An Open Letter to Pet Industry Representatives Regarding the Use of Shock in Animal Training, Management and Care: We now know enough to stop shocking our pets

Shock Free Coalition Social Media Graphics_007Shocking pet dogs remains a common, if controversial, training practice worldwide. In this open letter, Pet Professional Guild (PPG) combines decades of research, the opinions of certified animal behaviorists, and the question of ethics to explain why using electric shock in the name of training and care is both ineffective and harmful. PPG concludes that shocking constitutes a form of abuse towards pets, and, given that there are highly effective, positive training alternatives, should no longer be a part of the current pet industry culture of accepted practices, tools or philosophies.


This document will present and attempt to answer three questions PPG believes to be key for those leading, guiding and credentialing pet industry professionals:

1.     Can professional associations and credentialing bodies work within the confines of applied animal behavior without endorsing or enabling shock collar practitioners?
2.     Can pet industry associations and credentialing bodies redefine the rules for humane hierarchies simply by applying a layer of ethics that rules out certain equipment choices deemed highly aversive and invasive?
3.     As a minimum and first step, should members of professional associations be identified by training philosophy and tools of choice, enabling pet owners to make informed and transparent choices on behalf of their pets?

Since its inception in 2012, PPG’s position has been that “the use of electronic stimulation, or ‘shock’ or ‘e-collars’ to care for, manage and train/modify the behavior of pet animals is simply not necessary.” (Note: For the purposes of this document, electronic stimulation devices include –but are not limited to — products often referred to as e-collars, training collars, shock collars, e-touch, stimulation, tingle, TENS unit collar, remote trainers, and e-prods.) In 2017, can there really still be a debate over the issue of using pain as a “method” of animal training? Decades of peer-reviewed, scientific studies show, whether discussing dogs, humans, dolphins or elephants, that electric shock as a form of training to teach or correct a behavior is ineffective at best, and physically and psychologically damaging at worst.

Renowned board certified animal behaviorist and veterinarian, Dr. Karen Overall (2005) states: “There are now terrific scientific and research data that show the harm that shock collars can do behaviorally. At the July 2005, International Veterinary Behavior Meeting, held in conjunction with the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior and American College of Veterinary Behaviorists research meetings, data were presented by E. Schalke, J. Stichnoth, and R. Jones-Baade that documented these damaging effects…There is no longer a reason for people to remain misinformed. Let me make my opinion perfectly clear: Shock is not training – in the vast majority of cases it meets the criteria for abuse.”

Ziv (2017) condenses a number of studies and surveys to review the data on the relationship between the use of electronic collars and dogs’ behavior and concludes that, “given the available data and in order to avoid risking the dogs’ welfare, trainers should avoid using electronic collars when training dogs.” Yet, in spite of the decades of studies, there is still plethora of organizations, associations and councils responsible for the representation, guidance and certification of pet industry professionals adhering to the belief that shock is an acceptable way to train, care for and manage pets. Yet these associations play a critical role in establishing and recommending best practices, education, leadership and technical standards in their respective arena. With this role comes the obligation to take a transparent and consistent position on important and urgent issues, including training practices and equipment use. This does not mean said organizations need to remove or inhibit required levels of professional autonomy by practicing, ethical individuals. Indeed, PPG believes that a line based on research, science, and ethics should be drawn as to what are, and are not, acceptable business practices in terms of applied animal behavior (ABA), core principles, and informed consent. Wherever possible “practitioners should base their choices of training methods on scientific data.” (Ziv, 2017).

The fundamental concepts of facilitating professionals to operate within a code of conduct and empowering them to maintain professional autonomy are not mutually exclusive. According to PPG’s Open Letter on Defining, Determining and Maintaining Best Practices within our Force-Free Organization (2012), professionals “must be allowed autonomy to work within the guidelines of their professional code of practice,” and “[PPG] members are encouraged to use their individual methods of choice from within governing principles and guidelines.” (Pet Professional Guild, 2012). This statement references PPG’s Guiding Principles, which are supported by a number of clear, simple non-negotiable best practices. These include completely eschewing the use of aversive training tools, such as shock, prong, or choke. In addition, PPG members agree they will not approach training or pet care via any method that works primarily through the application of pain, force or fear (Pet Professional Guild, 2012).

Industry associations and credentialing bodies must take full responsibility for the fact that pet owners are encouraged to purchase services from their members purely by association, and through their efforts to market said members to the general pet owning public. Unfortunately, this does not take into account the vast differences in methodology and philosophy that may exist across an organization’s membership body. In other words, there is no stated transparency in terms of the risks and benefits associated with the services provided, nor any differentiation between those members who practice a force-free training philosophy, and those who still risk physical and/or psychological harm to pets through their approach, philosophy and/or tool choice. In addition, there are no ramifications for members that misrepresent their services through the omission of information in a membership directory, or through their individual professional websites. This begs the question as to how consumers are protected in the absence of compulsory transparency across, or within the membership organization. As it stands, pet owners who are steered towards a professional organization through its marketing efforts search, at their own peril, through an assortment of trainers operating at opposite ends of the ethical and moral spectrum.

The Use and Application of Shock

Applying an electric shock provides no effective strategy for an animal to learn a new or alternative behavior; it simply inflicts pain and risks making him fearful, anxious and/or aggressive. Generally speaking, a pet owner’s main goals when shocking their pet are, firstly, to punish perceived misbehavior in the moment and, secondly, reduce future recurrences of the undesirable behavior. Shocking is a form of punishment and, as such, can only achieve the first goal, and harshly. In the absence of a constructional approach whereby new and more appropriate behaviors are built, most punishment outside a laboratory environment (where all components can be systematically manipulated) is extremely unreliable and encased by unintended consequences.

There can be no doubt that electric shock is a punisher, and for punishment to be effective as a means to training a dog — or any other animal — there are three critical elements that must be fulfilled: consistency, timing and intensity. First, the punishment must occur every time the unwanted behavior occurs. Second, it must be administered within, at most, a second or two of the behavior. Third, it must be unpleasant enough to stop the behavior. To reiterate, in the real world outside science laboratories, meeting these three criteria is virtually impossible for a dog training professional, and most certainly for a dog owner. Citing a variety of studies, Ziv (2017) concludes that “even when experienced trainers operate [shock] collars, the welfare of the dogs could be compromised,” and states it to be “likely that the threat to dogs’ welfare would be even greater in the hands of unskilled dog owners, who might lack the timing and consistency needed for this type of training to be successful…due to the aversive nature of these devices and the likelihood of training ineffectiveness, their use can be abusive.”

The Consequences of Using Shock

Pets are cognitive, intelligent creatures that experience emotions such as fear, anxiety, and joy. They are subject to the same laws of ABA as any other living organism. According to psychology professor, Dr. Susan Friedman, who has pioneered the application of ABA to captive and companion animals: “Punishment doesn’t teach learners what to do instead of the problem behavior. Punishment doesn’t teach caregivers how to teach alternative behaviors. Punishment is really two aversive events – the onset of a punishing stimulus and the forfeiture of the reinforcer that has maintained the problem behavior in the past.” (Friedman, 2010). Especially troubling for pet professionals is the notion that punishment requires an increase in the intensity of the aversive stimulus for it to have any have any hope of maintaining behavior reduction.

