By: Melissa Kolmar, CPDT-KA
Have you heard of the Five Freedoms of Animal Welfare? ASPCA defines them as such:
1. Freedom from Hunger and Thirst by ready-access to fresh water and diet to maintain health and vigor.
2. Freedom from Discomfort by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area.
3. Freedom from Pain, Injury or Disease by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment.
4. Freedom to Express Normal Behavior by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal’s own kind.
5. Freedom from Fear and Distress by ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering.
As dog trainers, Gillian and I think about the five freedoms a lot. We know that positive reinforcement is the most humane (and most effective!) way to train a dog. If a dog is deprived of one or more of the five freedoms, behavior can and will suffer.
I’m writing about this today, because of an ongoing investigation in Johnson City, Tennessee. A dog died at a board-and-train facility and the necropsy showed that the dog, an 8-month-old miniature bull terrier named Dallas, starved to death. The report said Dallas had 0% fat content, there was no presence of food in the GI tract and nothing had moved through the dog in 24 hours. This poor dog had every one of the five freedoms taken from him.
Sadly, there are still many training facilities in this country that rely on force, intimidation, deprivation, and fear when working with dogs. They use these methods to suppress undesirable behaviors. It is an outdated and inhumane method for training dogs.
When considering a training facility, ask lots of questions about what methods they use, how exactly they train the dogs, what science-based training protocols they follow and what experience and certification they have. Don’t fall for flashy marketing speak or guarantees. No one can guarantee a living being’s behavior.
Dog training is still an unregulated and unlicensed industry, which can lead to dangerous, and in this case deadly, results. Be your dog’s advocate and carefully research anyone who will be working with your dog.