Aversive Training Can Have Long-Term Effects

no aversive trainingBy: Melissa Kolmar, CPDT-KA, SBA

If you have trained at New Dawn, the chances are good that you have heard us talk about the negative effects of using aversive training with your dog. Aversive training is a catch-all term for training with tools that are unpleasant for your dog. This could be yelling, leash corrections, force or intimidation, prong collars, choke chains or shock collars.

There is a newly-published study reveals the long-term negative effects of aversive training on your dog.

“Our results show that companion dogs trained using aversive-based methods experienced poorer welfare as compared to companion dogs trained using reward-based methods, at both the short- and the long-term level,” the researchers write in their paper.

“Specifically, dogs attending schools using aversive-based methods displayed more stress-related behaviors and body postures during training, higher elevations in cortisol levels after training, and were more ‘pessimistic’ in a cognitive bias task.”

This is no surprise to us. Just like the study, we have also noticed that dogs from punishment-based backgrounds are less likely to try new things (as the risk of punishment is too great) as well. So aversive training stresses dogs out AND can inhibit their learning!

We can all get frustrated/overwhelmed with our dogs’ behavior at times. We are human and it happens. But we should not resort to punishment and aversives to train them. We need to take the time to think about what we want our dogs to do instead of the “problem” behavior they are exhibiting and then train them to do that incompatible behavior. We also want to institute management and counter-conditioning if we are working with reactivity/aggression.

“Critically,” the researchers said, “our study points to the fact that the welfare of companion dogs trained with aversive-based methods appears to be at risk.”