforcement.

    1. The use of the word “no” or making a noise like “uh-uh” is called a “no reward marker” (NRM). The theory is that this is a “non-aversive” way of letting the dog that he or she is making a mistake. Research on NRM’s is scanty, but the one study I’ve seen (and perhaps others know of other studies; if so, please post them, I’d love to read them) found that for some dogs NRM’s actually ARE aversive and that they don’t “add” to the training. In other words, dogs who received NRM’s didn’t do any “better” than dogs who didn’t receive NRM’s. I have to admit that I do use them, but I’m trying to use them less.

    2. Your comment brought up a whole other train of thought for me. I have two very , very different dogs. I train both and use positive methods with both, but I train them very, very differently. My super-sweet and super-sensitive little girl I simply can’t us the NRM’s on. I tried once and it took two weeks to repair the damage I did with my relationship with her. I have to use very “happy”, “excited”, “high, squeaky voice”, excited “Yay! What a wonderful smart girl you are!” giving lots of pets and praise. My other little guy, NRM’s don’t phase him and he doesn’t care about getting petted (“I can get petted any time” he might think). Give me those treats! He’s very “up” and can be “hyper”. My praise is totally different with him. It’s very low-key and not a high-squeaky, high-pitched “Oh what a good boy! Aren’t you smart? How wonderful are you?”. My little girl, if I jump around and praise her a LOT, she’ll work for me. My little boy, if I jump around and praise him a lot, he won’t work for me (“I want the treat, you dumb human!”).

  7. On a video like this would it be possible to put timestamps on different parts you talk about? Timestamps over all on videos makes it easier to find what you are looking for if it is specific things

  8. My own rule of thumb has been that one should avoid any training technique that incites fear, anger or pain in a dog. I’ve always felt that this hurts your bond with the dog, and that experiencing these emotions makes it harder to think clearly. One of the biggest barriers to training a dog is clearly communicating your expectations. When a dog (or person) is experiencing fear or worse, it is much harder for them to actually learn.

  9. I agree, just like with human children positive teaching methods are most effective. However, natural learning and the resulting natural consequences are also effective. Allowing other beings to learn on their terms is appropriate. I would say, this is the bridge to my question, so in life threatening situations aversive training isn’t appropriate? I’m in the country. My neighbor has chickens. My neighbor can shoot and kill my dog on his property if she attacks his free range chickens. After trying positive teaching methods, rewards etc…, my dog kept going to the chickens chasing them and trying to eat them. So using aversive reinforcement in conjunction with positive methods is no longer acceptable? What if my neighbor informed me that next time he would kill my dog? An electric underground or wireless fence isn’t acceptable, it’s an aversive training method too. It teaches dogs to stay within a specified area. One cab even argue dog leashes are aversive by the way. Just put your human kids one and see what people say!

    My point is that there are no absolutes.

    1. Zak has quite a few videos related to controling your dog around birds and other small animals. He keeps a dog on leash, always, until they are trained not to after small animals.

    2. I like nate schoemer he is a mostly positive trainer on YouTube. But he does use some aversion training. It’s operant training, these studies are pretty much an attempt to overwrite that.

      Balanced training using all 4 methods vs purely positive is something I would like to see. We know from some studies that we ourselves in society use all 4.

      So this could overwrite society as well. But I don’t know if the people doing these studies are thinking about that. Thats my only skepticism. A dog that understands right and wrong via only positive training vs a dog trained in all 4 quadrants would be a good study.

    3. @Michael Schäfer So your solution is to keep the dog leashed (management). That’s fine and works for some dogs. But I’m not willing to keep my german shorthaired pointer who goes upland hunting and who can run 15 miles a day on a long line for his entire life. It’s not going to happen. So I use an ecollar for recall (after spending 15+ months on positive reinforcement-only recall training). It sucks and I wish I didn’t have to do it. If he was a chihuahua who wanted to gaze into my eyes all day things would be different. Maybe if he was a more sensitive dog whose behavior changed immediately with just my tone of voice, R+ only would have worked. But, it didn’t. So here we are. It’s the only time he’s ever been punished. But I would never recommend an ecollar or aversives for 98% of dogs and I would never put one on a dog who wasn’t extremely confident, well-adjusted, and free from major anxiety and aggression issues.