Forcing dogs to comply to avoid being shocked does not enhance the canine-human relationship, nor does it create an environment where healthy learning can take place. Rather, a pet repeatedly subjected to aversive stimulation, shock, may go into a state of “shut down,” or a global suppression of behavior. This is frequently mistaken for a “trained” pet, as the pet may remain subdued and offer few or no behaviors. In extreme cases, pets may refuse to perform any behavior at all, known as “learned helplessness.” In such cases, animals may try to isolate themselves to avoid incurring the aversive stimulation. This is evidently counterproductive to training new, more acceptable behaviors. (O’Heare, 2011).

Some common problems resulting from the use of electronic stimulation devices include, but are not limited to:

Infliction of Stress and Pain

Even at the lowest setting, electronic stimulation devices present an unknown stimulus to pets which is, at best, neutral and, at worse, frightening and/or painful. In many instances the shock is completely unpredictable for the pet, who does not know when or why it is coming. This can only add to overall levels of fear and stress. Pets conform under the shock stimulus in order to escape or avoid the terrifying and/or painful electric shock. Avoidance learning is very real and the threat of pain is just as capable of inducing stress, fear and emotional damage as the pain itself. By definition this makes the stimulus aversive. (Note: Aversive means something unpleasant or frightening that the pet seeks to avoid or escape, as opposed to a pleasant stimulus that a pet seeks out voluntarily.) In addition, electronic stimulation regularly causes physiological pain and psychological stress, often exhibited by vocalization, urination, defecation, fleeing, or complete shut-down. In extreme cases, electronic stimulation devices have also been known to cause muscle contraction and respiratory and cardiac paralysis (Overall, 2013).

Global Suppression or “Shut-Down”

A pet repeatedly subjected to aversive stimulation may go into a state of “shut down,” or a global suppression of behavior. This is frequently mistaken for a “trained” pet, as the pet remains subdued and offers few, or no behaviors. In extreme cases, pets may refuse to perform any behavior at all, known as “learned helplessness.” In such cases, pets may try to isolate themselves to avoid incurring the aversive stimulation. This is evidently counterproductive to training new, more acceptable behaviors (O’Heare, 2011).


For new, more appropriate behaviors to become reliable in random environments, they must be accessed, reinforced and then practiced so a pet is able to transfer them to any context or situation (known as “generalization”). When using shock to train or manage a pet, the pet must be repeatedly subjected to the aversive stimulus for the behavior to appear resolved, when it is, in fact, only suppressed. In such cases, the pet still has not learned a more appropriate alternative behavior. In addition, as the pet is most likely still experiencing a negative emotional state, such as fear or anxiety, he is susceptible to even more problematic behavior fallout.


If a change in behavior is not seen immediately, users of aversive tools and those inexperienced in behavior fallout often opt to increase the frequency, duration or intensity of the application. Unfortunately, this can only result in the pet attempting to escape or avoid the stimulus with even greater intensity, thus often compounding or exaggerating the problem behavior for which the shock was applied to resolve. This creates a counterproductive paradigm whereby the pet simply learns to fear the stimulus, the context, and/or the person delivering it. In addition, some pets tend to be “stoic” and may fail to show any kind of fear response, irrespective of increased levels of anxiety or frustration. There is also the risk that pets may become habituated to the sense of fear or anxiety, once again causing the trainer or owner to increase the level and/or frequency of the aversive stimulus. It has been scientifically proven that fear and stress caused in such situations can have a significant effect on a pet’s well-being due to increasing cortisol levels and heart rate, not to mention the psychological impact (O’Heare, 2005).

Redirected Aggression

Pets subjected to repeated aversive stimulation may be respondently conditioned to associate the fear and/or pain with certain contextual cues in their environment. As an example, using an aversive sound such as an air horn to interrupt barking risks pairing the owner or trainer with the unpleasant stimulus and, in particular, the hand or arm that is reaching out while using the tool. Repeated instances may generalize to the pet attempting to flee. If the pet feels, however, that flight is not possible or a safe or reliable course of action, he may instead start acting aggressively toward any arm or hand movement, or any approach behavior whatsoever.  O’Heare (2007) discusses that “shock can create significant levels of frustration and reduce the dog’s bite threshold.” O’Heare cites a study by Polsky (2000) where data implies that electric shock containment fencing elicits redirected aggression in dogs with no aggressive history.

Suppressed Aggression

The use of aversive stimuli is counterindicated in pets with aggression. This is because the behavior may only be suppressed rather than extinguished, and may thus resurface at any time without warning, generally in a more severe display. Using aversive stimuli to reduce behaviors, such as barking, lunging and growling may suppress signals that warn of a more serious, and potentially imminent behavior, such as biting. Without ritualized aggression behaviors, people and other pets will receive no warning before the pet subjected to punishment feels forced to resort to biting.

PPG holds that desensitization and counterconditioning are the only ethical and effective paradigms in which to treat aggression in pets. Protocols such as these help positively impact the pet’s emotional state from one of fear and/or anxiety to one that is more happy and relaxed, and thus able to learn new behaviors.

Best Practice

Humane and effective animal training procedures lay the foundation for any animal’s healthy socialization and training, and help avoid the onset of behavioral issues. In PPG’s view, the general pet-owning public must be better served by professional organizations and associations to help them ensure their pets live in nurturing and stable environments where they are able to maintain a positive emotional state and feel safe. This will, in turn, play a significant role in preventing behavior problems and enhancing dog bite safety protocols.

a)     Transparency and Consumer Advocacy

Many shock collar trainers market themselves under verbiage and marketing slogans such as “force-free,” “positive relationship,” “natural methods,” “relationship building,” “positive only,” “no food necessary,” and so on. These are all taglines that are bandied around the industry, but mislead unsuspecting owners looking for humane ways to train their pets. They are carefully crafted to appeal to pet guardians who may not always understand the various training methods available, or the fallout and unintended consequences of making the wrong choice. They thus do not provide consumers the autonomy to make ethical decisions on behalf of their pets. This, compounded with the inability of a pet to offer informed consent, further questions the ethics of such training practices. The foundation of anyone working in behavioral sciences must always be to do no harm.

b)     Scientific Training Methods: “Do No Harm” must become aligned with “Do Good”

All animals are motivated by food. Food is necessary for survival. It is therefore a powerful primary reinforcer and a critical component when used correctly as part of a strategic training or management plan. For behavior consultants who engage in behavior change programs where it is necessary to change a pet’s emotional reaction to a problematic stimulus, food is essential. When modifying observable behaviors such as growling, lunging and biting that are often manifestations of a fearful and/or anxious emotional state, the goal must be to change the underlying emotional response, thus enabling the dog to learn a new, more appropriate behavior.

