Aversion Training for Dogs

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Aversion Training for Dogs
Aversion Training for Dogs (Image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/finklez/3060008010/, http://www.flickr.com/photos/blhphotography/520468588/, http://www.flickr.com/photos/alishav/3440448394/, http://www.flickr.com/photos/flickrchickr/898971715/)

Aversion training, also known as avoidance training, is the act of associating a negative experience with an action you do not want your dog to perform. Aversion training methods rely on fear and surprise to enforce certain behaviors in your dog and can be mild or extreme. The most extreme methods include the use of pain and are considered highly inhumane by many trainers. (see reference 2)

Electronic Collars

An electronic collar, sometimes known as shock collar, is placed around a dog's neck and can emit a jolt of electricity to the dog via a remote control, whose range can be anywhere from 200 yards to one mile. Proponents of electronic collars claim they are one of the most humane and effective methods of training a dog when used correctly. Opponents, meanwhile, say there is a great potential for abuse and misuse when this type of training collar is used (See reference 1).

Slip Collars

Slip collars, also referred to as choke chains, are another means of training your dog. To use it correctly, slip the links of the chain through one of the larger loops at the end. Pull on one of the loops and place it over your dog if it looks like the small letter "q" from your perspective. If it doesn't, turn it around and then place it on your dog. The most effective way to use a choke collar, and the way that does the least harm, is by keeping the point of tension, where the chain tightens, on the left side of the dog's neck. Attach a leash to the "loose" end of the chain, or the larger loop that will tighten the collar. This allows for a momentary tightening of the chain that will immediately release when the owner allows the dog slack on the leash. Choke collars are considered inhumane by many and should only be used under the direction of a professional trainer---and only then if other training methods have failed. Slip collars should only be used when training a dog and should never be left on 24 hours a day (see reference 2).

An improperly used choke chain can cause more harm than good.
An improperly used choke chain can cause more harm than good.

Water Training

A squirt bottle filled with water may be all that is needed to teach a dog to avoid certain behaviors. It is quick, effective at long range, and harmless to the dog. However, this type of aversion training does not work if a dog likes water or water guns. Some owners prefer to add citrus or citronella to the water, which makes the experience much more unpleasant for the dog. This is not a pain-based method of training, as with choke collars and shock collars, but the squirt of water startles the dog and stops him from performing an undesirable action (see reference 3).

A squirt from a water bottle may be all that is needed to correct a dog.
A squirt from a water bottle may be all that is needed to correct a dog.

Loud Noises

Loud noises, such as rattling a can of pennies or stomping your feet, are other methods of aversion training, as the loud noise startles the dog. Even a firmly stated "No!" could be considered a very mild form of aversion training (see reference 3).

Other Methods of Training

Although aversion training is still used, other methods of dog training have gained popularity. A system of positive reinforcements has proven to work better than punishment (see reference 2). The one thing that all methods have in common is that for every action there is a consequence. The difference between aversion training and positive reinforcement is that in aversion training, the consequences are almost always negative. For any method of training to work, the owner must be consistent. Any time a dog does something desirable or undesirable there must be a consequence, no matter how small the action.

Reward based, positive reinforcement training has fallen into favor.
Reward based, positive reinforcement training has fallen into favor.

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