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Advocating for R+ Animal Training—Three Key Documents

Advocating for R+ Animal Training—Three Key Documents


Contributed by Don Hanson, Chair of PPG’s Advocacy Division and a member of PPG’s board of directors

As you know, positive reinforcement is under attack by some in the dog training community. Therefore, to prepare yourself to successfully advocate for and educate others about the benefits of positive reinforcement, I recommend you become familiar with these three documents: the PPG Guiding Principles, the 2015 AAHA Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines, and the AVSAB Humane Dog Training Position Statement. They will be valuable in helping you discuss the science that supports the benefits of training and care without using aversives.


The PPG Guiding Principles

If you are here, you are a member of the Pet Professional Guild. If you are like me, you are a member because PPG has a strict code of conduct for its members: The Pet Professional Guild Guiding Principles.

When discussing our philosophy at my two businesses, I have shared the guiding principles with prospective clients, current clients and area veterinarians. It can easily be summarized as, “I will never use ‘any intentional physical act against a pet that causes psychological or physical pain, harm or damage to the pet.’” Clients find that statement very comforting and agree it is what they want for their pet.

If you have not done so, I encourage you to download, read and become familiar with this document. It will help you be a better advocate.

Download PPG’s Guiding Principles here.


2015 AAHA Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines

The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) is the only accrediting body for small animal hospitals in the United States and Canada. They were the first veterinary organization in the United States to address the use of aversives with pets in the 2015 AAHA Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines. One of the most powerful statements in this document is:

This Task Force opposes training methods that use aversive techniques. Aversive training has been associated with detrimental effects on the human–animal bond, problem solving ability, and the physical and behavioral health of the patient. It causes problem behaviors in normal animals and hastens progression of behavioral disorders in distressed animals. Aversive techniques are especially injurious to fearful and aggressive patients and often suppress signals of impending aggression, rendering any aggressive dog more dangerous.
Aversive techniques include prong (pinch) or choke collars, cattle prods, alpha rolls, dominance downs, electronic shock collars, lunge whips, starving or withholding food, entrapment, and beating. None of those tools and methods should be used to either teach or alter behavior.

After reading this document when it was first issued, I incorporated parts into the materials I give to my students. I also printed copies of the document and shared it with local veterinarians, shelters and rescues with an introductory letter from me.

If you have not already done so, I encourage you to download, read and familiarize yourself with this document. It can be handy when discussing training methods and tools with your clients and those that refer to you. At the end of the guidelines, you will find a list of the articles supporting the conclusions in the guidelines. Many of them can be downloaded and read as well.

Download the 2015 AAHA Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines here.


AVSAB Humane Dog Training Position Statement

In August 2021, the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) published its position statement on humane dog training. The document concludes:

Based on current scientific evidence, AVSAB recommends that only reward-based training methods are used for all dog training, including the treatment of behavior problems. Aversive training methods have a damaging effect on both animal welfare and the human-animal bond. There is no evidence that aversive methods are more effective than reward-based methods in any context. AVSAB therefore advises that aversive methods should not be used in animal training or for treating behavior disorders.

As with the AAHA guidelines, I shared a copy of this position statement with area veterinarians, shelters and rescues, along with a letter highlighting the most critical parts. Again, like the AAHA guidelines, the position statement can be beneficial when discussing the benefits of positive reinforcement and the potential dangers of aversives. Citations for the articles supporting the position statement can be found in the references section.

Download the AVSAB Humane Dog Training Position Statement here.

I hope you will find these three documents helpful as you teach others about why PPG members choose to train as they do.