What kind of teaching methods do you use?
Behavioural science recognises that positive reinforcement of appropriate behaviour is the most powerful way of teaching animals. Interactions need to be clear and consistent, and kind. When an animal can trust that the people it lives with are reliable, and when it is able to communicate its needs, it is in the best position to start behavioural modification.
Sometimes, well-meaning owners can act based on inappropriate advice given by trainers or people claiming to be 'behaviour specialists', who use outdated and harmful training practices. Red flags to look out for are people (often calling themselves 'balanced' trainers), who encourage use of punitive methods of training, such as 'alpha rolls', use equipment such as choke or prong collars, or those who refer to 'dominance' to explain behaviour. Such techniques have actually been shown to increase anxiety and aggression in animals and are not recommended for behaviour modification. Please do not use punishment techniques to attempt to stop unwanted behaviours. Instead seek advice from a qualified behaviour vet, or qualified dog trainer who teaches using positive reinforcement techniques.
Are you a specialist?
Dr Jen holds a MANZCVS in Veterinary Behaviour. She has chosen to focus solely on practicing behavioural medicine and has more knowledge and experience in this field that most veterinarians. However, she is not a registered specialist in veterinary behavioural medicine. There are only two individuals with this qualification currently offering private consultations in Australia. If you wish to see a Specialist based in NSW, please contact Dr Kersti Seksel of Sydney Animal Behaviour Services.
Survey of the use and outcome of confrontational and non-confrontational training methods in client-owned dogs showing undesired behaviors. Herron, Meghan E.; Shofer, Frances S.; Reisner, Ilana R. Applied Animal Behaviour Science V: 117 Issue: 1-2 Pages: 47-54 DOI:10.1016/j.applanim.2008.12.011 Published: FEB 2009