  10. Seems to me that this study is validating your training methods; and I’m very happy to see this. I love that the scientific community is finally acknowledging that dogs are sentient beings! I believe mutual respect is the best way to live with a dog, the animal kingdom in general, including human to human.

  11. Love love love seeing this. As a Puppy School UK tutor I spend a lot of my time convincing people why positive reinforcement is the best way to go, so having an easy to read, science-based article like the one from AVSAB is extremely helpful and reassuring!

  12. I recently began following Absolute Dogs, based in the UK. They teach a games based training approach, and it’s run by a dog trainer and certified vet behaviorist. I really appreciate the positive reinforcement training and the explanation of the science behind it. Tom and Lauren can be a bit much initially, but they know what they’re talking about

    1. I love their training methods, Concept Training is fairly new … I did find Karen Pryor Acedemy in the US and the have a concept trainer there who is teaching it. Anyway, the methods work!

  13. I’ve found that you can find a non-aversive measure your dog just doesn’t like very much – like bringing him inside when he’s barking at the neighbor or picking him up if he’s aggressive with another dog. These don’t hurt or shame the dog but they learn that something they like stops.

  14. I’d like to see the scientists evaluate the number of dogs that end up in shelters and rescues. People are trying to adopt rescue dogs in much larger numbers. Many dogs are challenging possibly due to lack of training and it seems to me it would be best if these dogs receive intensive training before available for adoption. Also I am wondering how many dogs are returned to rescues due to unmanageable behaviors. I like most dog lovers want to see dogs happy and content, but since all training methods are challenging and professional dog training is costly, I support giving dog trainers and pet adopters tools to keep dogs out of shelters and worse being euthanized.

    1. This is one reason I love YouTube, and specifically this channel. There is SO much free information out there now for people to rely on while training their pups when resources are tight or professional training is not an option for other reasons as well. Maybe an on-line course of study plus low-cost group lessons could be provided and required of rescuers to bridge this gap. I’ll bet lots of dog owners would subsidize this kind of program to make sure rescues are successful and more dogs have a good outcome and long, healthy life with their original adopters.

    2. Unfortunately when It comes to adopting a dog from a shelter it’s almost a given that there’s going to be behavioral issues. I worked at a shelter(a nice shelter) and we did work with the animals on behavior modification(positive reinforcement based) BUT resources are very limited in this area and along with the fact that the shelter environment is already very stressful soo training isn’t always easy/possible. A majority of shelters, especially public shelters wouldn’t have the ability to do these things because of limiting resources.
      Like I said, I worked at a nice shelter and we were fortunate enough to be able to do some behavior modification and work with our dogs to some degree. We also had a volunteer who donated towards free training for some of our more difficult dogs post adoption. When people were interested in adopting we counseled very heavily on the dogs needs and behaviors so they knew going into it, that a dog isn’t going to be easy and will require a lot of work. The problem is people don’t listen/ think they know it all or can handle the issues on their own. They’re not seeing the reality of what things will look like when they take the dog home. Unfortunately a lot of dogs do get returned for the exact reasons we would tell them were going to happen. It was very frustrating. On top of that having dogs surrendered to us for behaviors that could’ve been prevented or worked through before it became bad(especially when people got the dog as a puppy). I think ultimately what it comes down to is proper education. Unfortunately not enough people are educated on the (lifetime)training needs of having a puppy or even adult dog. It was one of the most frustrating things to me while working at the shelter.

    3. @Vanessa Vogel Are there any animal behavior degree programs that rescues could partner with, sort of like allowing the students to intern with the rescue animals and train them? The new trainer or animal behaviorist gains experience and resume points and rescue dogs get support.

    4. Can so relate to this i have a rescue who came with her problems. Totally nervous outside, reactive with other dogs and occasionally people. I understand that the resources to keep a dog in a shelter are very minimal and at best stretched, but i couldn’t agree more that work should be done with the dog with socialising etc so that there’s less chance of the animal being returned. I agree to that trainers are costly so am trying myself as it’s mostly common sense and am not convinced as she’s missed the puppy stage what exactly they can offer that i can’t do myself.

