Mark's Dog Blog

Emotive ideology, and its possible link to inappropriate punishment

Emotive ideology, and its possible link to inappropriate punishment
It shouldn't, but it still astounds me how many homes I go into whereby the family were brainwashed in to an emotive based ideology at their puppy preschool, that has led them to becoming totally frustrated dog owners, and therefore in many cases influencing their actions.
 
Don't get me wrong, I am not talking about teaching a puppy basic commands like sit, drop come, stay. I am talking about behaviours that if not dealt with (and not just managed) would be detrimental for the overall well being for the growing dog, and also for the well being, sanity and above all, the safety of family members. The escalation in hospitalisations for dog bites, the numbers of dogs now handed over to shelters, the increased numbers of dogs put to sleep, and the increased numbers of dogs pushed on to psychotropic medication, over the past 15 years must be a direct indication we have been doing something terribly wrong over this period. I am not suggesting that the positive-only methods are 'causing' aggression and biting behaviours in family dogs, however their management principles are not helping to deal with them appropriately.
 
It is so wrong that an unrealistic emotive ideology has become so strong that no matter the evidence presented before these groups, nothing will convince them that they need to take a good look at their methods. They honestly need to start asking serious questions, if for no other reason than for the long term welfare and for the future of the family dog.
 
Why has it become so accepted that if management principles don't work, then drugs or being put to sleep are totally acceptable now? Where has our humanity gone? Why is it that these groups accept dogs setting rules and boundaries through the use of positive punishment between themselves, and yet if a human follows the same natural instinctive principles are acting inhumanely? Where is their logic? Why has unrealistic emotion become such a strong overriding influence on how we raise our dogs?
 
I totally agree that we should never accept abusive treatment of dogs, and this does include inappropriate punishment that the dog doesn't understand. Punishment carried out in anger or frustration should never be accepted. However isn't the new emotive based ideology that has grown in popularity over the past 15 years created a new problem, and that is frustrated dog owners? These dog owners then may turn to punishment techniques out of frustration that may indeed be unintentionally abusive. I have lost count how many homes I have been too over the past 10 years or so, where the dogs owners have lost all patience, and started using inappropriate punishment techniques, and for no other reason than because management principles taught were not working with their dog. Thank God for many of these dog owners, that love their dog, they realise that what they are doing is inappropriate and decide that there must be a better way to help their dog, and therefore decide to do some research about other methods. For many to their surprise read that trainers with a more balanced approach have a much higher success rate with inhibiting and extinguishing acceptable behavioural issues, and also for ensuring calmer and more well-balanced dogs. And that the methods are obviously not cruel or inhumane, as they were falsely and misleadingly informed in their puppy class. And actually, the methods are the closest true form of raising a puppy there is, because it focuses on the pups instinctive learning principles, and not based on isolated and controlled environmental learning such as studied in a laboratory, where management methods appear to work.
 
I have personally gone in to many homes over the years, and could see just by the dogs reactions, that the owners had turned to inappropriate discipline techniques. In most cases, they had originally followed the positive-only methodology to help guide their dog, when eventually their level of frustration finally became to much due to management principles they were taught that were not working. I have at times had to not overtly question them on their discipline methods, as I knew it would most probably embarrass them and make them feel bad. In those situations I just gave examples of different types of discipline and explained how the dog perceives the actions by its owner, without directly accusing them of unintentional mistreatment. It can be a very sensitive area to touch upon, especially when the family love their dog so much, and thought they had no other options due to misleading information given at their puppy preschool.
 
Dog owners are being virtually brainwashed in to believing that management principles in regards to dog behaviour is all that is required to ensure a well behaved dog. However when these management principles are failing them and their dog, they are not offered any further options, other than relinquishing their dog to a rescue group, doping their dog up on psychotropic drugs, or indeed putting their dog to sleep. Or as outlined above, many dog owners turning to inappropriate punishment, due to frustration and anger, and all due a lack of understanding and guidance on what appropriate punishment is, when it is appropriate to use, and how to carry it out so the dog is not confused or becomes fearful of the owner. This is not the dog owners fault, but the fault of an emotive ideology that is pushing an agenda that has become more important than the welfare of our dogs, and our relationship with them.
 
To prevent the abusive treatment of our dogs, an extremist group has swung the pendulum to far in one direction, and therefore this overly emotive ideology has limited the help we can now offer dog owners to such an extreme extent that its creating a new problem, unintentional inappropriate treatment of dogs, not to mention the increased number of dogs being relinquished to animal shelters, placed on drugs to subdue them, or PTS.
 
Redirecting and interruption techniques are management principles only, and do not instil in the dogs brain consequences for human viewed unacceptable behaviours. Remember, dogs have no understanding of unacceptable behaviours, only that behaviours produce certain consequences. So to suggest that redirecting a dog on an alternative behaviour or interrupting an unacceptable behaviour will teach a dog to make more appropriate choices is not truly understanding how the dogs mind actually works. It's placing human reasoning in to a dog, and this is where all our problems begin.
 
We have become such an emotive society, that not only now should our children be wrapped up in cotton wool, but so should our dogs. We are creating a society where any type of punishment is considered abusive, and therefore not preparing our children for the real world as they mature. Not only this, but if it is required to punish the child because unwanted behaviour that has gone too far, we get over the top tantrum throwing!
 
I only yesterday helping a client with a young pup that had incessant biting issues that was causing undue havoc and stress in the home (not to mention a lot of wounds on arms and legs), had this pup throwing an extreme over the top tantrum. A simple hold of the pups lose skin on the back of its neck had this pup throwing a tantrum, screaming like it was being tortured to death. Eventually after 3 or 4 corrections in this manner the pup realised that tantrum throwing was not going to work, and from then on the pup totally accepted the correction when it was applied, and only took a couple more corrections for the pup to pair the correction with the inappropriate biting. Most people seeing a pup throwing such an extreme tantrum would view the pup as being in extreme pain, and stop the correction, feeling sorry for the pup. Its not easy for a lot of puppy owners to sit and watch their pup carry on in such an over the top and extreme way. However, it just goes to show, how we are not preparing our pups for their future life as dogs, and that is being respectful towards their owners. A puppy that is never 'physically' corrected as a pup, can be a danger to society as it matures. As any form of trying to control the dogs actions later in life could result in inappropriate reactive behaviour, including an aggressive response. Young pups need to understand appropriate punishment when young, just as they learn to accept it when administered by their mother and litter mates. Its a natural part of their overall instinctive learning when young, and should be continued in the home when taken away from their mother and litter mates. This is not to suggest that we go around continually physically correcting the puppy for everything it does. A physical correction is used when appropriate to do so, and must be carried out in a way the pup understands. Getting angry and frustrated with a puppy is not appropriate, and will only confuse your pup, and even more so if this emotive response is paired with physical punishment.
 
We should be instructing puppy owners how to carry out appropriate punishment techniques, so that they can be applied if and when necessary to quickly help to inhibit unacceptable behaviours, such as biting and nipping that may have gone to far. And in doing so, we are ensuring that puppy owners do not become frustrated and angry at their pups, due to management principles currently taught in most puppy preschools that are not helping maintain socially accepted behaviours as the pup grows.
 
We need to stop all the emotive rhetoric, and get back to basics, and be open to the fact that having a closed mind about training techniques (and tools) is not helping our relationship with dogs. If anything, these emotive views are in fact having a major detrimental impact on our relationship with an animal that although is domesticated inherently acts and reacts to its environment based on its deeply ingrained instincts.
Punishment, the evil word in dog training
5 pointers for a calm well-balanced puppy