It is frequently misunderstood that fear is an emotion and not a behavior. One cannot simply “train it out.” Indeed, fear is often the underlying emotional state to aggressive behavior, and requires the implementation of a different set of scientific protocols and a greater understanding of emotional learning and animal behavior. A review of the scientific literature recommends the use of food as a reinforcer in desensitization and counterconditioning protocols that are specifically aimed at addressing the underlying emotions of fear and/or anxiety. In reality, using food to counter condition emotional responses is the most widely accepted method for treating fear-based behaviors (Overall, 2013).

c)      Humane Hierarchy

A common trend across professional animal training and behavior associations is the promotion and application of a so-called humane hierarchy, and there are several versions available. A number of key animal behavior and training associations promote the use of a specific hierarchy to their membership, and deem it acceptable to move up through the hierarchy when working with owners and their pets. Some humane hierarchy models are accompanied by pages of explanation, detail and academic citations, while others are wonderfully graphic and detail each level. Levels generally start using management strategies and antecedent control moving then to positive reinforcement, i.e. rewarding a desirable behavior to increase the likelihood of that behavior being repeated, and eventually build up to positive punishment (which would include electric shock) to stop an undesirable behavior via the use of force or pain or any other aversive (to the animal) means. Members of any given professional body are encouraged to work within the guidelines of these hierarchies, and they are promoted to members as a tool to utilize when initiating training and behavior change programs.

O’Heare (2014) presents that the least intrusive effective behavior intervention (LIEBI) model is “proposed as a ‘best practice,’ because of its careful attention to ethical responsibility… Considerately working through the process of finding the least intrusive effective intervention is a wise choice, partly because it avoids excess side effects associated with highly intrusive methods.” However, if so-called humane hierarchies work in isolation from any non-negotiable best practices or ethical guidelines, ultimately they fail the pet, the owner, the professional, and the entire industry. Progressing up the hierarchy to more invasive and aversive protocols is merely a matter of time for individuals who are not proficient in their craft, or do not have the requisite scientific knowledge or education to understand why this strategy is so problematic in the first place. Other professionals simply skip through the levels, preferring to commence their training programs using the most aversive and invasive tools at hand.


It is important not be fooled by deceptive marketing terms (e.g. vibrating, e-touch, remote, stimulation, tingle, static) for shock collars. The primary reason shock collars are effective in stopping behavior is because they are painful, and it is time for pet professionals and associations to collaborate on this central issue, stop inflicting pain masquerading as training, and take shock off the table once and for all. Rather, by focusing on education and advocacy to ensure a better-informed pet owner who seeks out humane alternatives, consumer demand would automatically be reduced, and real progress could be made in reaching the end goal.

Ziv (2017) notes that there is “no evidence to suggest that aversive training methods are more effective than reward based training methods” and that, in fact, studies suggest “the opposite might be true – in both pets and working dogs.” Ziv (2017) suggests a new line of research to “examine how humane, reward-based methods can be improved in order to facilitate better communication between humans and dogs. In turn, such outcomes will allow dogs to modulate their stress, and at the same time improve their ability to effectively understand and respond to the behavior displayed towards them.”

We already have enough research to conclude that using fear or physical punishment in the name of training or care of our pets is ineffective and potentially harmful (in some cases, lethal). We also know that countless professional organizations and industry experts condemn physical punishment and urge pet owners to seek professionals who advocate for and, instead, practice positive behavior modification.  

However, there is a third reason to advocate against the use of physical punishment, and that is a moral one. Most pet owners, if asked, would most likely say they do not punish their pets, or deliberately place them in frightening situations to try to encourage new, or more appropriate behaviors. Yet the same owners will unwittingly take advice from training professionals who practice “methods” such as hitting, shocking and physically correcting a pet using a leash, or an array of aversive tools. By using different terminology, a professional may feel justified in physically punishing a pet while dispensing corresponding advice to pet owners, without acknowledging that he/she is, in fact, damaging the pet’s physical and mental well-being.

In civilized society, it is generally agreed that physical force is not an effective or acceptable way for adults to resolve their differences. Bearing this in mind, it should come as no surprise that physically correcting pets, like hitting children or adults, causes more problems than it solves, such as the many outlined above. It is time to stop physically harming our pets in the name of training. By working together, professional animal training and behavior associations have the ability to achieve this, and successfully reach the ultimate goal, which must be to do no harm to the animals in our charge, and improve the welfare of pets all over the world.

The bottom line is that it is entirely possible for pet industry representatives to support professional autonomy and the use of a humane hierarchy, while also taking a stand and position against the use and application of electric shock as a “training method.” As such, PPG calls on fellow industry professionals and associations, animal welfare organizations, and professional animal training and behavior bodies worldwide to stand together, to collectively reach out to, engage and educate pet owners in the implementation and practice of humane, kind and effective training tools and techniques. Rather than rely on aversive means, PPG encourages all organizations to embrace the vast body of scientific research that details the many advantages of positive training methods, and publicly say “no” to any technique that causes pain or fear — including those administered via equipment that delivers electric shocks.

Those of us who have the privilege and responsibility to represent pet professionals and, consequently, reach the wider audience comprised of pet owners and caretakers, are in the optimal position to make significant changes across our industry, within our representing bodies, and for the benefit of the pets we serve, the owners we service, and the professionals we represent. The time to achieve this is now, let’s shape the future!

Written by Niki Tudge and Susan Nilson February 2017 

For more information, please see

Join the Shock-FreeCoalition to make the use of electric shock in anmal training a thing of the past.


Friedman, S. (2010, March). What’s Wrong with This Picture? Effectiveness Is Not EnoughAPDT Journal.

O’Heare, J. (2011). Empowerment Training. Ottawa, ON: BehaveTech Publishing.

O’Heare, J. (2007). Aggressive Behavior in Dogs. Ottawa, ON: BehaveTech Publishing.

O’Heare, J. (2005). Canine Neuropsychology. Ottawa, ON: DogPsych Publishing.

O’Heare, J. (2014). The least intrusive effective behavior intervention (LIEBI) algorithm and levels of intrusiveness table: a proposed best practices model. Version 6.0.

Overall, K.L. (2013). Manual of Clinical Behavioral Medicine for Dogs and Cats. St. Louis, MO: Elsevier Saunders.

Overall, K.L. (2005). An open letter from Dr. Karen Overall regarding the use of shock collars.

Pet Professional Guild. (2012). Guiding Principles.

Pet Professional Guild. (2012). Defining, Determining and Maintaining Best Practices within Our Force Free Organization.

Pet Professional Guild. (2012). Position Statement on the Use of Shock in Animal Training.

Polsky, R. (2010). Can Aggression in Dogs Be Elicited Through the Use of Electronic Pet Containment Systems? Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science (3) 4 345-357.

Ziv, G. (2017). The Effects of Using Aversive Training Methods in Dogs – A ReviewJournal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research (19) 50-60. doi: 10.1016/j.jveb.2017.02.004

Making Peace with Muzzles

I’ll give you the moral of this story first: Make peace with muzzles. Be OK with dogs who wear them, applaud owners who use them, and put one on your own dog if the situation warrants it.

Now I’ll tell you the story. It’s about mistakes I made that led me to this moral. I hope it’ll bring you there, too. (And if you only read this far, at least check out The Muzzle Up! Project’s website.)

by Maja Dumat,

by Maja Dumat,

Years ago I had a gentle, low-key mutt named Sachem. She was easygoing with other dogs until her later years, when she started barking and lunging at them on walks. What to do? This was before my dog training days. My only idea was to yell at her to stop–which, unsurprisingly, she did not. Great. Now we were both raising hell.

