Friday, March 25, 2011

science, smiance!

Recently I had a debate with a fellow rescuer.  I was sort of dumbfounded by some of the things that were said.

It started out with someone discussing being the alpha with their dog, and how that's worked in training him since he's become aggressive towards people and dogs on walks, but is fine at dog parks and loves when people (strangers or known people) come over.  I mentioned how dominance and alpha training methods have been disproved by science, and I posted several links, including Using 'Dominance' To Explain Behavior Is Old Hat, Rethinking the causes of canine aggression, The Alpha Fallacy, Debunking Dominance Theory, The Myth of Alpha Dogs, and a Dog Behavior PDF from Dog Star Daily.  

I also mentioned how using dominance and alpha techniques, including being physically forceful with your dog (including shock collars, leash corrections, any sort of physical punishment or intimidation techniques) can actually cause harm to your dog, and cause more aggression or other issues down the line.  I also mentioned that they may appear to work great in the moment, but rewarding your dog for good behavior ultimately shows more lasting results.

I mentioned how Learning Theory, a scientific theory that is taught in schools and universities across the country to psychology students, teachers, animal behavior experts, etc., can be used to teach every dog because it's training based on scientific research, and does not have the potential to leave the dog with lasting scars or other behavioral problems down the line.

So, the individual whose original post it was said he was going to read the links I posted, because he's interested in understanding his dog's behavior as much as possible.  I thought that was wonderful; I'm thinking, "One person at a time..."

Then, of course, someone else chimed in and let me know that she's learned, throughout her experience, that not every method works with every dog, and she disagreed with my posts.  I let her know that training based in science CAN and DOES work with ALL dogs, and, in fact, punitive-based methods work because they rely on the same principals of rewards and punishment that Learning Theory discusses.  I let her know my point was not whether these methods can work, because they have worked in the past; my point was that they work, but at what cost to the dog, and the dog/human relationship?

She let me know that there are tons of theories out there, and it's important to read them all, and then choose what method works best for ourselves.  I went through the process of explaining what a scientific theory is, and that Learning Theory is not just a random idea someone came up with; that in order to become a scientific theory, years of research goes into providing a hypothesis; and to become a scientific theory, the same results must be replicated and duplicated in hundreds of studies, results are analyzed for errors and tested repeatedly, and they are applicable to the real world.  I reminded her that technically, gravity is a scientific theory as well, but I wasn't going to test it by jumping out of a window simply because I haven't experienced it for myself.

It culminated in her disagreeing with me based on her experiences.

That was it. 

She said nothing to support her statements, and when I asked which part of my comments she disagreed with, she simply said we should all read different "theories" and make our own decisions on how to train a particular dog because not all dogs can be trained the same way. Yes they can! We're talking about the same thing here.  Learning Theory encompasses reinforcement and punishment.  The problem is that aversive punishments can and do lead to other behavioral problems, including aggression, that you'll ultimately have to deal with.  Why not work from a point that will not increase aggression instead?
My last response was this:
It's important for people to read and learn, of course. And that's why I will continue to educate people about more humane methods of dog training for as long as I'm alive and capable.

In the meantime, what I can tell you is best for ALL DOGS, whomever they belong to, is to be trained in a way that does not physically harm them.

It's best for ALL dogs not to have their leash jerked over and over again because it causes pain.

It's best for ALL dogs not to have prong collars jabbing them in the neck, causing pain, or shock collars shocking them, causing pain. 
It's best for ALL dogs to not be physically accosted, hung by their leash, rolled on their back, and otherwise abused in the name of training.

Not only that, but it's best for ALL HUMANS to train humanely because not only does it increase the quality of the dog/human relationship, it encourages the dog to want to participate in training (and thus, make our job easier) and also doesn't leave room for a dog to feel it needs to defend itself against a human that is abusing him in the name of "training."
I mean, what gives? Simply saying, "Science, smiance!" and walking away.  Why do people feel as though the experiences of one individual transcends science?  What happens when 2 people have different experiences?  I mean, to suggest that someone knows everything based on experience, and there is nothing to learn beyond that is, well... embarrassing!

Not only that, but how on earth can one person suggest that physical punishment can not leave harmful or hasting effects on an animal? To suggest dogs need aversive or physical punishment and dominance in order to comply is simply ignorant.  To refuse to learn about better methods of training because of "experience" is beyond ignorant... it's obtuse.

No comments:

Post a Comment