A couple of weeks after bringing Emma home, when she was still quite scared of everything and everyone, Ems and I met some friends with their pupz at an outdoor cafe. Emma had not yet learned to “sit,” as we were working on some higher priorities like helping her learn that the elevator to the outside was not a big monster waiting to torture her.
One of the girls that day brought some “lamb lung” treats, which to me — a vegan — is horrifying, but to dogz — not vegans — is heavenly. Emma beamed with joy when she smelled the freeze-dried waffle-looking nauseating delicacies. As I mentioned in this post, Tom and I had been handing treats over to people we passed along walks back then, so that they would in turn give the food to Emma to teach her that people are GOOD! But when Emma looked up at Girlfriend to try that new yummy flavor, Girlfriend waved it around trying to get Emma to SIT and then scolded her when she wouldn’t do it.
Girlfriend trains her dogs at My Nemesis Dog Training School,*** where they use prong collars and other aversive methods and teach people that dogs are being “dominant” when they don’t do what you want, and that you need to show them who’s boss.
“Woah! We’re not training Emma like that,” I shouted to stop Girlfriend from scaring Emma further.
“Like what?!?” she snapped back.
“We’re not using My Nemesis to train Emma.” I said. “We don’t agree with their methods. We’re working with a positive reinforcement trainer.”
“Well, when that fails and you realize that you need to train her the right way,” she responded, “you’ll go to them. Trust me.”
She was wrong. We never did.
The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior states that using aversive training methods — including choke and prong collars to cut off a dog’s air supply or electronic collars to shock him — can (unsurprisingly) injure the dog as well as create other adverse effects such as:
” … inhibition of learning, increased fear-related and aggressive behaviors, and injury to animals and people interacting with animals.”
Can you imagine if we had used these methods on Emma, who already was convinced perhaps that our hardwood floors would suck her down like quicksand and that door frames would lead her into the depths of Hell?
Rather than scare her and hurt her (which already had happened to her early in life when she was a caged breeder in a puppy mill), we give Emma things she loves — food, toys, happy talk, and cuddles. Every day because of this, our girl exudes more joy and confidence, and her bond to us grows stronger and stronger.
Scare and hurt dog vs. make dog happy and give her confidence? It’s a no-brainer to me.
Positive-reinforcement training workz.
*** After witnessing scores of dogs yelp in pain while “trainers” from this place yanked on their prong collars on street corners near my home, I posted a review on Yelp. I explained that I could no longer shop in their store, because I couldn’t support a biz that mistreated animals like this. In response, the owners threatened to sue me and anyone else who had written negative reviews. (Big surprise: the people who are abusive to dogs are also abusive to people.) I am not interested in suffering any more of their wrath, so I will keep their real name private and instead refer to them as “My Nemesis.” With any luck, people in my old town will realize that there are more humane ways to treat dogs and to choose a different school for their dogz.