With the reign of popular dominance/punishment-based trainers on television and in book stores, force-free trainers are faced with the challenge of educating people on the differences between having a “shut down” pet and a well-trained one.
When you use punishment-based methods in animal training, what you are essentially doing is suppressing behaviour. You are saying “no, don’t do that…not that either…or that”. The result for many pets trained this way is that they simply “shut down” and stop offering behaviour. These pets lose interest in their surroundings. If they don’t interact with their world, then they won’t get punished. They withdraw into themselves.
Unfortunately, many people, in the absence of the problem behaviours, see their pet as “cured”. Does it matter that their pet is now a shadow of its former self if they are no longer having to put up with annoying problem behaviours?
For anyone who has experienced the delight of training with positive reinforcement the answer is obvious, of course it matters! Our pets, whether they are dogs, cats, birds, or any other species, rely on us – we influence their whole world. When they eat, play, exercise, and rest are all largely controlled by our decisions. We should be committed to enriching their lives in our care, which means providing them with plenty of opportunities to behave and act on their environment in a meaningful way. We can do this through positive reinforcement.
Rather than punish our pets for behaving in ways that annoy us, we can take a moment to plan and set their environment up to encourage good behaviours. We can purposefully train them to do behaviours we like, and motivate them with things they like so that they actually want to listen when we ask. And we can provide them with physical and mental stimulation so that when our lives call us away (to work, or social activities) our pets can rest happily in our absence. This is a well-trained pet!
It’s time that we pet owners take a modern, force-free approach to pet training and ownership. If our pets are misbehaving we should see it as a training problem, not a pet problem. Training is our responsibility, and we should approach it with our pets welfare as the number one priority!