Sachem’s bark was worse than her bite…until she started biting. The first time, she jerked the leash out of my hand, tore across the street, and applied her teeth to the hind end of a schnauzer. She didn’t break skin. Still, the schnauzer’s owner was irate. I was stunned, penitent–and in denial. I told myself this was a one-off thing. My dog wasn’t that kind of dog.  

Then it happened again. Same schnauzer, same ambush by Sachem, same mortifying interaction with the owner. Again no broken skin, no vet visit. At this point, though, I switched to a standard leash and chucked the retractable one, which somehow (!) kept slipping out of my hand. I figured Sachem had a grudge with that particular dog. In all other contexts she’s a lover, not a fighter!

Months went by in peace. Then one day Sachem was hanging out in the yard (which she’d done without incident for almost ten years) when a lady strolled up with a little white Westie…and…chomp! This time there was a bump and a bruise, a visit to a vet, and a $35 bill, which I reimbursed. I’d gotten off easy; this could’ve been so much worse.

A docile and serene dog...who bites.

A docile and serene dog…who bites.

Sachem was lying at my feet, docile and serene, when the owner came by to collect the money. She was surprised this was the same dog who’d tried to eat her Westie. I couldn’t reconcile these two versions of my dog, either. I held tight to “docile and serene” and rejected “…who bites.”

Chastened by this small crisis, I started keeping Sachem tethered when she was with me in the yard. But as more time passed without drama, I got lax. I was in the back yard pulling weeds one afternoon, with Sachem untethered nearby. When she wandered off, I didn’t notice. Suddenly there was a burst of frantic yelping out front, and I knew as I raced to the scene: Sachem had struck again.

This time it was two dogs. Sachem had bitten both and broken skin. The owner was a neighbor who happened to be a vet, so she stitched them up herself. There was no bill for me to cover; I paid in guilt and regret. There were other costs, too. My neighbor’s young daughter, who had seen the fight, was traumatized. The dogs had painful wounds. My neighbor no longer felt so neighborly toward me. I felt lucky she didn’t press charges.

Luckily there were no more incidents. Sachem died of cancer just as I was starting my apprenticeship to become a dog trainer. Why, though, had I let these bites happen over and over?

For one thing, I was lulled by a conviction that my dog was a “nice” dog. Not a biter. Well, guess what? A dog can be both.

Also, I didn’t want to believe I was the kind of person who had a dog who bites. Breaking news: Anyone, including nice people, can have a nice dog who bites.

We can lock our dogs away forever, cutting them off from the outside world; or we can concoct reassuring excuses for each bite, hoping if we ignore the problem, it’ll go away. Are those our only options? Nope. Looking back, I could’ve solved this whole thing with a basket muzzle.

I know what you’re probably thinking: “Dogs who need muzzles are dangerous!” And possibly: “I wouldn’t want to muzzle my dog because everyone would think he’s dangerous!!” But hear me out. A dog wearing a muzzle is a safe dog. There’s no need to wonder if he’ll bite. He can’t. And while muzzled, he can safely work through a behavior modification program to address his issues.

Unmuzzled, any dog can bite. Luckily, bites–especially serious ones–are rare. Yet once a dog has bitten (regardless of why, or how hard,) he has a bite history, and the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. That was certainly true of Sachem. Back then I took the few precautions I could dream up and hoped for the best. Look how that worked out.

Hoping doesn’t end biting. That, my friends, is a job for a muzzle.

Muzzles prevent bites. Sadly, our society still stigmatizes muzzles, the dogs who wear them, and even their owners, so there remains a widespread resistance to using them. And that’s a real shame. If I could go back to my time with Sachem, I’d muzzle her right up and bask in the peace of mind it brings, instead of holding my breath and crossing my fingers.

by Ross G. Strachan

by Ross G. Strachan

Muzzles need a PR makeover. Picture a world in which every dog wore a muzzle–and liked it! Think of it–tricked out muzzles, bedazzled muzzles, rainbows, stripes and plaid. Dogs covetously asking other dogs, where’d you get that muzzle? Artists selling custom muzzles on Etsy. Dogs fetching their leash and their muzzle when they want to go for a walk.

OK, enough silliness. We don’t need to muzzle every dog, in every setting. But for some dogs, in some situations, it just makes sense. So in all seriousness, how are we going to make muzzles mainstream? How should we encourage dog owners who need them to use them, to just own it and feel fine about it? How can we support the ones who make the conscientious choice to muzzle up, instead of looking askance at them and their dogs and crossing to the other side of the street?

I don’t have answers; I’m asking. What are your thoughts? The Muzzle Up! Project, a campaign to de-stigmatize muzzles, is a great resource (check it out!)–but they can’t do this alone. What should we be doing to help?

In the meantime, here are some scenarios where muzzling up is (or would have been) a smart choice.

  • A client’s dog, who loved to play with other dogs, was a boisterous adolescent with little impulse control. Her arousal would spike after just a short bout of play, and she’d get mouthy. For some playmates, this rough and tumble play style could be riotous fun. For others, it was way over the top. My client worried her dog had to stop playing with other dogs. I thought she could teach her dog to regulate her arousal during play through frequent interruptions (i.e. calming breaks.) How could she ensure safety while she was teaching her dog self-control? I suggested a basket muzzle and sent her to to read up on the how-to’s. A weeks later she sent me a picture of her dog sporting a spiffy basket muzzle during a rowdy romp with a dog pal. The muzzle made safe play and training possible.   
  • My friend has two dogs–a gregarious, life-of-the-party type, and a reserved one who’s selective about who can be her pal. My friend occasionally takes both dogs to a dog park (and let’s leave dog parks for another discussion), and they both enjoy it in their own way. The reserved one wants to be left alone, and most dogs pick up on that, but now and then there’s one who won’t take no for an answer. My friend’s dog has been known to get a little growly and nippy. She’s never gotten into a fight, but my friend doesn’t want to tempt fate, or worry other dog owners. So just in case, she very matter-of-factly muzzles her dog at the dog park. Think about it. Don’t you wish more people would just pop a muzzle on their dogs in these settings? Imagine if all the dogs were wearing them. Just saying.
  • Pain can trigger a bite, and what human is more likely to cause pain (for the good of the dog, yes, but try explaining that to the dog) than a vet? A vet may muzzle a dog if the risk of a bite seems strong. I suspect they don’t muzzle more dogs, more often for fear of offending the dog’s owner. But is the risk of a bite ever zero? So if a vet wants to muzzle my dog for his or her own safety (as long as it’s a basket muzzle), I’d call that a smart move. And naturally I’d have brought hot dogs and a can of Easy Cheese, like I always do when I go to the vet, so I could fill my dog’s mouth with fatty, greasy goodness to take her mind off the whole ordeal. A muzzle simply means better safe than sorry.
  • In shelters that do thorough behavior assessments before putting a dog on the adoption floor, a dog-dog greeting is standard protocol. We do this on leash, but in some dogs this can trigger reactivity, which can look like aggression (barking, lunging, etc.,) but doesn’t necessarily signify an intent to fight. Leash reactivity can be minimized through training, but aggression may be a deal-breaker–grounds for euthanasia. So which is it? One way to find out is through a (carefully orchestrated) off-leash muzzled introduction. Muzzles don’t mark the dogs as dangerous; they give the dogs a chance to prove that they’re not.
  • Years ago I was walking in my neighborhood. A guy approached with his leashed dog and passed me on the sidewalk. The moment after our paths crossed, his dog turned and bit my leg. HUH?! I was so startled and incredulous that I thought I might have–what?–made it all up? Later that morning a mouth-sized, teeth-shaped bruise surfaced on my calf. I still wish I’d said something to the dog’s owner–not to rant at him, but to alert him to his dog’s behavior. How many more times did this happen? I’ll never know. But if he’d started muzzling his dog for walks, that number would be zero.