  15. Many people use shock collars and say “it’s OK, I just use a warning beep and it’s enough that I don’t have to do anything more.” The dog complies because at some point the dog was shocked and wants to avoid the punishment. That would be similar to someone walking into a store with a gun waving it at you, telling you to get on the ground, but don’t worry I won’t shoot you. Of course you will comply because you know the threat of a gun.

    1. Actually thats similar like a parent saying if you walk across the street again youre gonna be in trouble, trouble means nothing without an actual correction. So pretty healthy actually, something like consequences with choices…

    2. Why issue a warning beep? If you truly want to stop this behavior why not mark the behavior and issue and appropriate correction. By definition if it is punishment the behavior will stop and you no longer have to worry about it

  16. One of my favourite’s is Beckman’s! I always start with positive reinforcement, and smooth out edges with aversion, and then proof it with positive. I found it to be the most realistic way for me to manage a creature that I love that can’t talk back to me. I don’t always have a bag of treats, I don’t always have the energy to be happy, I don’t always have a squeaky toy in hand or the ability to sit there and negotiate with basically a toddler in real life. I don’t. Not a lot of people do. This study is great, and positive reinforcement does take a lot of skill… which is great for professionals! Not so great for the average person with a companion animal… Especially as people with companion animals aren’t always floating in money to hire a specialist. That’s what it is… a specialist. That’s not an ideal solution for a lot of people, especially now adays. Thanks for letting me talk to the void via youtube comments LOL

  17. i have only used an aversive training method was on my german shepherd who had a really bad case of biting (i think it was partially puppy biting).he would lunge at anyone who he didn’t know that tried to sit down next to him.
    i had an e collar on him (not a shock collar, the collar that i got would vibrate) when guests came over. if he showed signs of aggression i’d try to use sound diversion, and if he focused on me i’d give him a treat. if he made the lunge to bite, i’d yelp as he bit to try to make him release, but if he didn’t within a very short amount of time i’d make the collar vibrate to make him release, then i’d bring him in another room and put him in a crate for 15 minutes.

    i feel as if it was necessary because if he bit a complete stranger on a walk (and i let go of the leash) he’d probably be put down. it didn’t take him too long to catch on as most of the ‘training’ was positive and the only time that i made the collar vibrate on his neck was if he didn’t let go if i made that yelp. any time he wasn’t showing signs of aggression to the guest he’d get a treat for it.

  18. Here’s the thing about “science:” you have concrete science where answers cannot be refuted, and abstract science where the answers are open to interpretation. Abstract sciences tend to attract more people that let emotion create a bias in their results. The field of animal behavior is a science that will forever be abstract, because even if you have the exact same reaction by every dog ever, there’s no way to know how much that action may have actually affected the individual dog. The reason why these “studies” have come to the conclusion that methods of training that have been used for thousands of years are no longer appropriate is because the people that make these kinds of calls are letting emotion take over. Just because it’s a “science” doesn’t make it concrete, and it definitely doesn’t make it absolute — it just leaves it open to interpretation and a power play of whose opinion means most by how much time they dedicate to seeking the authority to tell others what’s right, what’s wrong, and what makes you a good or bad person.

  19. For my dog:
    1. Positive reinforcement works great for teaching obedience commands and tricks.
    2. I used a prong collar like Upstate to work on reactivity. After awhile, my dog will fight against it and not care about corrections. So, I’m trying engage/disengage training.
    3. E collar training (low stim) did help solidify obedience commands that my dog already knew.
    4. For recall, whistle training has been just as good, or better in some situations, as the e collar.
    5. When my dog bends her head down the e collar won’t make contact which renders it useless. I can’t tighten it more or it’s way too tight. And when she has taken off after a rabbit, she’ll completely ignore stimulation (Yes, she’s collar conditioned).
    6. I’m pretty much going back to positive reinforcement for everything. I’m thinking this will be best for MY dog. I don’t think there’s a black and white method for every dog. They’re all different.

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