By Niki Tudge & Susan Nilson
In recent years, much creditable scientific study has been given to dog training and behaviour modification methods and their respective efficacy and consequences. The preponderance of the evidence shown by these studies indicates that the implementation of training and/or behaviour modification protocols predicated upon “dominance theory” and social structures (“alpha,” or “leader of pack”), usage of physical or mental force, intimidation, coercion or fear are empirically less effective and often create as a consequence “fallout” behaviours – behaviours which may be dangerous to the human and animal involved.
Some of these methods – specifically corporal punishment, choke chains, prong collars, shocking with an electronic collar, leash jerks, bark collars and verbal punishment – are often used in reality television programming. The Pet Professional Guild appeals to all programming organisations to re-evaluate any decision to showcase forceful, painful and aversive training methods and equipment. Despite warnings on the television for viewers not to attempt the methods displayed at home, such methods will be attempted by pet owners and may lead to extremely dangerous situations. The Pet Professional Guild respectfully requests television channels to replace this programming immediately with competent, progressive and force-free, formally-educated trainers and/or behaviourists.
The scientific data, in addition to the moral and ethical concerns about mental and physical damage to animals subjected to methods using force, fear and/or pain have moved numerous organisations to advocate for the banning of forceful and painful animal training methods and/or equipment. This movement has been successful in several countries. The Pet Professional Guild is but one of many international organisations that have taken public stands advocating for force-free animal handling and training.
It is the mission of the Pet Professional Guild to promote the current and ongoing research and knowledge in animal behaviour and training to those in the animal profession. Further, it is the goal of the Pet Professional Guild to provide the resources, education and mentoring process to all professionals who are committed to following the science and research which irrefutably indicates that positive training methods are more humane and effective than aversive methods. The Pet Professional Guild proudly counts amongst its ranks many “cross-over” trainers who have successfully abandoned outdated, aversive training methods in favor of humane and effective positive training methods. Many serve as mentors for others wishing to do the same, and the “force-free” movement is becoming a powerful movement impacting the entire pet industry.
As part of that mission, the Pet Professional Guild respectfully submits that showcasing training methods that use force, fear or pain are morally and ethically wrong as well as damaging to the animal, damaging to the human-animal bond, and potentially create hazards for the pet-owning public that may attempt to use such methods. Showcasing such methods creates significant danger for animals and humans and perpetuates training methods which science does not support as effective and which the Pet Professional Guild deems unethical treatment of animals.
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Italy, Denmark, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Slovenia, parts of Australia, Sweden and Wales, among others, have taken steps to ban the sale and/or use of devices such as electronic, or “shock” collars.