animal behavior related matters


In the NY Times on July 22, an article appeared on the authors’ getting a golden retriever pup it promises to be a weekly series chronicling the pup’s misadventures. The troubling parts for many positive reinforcement dog trainers is that she only mentioned Cesar Millan and the Monks of New Skete. BOTH of these “trainers” rely on punishment based methods including physical force. This reader below commented strongly in support of positive training.

Teach me, don’t punish me!

See post–

Caroline F.
July 21st, 2009
8:25 am
Please consider adding the materials below to your reading lists / references for talking to readers of the NYTimes.

My heart sinks to see the Dog Whisperer and the Monks listed as the main go-to references for raising and training a puppy. So many people have taken away the message that confrontation, force and aggressive dominance displays are necessary, and so many of these people have unwittingly created problems with harsh and / or inappropriately applied training techniques, often used unskillfully as well.

I’m not suggesting that you and your husband are unskillful or doing wrong by your puppy. There are people and dogs who do just fine using the references you mentioned. However, there are also many, many people who do not and who wind up frustrated or in trouble. They don’t realize that there are many vets, behaviorists and trainers with different information.

Critics often pan reward-based or relationship based training as cookie pushing, permissive or wishy-washy, but this is a straw man argument. There are unskilled trainers of all types. The skilled veterinary behaviorists and trainers arguing against the methodologies and rationales of Cesar Millan and the Monks of New Skete are well aware that training a dog will involve the ability to set boundaries and rules in a fair and consistent manner and understand that permissiveness and the lack of clear communication can lead to problems. (Not to mention meeting the dogs’ needs for exercise, mental stimulation and environmental enrichment.)

How I wish that broad and deep dog knowledge, including the ability to read subtle body language, science (animal behavior, physiology, ethology, operant conditioning, for example) as well as experience and savvy figured in the version of dog training that most people absorb from the popular press.

Thanks for your consideration; some references below!

Dr. Ian Dunbar………

Suzanne Clothier

The articles are well worth signing up to access.

Dr. Patricia McConnell


Dr. Nicholas Dodman…

AVSAB position statements on punishment, dominance, puppy socialization – pdfs…

JAVMA News – precis of AVSAB position paper on punishment…

David Mech on alpha (change in use by wolf biologists) – pdf

Vet Study: If You’re Aggressive Your Dog Will Be Too

Originally published by Ruff Customers Dog Training. Copyright 2009. : 8/1/2009

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