How to Teach Your Deaf (and Blind) Dog to Wake Up Gently

By Debbie Bauer

There is a myth that deaf dogs can be “dangerous” because they will bite when they are startled or woken up.

Could this ever happen? Yes, it could. But it could also happen with a dog that can hear just fine.

Does it happen a lot? No. Most deaf dogs are no threat when startled.

Can this scenario be prevented? Yes, definitely! You can teach your deaf dog to wake up easily and happily. By teaching this skill to your new dog, you can prevent this issue from developing.

Start training when your dog is awake and paying attention to you. Let your dog see you reach towards it. Touch your dog and then pop a wonderful treat into its mouth immediately. Don’t wait to see what your dog will do. There should be no lag time. Just touch and pop the treat into its mouth. Make these really special treats. You want your dog to really look forward to being touched.

If your dog is also blind, give it a moment to become aware that you are nearby before you touch at this stage of teaching.  Touch gently and quickly give a treat.  In the beginning, give your dog a moment to know you are there, sniff your hand, etc, before touching.  You can progress in the same way as working with a deaf dog.

Repeat this pattern of touch and treat many times quickly in succession. Then touch your dog and pause for just a moment before giving the treat. The sequence will become – touch, dog looks expectantly for treat, and then feed. Don’t pause too long, just long enough for your dog to show you that it knows the treat should come next. You are teaching your dog to associate your touch with a treat.

In future sessions, touch different parts of your dog’s body. One touch = one treat. As your dog becomes more tolerant of you touching various parts of its body, sneak in a random touch now and then when your dog is not expecting it but is still awake. Be ready with that treat immediately. Be sure to continue to use great treats every time you touch your dog. The more you reward the touching, the better your dog’s response will be when it is surprised or woken up suddenly.

There may be times when your dog gets startled by a touch when you don’t have a food treat immediately handy. Try to minimize these as much as you can in the beginning, but if it happens, be ready to reward your dog with something else it likes – a small game or lots of petting if your dog enjoys that. Being woken up or startled should always mean good stuff for your dog!

When your dog is sleeping, though, be respectful. Don’t wake your dog up unless it’s necessary. When you do need to wake your dog up, do it gently. Walk heavier as you approach your dog so it can begin to feel the vibrations through the floor. When you get close to your dog, blow on it gently to wake it up. If your dog is lying on a blanket, you can wiggle the edge of the blanket to gently shake her awake.

If your dog is still asleep, you can progress to brushing it gently with your hand. It is best to touch your dog on its body, not its face.

Be prepared for a startle if your dog is sleeping soundly. Startling is a normal response. Just make sure that you are quickly offering your dog something wonderful – a treat, or petting! Usually the dog will recover immediately once it sees or smells you, and when you offer something tasty to eat, it will forget all about being startled.

Be aware that if your dog is blind and deaf, you may need to use your hands to steady it as it wakes up. It will not be able to see you nearby, so maintaining a firm but gentle touch on its body will let it know you are there, while you offer the food right near its nose.

You won’t need to offer the treat forever, but it’s a good idea to give a tasty treat every now and then as a reminder that unexpected touch is a good thing. The more you follow a startling touch with something wonderful (treat, playtime, petting), the happier your dog will be about it.

It is important that you protect your dog from unexpected touches that could be unpleasant. If someone startles your dog, be ready to step in and make it a happy experience for it. Remember that startling is a normal response. You will probably not ever get rid of it completely. But you can diminish how much the startle bothers your dog by rewarding frequently. And with lots of practice, you may notice your dog waking up easier and easier each time!

About the Author

Debbie Bauer, HTACP, operates Your Inner Dog in the Effingham, Illinois area and has over 25 years of teaching and consulting experience working with dogs and their people. She specializes in working with dogs that display shy, fearful and reactive behaviors and also has extensive experience working with dogs with special abilities, including deaf and blind/deaf dogs. Bauer has trained dogs in a variety of fields, including therapy work, flyball, herding, print ad and media work, obedience, rally, agility, musical freestyle, conformation, lure coursing, tricks and scent work. She has over 13 years of experience with custom-training assistance dogs, including medical alert dogs, to match the specific needs of each person.  Her special interest lies in educating the public about dogs which are homozygous merle (often called double merle), and about how deaf, blind, and deaf/blind dogs can live happy fulfilled lives as part of a family.  


Clicker Training for Cats (1/6)

By Paula Garber and Francine Miller

Just as with dogs, or any other animal, clicker training a cat is an ideal way to provide both  physical and mental  stimulation Photo (c) Can Stock Photo/Anobis

Just as with dogs, or any other animal, clicker training a cat is an ideal way to provide both
physical and mental
stimulation Photo (c) Can Stock Photo/Anobis

Why train a cat? Why indeed. Myths about the trainability of cats abound: “Cats can’t be trained because they’re too independent.” “Cats are difficult to train because they are not food motivated.” “Cats don’t need training like dogs do.” These are all common misconceptions, but get ready to kick all the myths to the curb and add some useful cat training tools and techniques to your repertoire.

Clicker Training

Professional dog trainers will already know all about clicker training and many use the method regularly in their training sessions with dogs. What is less common is the concept of clicker training – or indeed any form of training – for cats. In fact, clicker training is a fun and unique way for cats and humans to communicate with each other, and better communication can strengthen the cat-human bond and build trust. It can also provide enrichment for cats in the form of mental and physical stimulation. Cats can be clicker trained to accept husbandry procedures like taking medication, being groomed and having their claws trimmed, and going into a cat carrier. You can also use clicker training to teach a cat to walk on a harness and leash and to do a variety of cute tricks, too. In addition, many feline behavior problems can be resolved using clicker training, and training can help a cat feel safe and secure in stressful situations as well.

How Cats Learn

By understanding how cats learn and how we can influence what they learn, we can create events to be perceived more positively than they may otherwise be perceived (such as going into a cat carrier). Just like with dogs, learning is happening all the time, regardless of whether you are intentionally trying to teach something. Learning can take place with one repetition or many. Experiences can either help reinforce what has previously been learned or teach something entirely different. Most importantly, as an animal is learning he is also developing negative or positive associations as to how things make him feel.

Although cats have their own motivations and priorities, they learn exactly as dogs or any other animals do, through habituation, sensitization, classical and operant conditioning, as well as observational learning and environmental changes.

