Our Training Position
Our behavior experts use up-to-date, humane, science-backed training methods that support the human animal bond. What does that mean? It means that we are regularly reading the scientific literature in animal behavior and training to discover new information and techniques that will get better training results and decrease or eliminate risk of fallout behaviors. It means that we are regularly adding to our training tool box to reflect this new information and provide better service to you and your pet. And it means that the methods we choose to use will be ones that are effective, improve communication and understanding between you and your pet, and increase loving interactions.
Science says we should choose to train without the use of force, fear, pain, intimidation, or coercion, and instead focus on promoting choice, cooperation, and communication. So that's what Clever Critters trainers do!
ARE YOU AN "ALL POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT" TRAINER?
In short - Yes! However.. in learning, there is never only one quadrant of learning taking place. Clever Critters trainers use methods that utilize the most positive reinforcement and eliminate the need for aversives (pain, fear, intimidation).
If you are interested in the long answer...
We use classical and operant conditioning and are always aware of all four quadrants of operant conditioning while training. What are the four quadrants? You can see them here, wonderfully illustrated by Lili Chin of doggiedrawings.net before continuing.
In psychology, "reinforcement" is defined as the increase in frequency or intensity of a behavior. "Positive reinforcement" is when you add a stimulus to the animal's environment that increases the frequency or intensity of a behavior. Administering some reward to your pet when she does something you want her to do is an excellent way to see that behavior more often! We use positive reinforcement frequently because it is highly effective with little to no risk of fallout behaviors. We make all training and behavior modification choices very carefully, based on the individual animal and circumstances in each case. What reinforces one pet's behavior may be different than another. As does what they find to be punishing, so we must always assess this to eliminate and reduce aversion.
LIMA requires that trainers and behavior consultants use the “least intrusive, minimally aversive technique likely to succeed in achieving a training [or behavior change] objective with minimal risk of producing adverse side effects.” It is also a competence criterion, requiring that trainers and behavior consultants be adequately trained and skilled in order to ensure that the least intrusive and aversive procedure is in fact used.
DO YOU USE PUNISHMENT?
The definition of "punishment" in psychology is the reduction in frequency or intensity of a behavior.
For example: If you stop playing with a biting puppy resulting in the puppy decreasing his biting over time, you have used punishment effectively. This is an example of "negative punishment." "Negative" refers to taking something from the puppy's environment in response to a behavior and "punishment" describes the result (play biting is reduced in frequency and/or intensity). If you hit a puppy on the nose every time he bites you in play resulting in the puppy decreasing his biting over time, you have also used punishment effectively. HOWEVER, there are often unintended side effects to this type of punishment. This is an example of "positive punishment." "Positive" refers to adding something to the puppy's environment in response to a behavior and "punishment" describes the result (play biting is reduced in frequency and/or intensity).
Some unintended side effects we have seen in many cases such as this include: puppy becomes hand shy of the punisher or of people in general, puppy avoids playing with the punisher but continues to play bite with other people, or puppy decreases play biting but changes to defensive biting because of the expectation of being hit and pain.
Clever Critters trainers will assess and appropriately use negative punishment in a behavior modification plan WITH positive reinforcement to teach desirable behaviors as an alternative. The use of positive punishment is inhumane, not backed by science, and risky to the overall well-being of the animal physically, emotionally, and to the human-animal bond. We make all training and behavior modification choices very carefully based on the individual animal and circumstances in each case.
Here are some more thoughts on punishment from The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior.
WHAT IS YOUR POSITION ON
The professionals at Clever Critters use science-based and up-to-date information as a guide for animal training. The current literature does not find a "dominance-hierarchy" approach to any animal training to be effective. Also, the definition of "dominance" in the animal behavior literature is quite different from how pet professionals (who are not behaviorists) or pet parents might define dominance. We have found that most of what our clients have heard about dominance is incorrect, steeped in myths and misconceptions. When we are working with an animal who has difficulty navigating their environment or difficulty in social situations with other animals or people, we focus on the individual animal, his behavioral history, his experiences, his environment and what we can observe to determine appropriate treatment. We do not try to fit his behavior into a dominance model.
Other prominent professionals agree that we need alternatives to dominance-based dog and animal training:
For more information and resources on updated and alternative approaches to the treatment and prevention of aggressive behaviors and bites by dogs, check out our Resources page.