The simplest type of learning is habituation, which is how all animals learn to ignore the parts of their environment that have no special consequence and are therefore irrelevant and can be ignored. This is particularly important for cats. If a cat is continually focused on the irrelevant it would divert vital attention and energy away from events that may have an impact on survival, such as nearby prey or predators. Becoming habituated to what is harmless in their environment is extremely important for cats.

The opposite of habituation is sensitization, i.e. repeated exposure to something that leads to an increased reaction from the animal, as opposed to a reduction in response (and the eventual ignoring that characterizes habituation). The repeated exposure may be to something the cat instinctively dislikes (such as going to the vet and getting an injection), which can lead to the cat becoming fearful of the vet or the hospital, even when no injection is planned. Once a cat has become sensitized to one situation, it may generalize to other, similar situations. Sensitization is a powerful protective mechanism that helps cats avoid anything they perceive as potentially dangerous.

Just as in dogs, both habituation and sensitization change the strength of a cat’s reactions, but they do not help him develop new responses. For this, more complex learning processes are necessary. One is classical conditioning. Many cat owners experience this when they start the can opener to open the cat’s food and the cat comes running. After several repetitions of hearing that sound predict his meal, learning has taken place that relies on a consistent pairing of the sound always followed by the food. Classical conditioning helps a cat to make better sense of his environment.

For a cat’s behavior to change, operant conditioning is needed. Operant conditioning is also happening all the time, although it involves the consequences to a behavior influencing what happens next. For a cat to learn that any outcome is associated with his behavior, it is usually essential that the consequence occur immediately (positive or negative).

When working with cats we also use environmental changes to create behavior change. For example, if a cat is scratching a piece of furniture and we want to stop that, we would do something to the environment by adding a deterrent (such as placing Sticky Paws™ on the place being scratched) while also providing an appropriate cat scratcher nearby and reinforcing the use of that object.

Finally, like many species, cats learn by observing other cats. Both kittens and adult cats have been shown to be able to learn to perform a task by simply watching an experienced cat complete the task.

Taken from the article Clicker Training for Cats, first published in BARKS from the Guild, November 2017, pp. 16-23.

About the Authors

Paula Garber holds a master’s in education and is a certified animal training and enrichment professional and certified feline training and behavior specialist. She is also certified in low-stress handling, and pet CPR and first aid, and is pursuing a diploma in feline behavior science and technology from the Companion Animal Sciences Institute. Based in Ossining, New York, she owns and operates LIFELINE Cat Behavior Solutions, is currently chairwoman of PPG’s Cat Committee and is a supporting member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She also serves on the Cat Protection Council of Westchester in her community.

Francine Miller is an applied animal behavior counselor and associate certified dog behavior consultant (IAABC certified associate) who has 13 years experience treating dogs and cats with behavior problems. She currently offers house calls for behavior consultations throughout San Diego County, California under the business name, Call Ms Behaving, and overnight pet sitting in the area around Carlsbad, California where she resides. She is also the vice chairwoman of the PPG Cat Committee.

Why do food rewards win, but not for separation anxiety?

By Julie Naismith

Dog with Kong. Chocolate labrador

Rewards-based training is the best. Dogs love it because it’s fun and it doesn’t involve fear or pain. And best of all, it works. In fact, research shows that it works better than any other method.  Hands down, the best tool for training is food. But, despite the fabulousness of food, it’s best left in the cupboard when we’re training a dog with separation anxiety.

It’s not that we couldn’t use food for separation anxiety training, it’s just that we don’t need to. When it comes to separation anxiety, the aim of a good trainer should be to keep things simple for the owner. The more things we ask you to do, the less successful you are likely to be.

But, before I get into why food is less critical to separation anxiety training, I’d first like to talk a little bit about why it DOES work for training your dog in other ways.

Animals work for pay, just like we do

I’m passionate about rewards-based training and particularly the use of food rewards. And your dog loves training with food too. If your dog weren’t motivated by food, it would most likely be dead. Animals that don’t eat don’t survive. And if they don’t survive they don’t get to pass on genes. As a result, being motivated by food is fundamental.

For some reason, we homo sapiens – a species hugely motivated by rewards – have decided dogs shouldn’t do things for rewards but should instead do things just to please us.

As Kelly Duggan, writing for Your Pitbull and You, points out,  “The bottom line is this: no properly functioning living thing does stuff for free. I love my job. I love my boss. I respect my boss. But if I went to work tomorrow, and my boss said: ‘You’ve been doing such a great job, I’m going to go ahead and stop paying you,’ I’d stop going to work. Not because I don’t like to please my boss, but because I have to make a living in this world. And so do dogs, they just have a different form of currency.”

We expect dogs to work for free all the time. As an example, we often think we can stop paying dogs for recall. That somehow once the dog gets it, he should just do it. And if he doesn’t, he’s willful.

Here’s the thing though, recall is behaviourally expensive, meaning it takes effort and energy, both of which are finite. As a living organism, your dog needs to know that expending energy on what you’ve just asked him to do is worth it. If your dog seems to lack motivation in training, it’s not him being stubborn; there’s a good chance your economics aren’t adding up for him.

I asked Zazie Todd, of Companion Animal Psychology and leading blogger on all things related to the science of dog training, why she loves to train with food:

“Food: it’s a great way to motivate your dog. For most dog training situations, it works really well.You ask the dog to do something and then reward with a piece of food. Food training is fast and efficient so you can get lots of repetitions done very quickly. It’s also a nice way to add a bit of variety to your dog’s diet because we use a higher value food for training than they get in their bowl.”

Zazie’s go-to is pea-sized pieces of chicken or high-value treats like dried fish or tripe.


Three dogs looking at trainer
Nothing beats training with food


Food makes us happy. It makes dogs happy too.

Food is so central to survival it comes preloaded with a feel-good factor. In training, we call that a primary reinforcer – good stuff that’s just naturally reinforcing. Dogs are born finding food, play, attention and smells reinforcing.

Dogs also get excited about things that predict the good stuff, not just the good stuff itself. For example, many dogs love the sound of a crinkling bag of treats. Others go loopy when you get the leash out. Is it the leash? Do dogs just think leashes are the coolest thing? Not at all. They love what the leash predicts (leash means a walk, which equals fun!)

This is classical conditioning in effect, and it’s something that’s extremely useful for working with dogs. We can use classical conditioning to get dogs to like things they are either neutral about, or they dislike.

By pairing the intrinsically reinforcing things (usually food) with something the dog dislikes, we can start to change how the dog feels. If your dog gets hot dogs every time he goes to the vets, he will soon start to think “vets means hot dogs,” and hence that going to the vet is the best thing ever. We are changing the association the dog has of vets from “scary” to “yummy.” And a trip to the vet becomes almost as exciting as a bag crinkle. The name for this process is counter-conditioning.

Scary/unpleasant stuff paired with food is a powerful combo, so much so that plenty of trainers use the one-two punch on a daily, if not hourly, basis. I asked pro trainer and Academy for Dog Trainers coach and mentor Kristi Benson about her approach to counter-conditioning, and why she’s never seen out without her bait bag full of chicken.

“I live with a large crew of active and athletic sled dogs, many of whom came from racing kennels and have found adjusting to pet dog life to be a gloriously fun—but sometimes, frightening—challenge.

Most of my dogs are a bit scared of people they haven’t met before, and some are scared of other random stuff, like loud noises. I like having food around so that when customers to our farm drop by and meet our dogs, I can give them (the dogs, that is) a special treat afterwards. New people have, in this way, come to predict treats.”

Whenever my dogs startle or spook, I give them treats afterwards. This keeps up the predictive relationship between scary things and treats”.

Food as a distraction

Food makes for an excellent management tool, especially with bored or busy dogs. Chewing, dissecting, foraging and hunting are all tremendous doggie pastimes. This makes food a powerful tool with which to manage behaviours we don’t want.

If your pup is chewing on furniture, a dog chew is a handy diversion. If your dog finds his way into food cupboards hunting for food, give him a fiendishly difficult puzzle filled with yummy goodies to keep him busy.

Dog trainers call this “management.” We’re not necessarily training out a behaviour but we’re using other tools to stop the dog doing the behaviour we don’t like. Management is great because it takes a lot less effort than training. That’s why trainers will often recommend management to you. We know you have a limited number of hours in your day, so if there’s a management solution, we’ll offer that.

Mixing up the food types you use ups the interest and excitement. I love the range of variety boxes pet owners can get these days. Not only is the variety neat for dogs, but it’s exciting for the owner to open up the surprise goodie box each month too. One of my dogs’ favourites is Binky and Oliver’s gourmet box.

But if food is so marvelous, why don’t we use it for separation anxiety training?

First, separation anxiety training is not about obedience training. Sure, we could try to address separation anxiety by training a reliable down-stay that stops the dog scratching at the door, but even competitive obedience dogs won’t hold a stay the whole time you’re at work. Plus, that’s not going to help us tackle the dog’s anxiety.

Second, a good number of dogs won’t eat while their owner is absent, and, interestingly, this includes both separation anxiety dogs and non-anxious dogs.

The anxious dogs that do eat while you’re out tend to chomp, devour, or practically inhale their food. They aren’t exactly showing relaxed home alone behaviour.

Third, for the dogs who will eat when you’re out, food serves merely to distract them from the fact you’re gone, and it’s scary. Once the food finishes, the panic sets in. And a frozen Kong will only last so long.

However, I don’t drop food entirely from the equation for my clients. Food is ideal for use in puzzles to keep busy minds occupied, and this type of enrichment is an important part the overall treatment program for a separation anxiety dog. I just ask the food toys go away come training time.

So, for most dog training applications, bust out those chicken bites and dried fish. But, let’s keep the separation anxiety training itself simple and focus on what we works best: getting the dog used to being alone using departures that gradually increase in length. Nothing fancy or complicated. That’s the surest way we’ll get the results and bring you and your dog peace of mind.

Find out more about The Separation Anxiety Solution.


About the Author

Julie Naismith is CEO and Founder of SubThreshold™ and a self-confessed separation anxiety geek. When her dog, Percy, developed separation anxiety she became a woman on a mission – determined to cut through the swathes of incorrect advice to find how to fix it. Having successfully resolved his separation anxiety, with little support and lots of judgment, she founded SubThreshold Training™ with the vision of pioneering treatment for separation anxiety.

Prior to SubThreshold, she apprenticed with one of the world’s leading force-free, evidence-based trainers, Jean Donaldson. She graduated with honors from Donaldson’s Academy for Dog Trainers (CTC) and is a Certified Separation Anxiety Trainer (CSAT) having studied with leading expert Malena DeMartini’s separation anxiety program. Naismith works solely with separation anxiety cases, making her a true specialist in the field. She is also a member of PPG’s Shelter and Rescue Division.

Rehomed dogs – Expectations and Reality

Everyone knows that worldwide there are millions of dogs in the most awful predicament.  The lucky ones are rescued, rehabilitated and await homes in shelters – so, why not be

Rehoming a rescue dog can be extremely rewarding

Rehoming a rescue dog can be extremely rewarding

their saviour?  Rehoming a dog is a richly rewarding experience for both parties, but there is a caveat – know what you are in for and be prepared.  If you are not, this is to the detriment of the dog of course and you.

Can you do this?

Seriously, question this! The majority of people want to help and not many (right minded) people can walk past those faces in the shelter without a twang on the heart strings. If you’re to successfully rehome a dog though, you need to seriously sit down and consider whether you have the experience, know-how, time commitment, emotional resolve and possibly financial input to help your new family member.  You might be shelling out for behavioural assistance, training, vet fees and peripheral services such as walkers plus your new one may need much of your time.

Be aware that what you’re told, may not be the whole truth!

I know, scandalous! Most larger shelters are excellent when it comes to rehabilitating dogs.  They take time to behaviourally assess them, see what they are like with other dogs, children, other animals, how they are in a home environment, when left etc. They can give you this info.  There can be occasions however when a shelter simply (though well meaning) has too many dogs and needs to rehome before the next dog comes in.  In these cases, the info may be sketchy or not completely true.  I have been in contact with so many rehomed dogs who’ve been placed in new homes, supposedly house trained and they clearly are not, leading to them being returned – sad.  Which leads me onto…

He may not yet be house trained

Yes do not expect this.  Can you take the time to train this skill?  It may take a little longer with an older dog who may have never established the behaviour or who may have always been kennel raised, roamed the streets etc.  If you’re extremely house proud, remember there will be accidents and your new dog will not ‘get it’ straight away.

He will take time to settle

Most rehomed dogs need time. They may be emotionally stressed by aversive experiences that have occurred prior to you rehoming them or they may simply have spent a long time in kennels.  Don’t expect them to simply slot into a busy, lively family life.  Your dog may display a few ‘peculiar’ behaviours in the first few weeks, he may not want to engage with you, he may bark a lot, he may not like being left.  He is likely stressed and just needs quiet time and calm.  You may need to see qualified behavioural advice if issues persist.

Try not to overcompensate

This is normal human behaviour.  Try not to go over the top for defecits your dog may have experienced in previous homes.  Don’t go overboard on showering him with crazy gifts, fawning over him just because he never had any of that stuff before.  We all love our dogs, but smothering him will overwhelm him and could pose issues later on.  By all means buy him lovely things (that’s why we have dogs!), but try not to go nuts!

Don’t compare dogs

This is so easy to say & not do.  If you have had a dog before, especially one recently lost, try not to compare the two.  Understand that your new dog (never a replacement of course) is here in his own right, he has his own thoughts, his funny ways, little quirks and that’s ‘him’.

Give yourself time

I think this is one of the most important things I can say.  Rehomed dogs need time – with you, them and you, together.  Also, they are individuals.  You will receive advice from people around you, how they did things with ‘their Fido’ etc.  The clue here is that it’s THEIR dog, you have yours.  Advice is great, but it must be tailored to the individual, so keep working with, listening to your own dog and doing things your way and you’ll have a great life together!

Dogs Are Better Partners to Humans Than to Other Dogs

Labrador and German Shepherd guide dogs nap at a seminar for guide dog teams.

Dogs are better partners to humans than to other dogs. Photo by Tara Schatz

The New York times recently published an article describing a study that compared dogs’ and wolves’ ability to perform cooperative tasks.

The article, and the short accompanying video, are somewhat disdainful in their assessment of the dogs, who did not perform as well as the wolves on the task. The rope-pulling task used for the study is one at which other species, including elephants, chimps, and multiple bird species, have succeeded. Two test subjects must pull on ropes at the same time in order to bring a tray with food rewards into reach. If only one dog pulls at the rope, he will pull it out of the test area without pulling the food tray to him, thus failing the test. (Alternatively, as an elephant discovered, one team member could stand on her rope and let her partner do all of the pulling. Neither the dogs nor the wolves appear to have discovered this method of freeloading.)

That dogs failed this particular test does not mean that they are not capable of working cooperatively. Thousands of years of successful human-canine partnerships show that dogs are able to perform cooperative tasks, and even to understand and work toward shared goals, often abstract and complex goals.

In addition, a different study showed that dogs could and did learn to perform the same task, with both canine and human partners. A key difference seems to be that, in the first study, the dogs were trained on the rope task, and they all had also received basic obedience training. Some were trained search and rescue dogs. The dog pairs and wolf pairs in the later study received no or minimal training.

An issue that the article does not address but which is probably germane is the relevance of the task. Wolves hunt collaboratively for a living. But thousands of years of domestication have led dogs to rely on humans to provide food. Even when feral, dogs tend to live off of human waste and therefore remain dependent, to some extent, on humans. And, studies of feral dogs have shown that they scavenge alone for food, rather than hunt for it in family packs, as wolves do. Therefore, cooperating to obtain food comes more naturally to wolves, who also tend to dine together as a family.

When around other dogs, a dog is more likely to see them as competitors for food than partners in obtaining it. This is often revealed by dogs suddenly eating much faster, and some dogs become very protective of their food when another dog is nearby. That said, there are countless anecdotes (and YouTube videos) describing dogs cooperating to “liberate” food from counters and even refrigerators in the absence of their humans, so dogs can apparently cooperate to obtain food under some circumstances. Maybe if the study used a kitchen counter with a roast chicken on it …

But back to the study. Dogs are not wolves. Rather than emphasize the failure of untrained dogs to solve a somewhat irrelevant problem, I prefer to look at where dogs do excel. They are great at seeking instruction or assistance from people. Given positive training and abundant opportunities to solve problems, dogs excel. And dogs partner with people on a constantly growing list of tasks ranging from simple — performing tricks or fetching a ball — to complex. Not too many wolves rescue people trapped in disaster areas, detect explosives or cancer, guide blind people, aid in wildlife conservation, or do any of the hundreds of other things that dog-human teams do every day. I’d love to see research that focused on understanding how and why dogs do cooperate with humans so that we could build on this amazing relationship.


With Her Tail between Her Legs

Most of us know that a dog’s tail can be a fairly good indicator of mood. We can observe whether the tail carriage is low, medium, or high and whether it is loose or stiff. Whether and in what manner it is wagging. We can often draw some pretty good conclusions from those observations, keeping breed in mind.

A dog wagging her tail loosely at a low angle is possibly friendly. A dog holding her tail upright, wagging it stiffly from side to side is one to watch out for. A dog with her tail hanging straight down or tucked between her legs is usually afraid or unhappy.

dog with tail between legs eating out of a Kong toy

Except when she’s not.

I have a popular YouTube movie called Kongs for Beginners, in which I show how to make very easy Kongs for puppies and inexperienced dogs. All four of my dogs from that time demonstrate. A viewer commented that Zani looked unhappy because her tail was tucked. I hadn’t noticed. I agreed and put a note in the video description about it.

But over the years I’ve changed my mind. I’ve noticed that Zani tucks her tail in certain situations in which I know she is not unhappy. She does it when she is working with a food toy, when she is digging, even when she licks a plate. It seems to happen when she is very focused on a task in front of her.

Take a look.

Link to the movie for email subscribers.

I’m letting this be a reminder to me to look at the whole dog and the whole situation and not just one obvious aspect. And don’t forget: breed can make a big difference in tail carriage and other aspects of body language.

Zani’s tail may be tucked in those situations, but the rest of her body is not spelling out “misery.” She is animated and her ears are forward, and in two of the clips, she is eating.

Here’s a photo of Zani with a tucked tail when she was scared and upset for comparison. In this photo, you can see a lot of other stress signs.

How about the rest of you? Anybody else’s dogs tuck their tails when they are probably not upset? The reason I finally published this is that I did find one other person whose dog does the same thing. Thank you to Johnna Pratt, who also has a dog who tucks her tail when working hard on something. We’d love to hear about some others.

dog with tail between legs


Copyright Eileen Anderson 2016

Being Your Dog’s Best Advocate

Dogs are sentient beings with minds and emotions very much like our own: When we bring a dog into our life that is a solemn commitment to make decisions which are in the best welfare of our pet, not our own desires or goals. Photo: Susan Nilson

Dogs are sentient beings with minds and emotions very much like our own: When we bring a dog into our life that is a solemn commitment to make decisions which are in the best welfare of our pet, not our own desires or goals. Photo: Susan Nilson

In 2012, my wife and I enrolled in a therapy dog training class which led to a Pet Partners evaluation process for therapy animal teams. I partnered with Buddha and my wife partnered with Gandhi. It was only by working closely together for our mutual benefit that we truly became teams and passed the evaluation.

The instructor taught me two significant concepts I had never before considered. One was that I was my dog’s best advocate, and the other was the application of PETS.
Although I had kept dogs in my life since 1983 it never occurred to me that I was their advocate. Meriam Webster informs me that an advocate pleads the cause of another for their defense. In short, the Pet Partners teacher implored me to speak for my dog as he could not speak for himself.

When we bring a dog into our life that is a solemn commitment to make decisions which are in the best welfare of our pet, not our own desires or goals. Dogs are sentient beings with minds and emotions very much like our own, as the renowned neuroscientist and psychobiologist Jaak Panksepp established in his research.

Credit: Pixsabay magnifying glass

Credit: Pixsabay magnifying glass

The realization of that fact changed my life. From that day forward I began filtering each decision I made for all of my pets through a lens of advocacy for their best welfare. It wasn’t about me, it was about them.

The second concept that opened my eyes was PETS, which means Proximity, Eye contact, Touch and Speech.

Proximity means being close to your pet and eye contact means just that. Look at your pet and see whether they are comfortable and relaxed, or anxious and stressed. Studies have shown that most people do not recognize stress in their pets and that is a crucial piece of the puzzle.

To learn more about reading canine body language and stress signs you can download the Dog Decoder app (Jill Breitner) and visit (Tracy Krulik). You may also read Canine Body Language (Brenda Aloff) and watch The Language of Dogs DVD (Sarah Kalnajs) of Blue Dog Training & Behavior.

I learned to stay close to Buddha during therapy visits, look at him to evaluate his emotional state, and touch him with calming petting and massage. I also used my voice in a calming manner to support him if he felt stressed so he was able to cope with a wide range of social interactions.

I did the heavy lifting so he did not have to.

These same principles apply if we visit a local park or a festival, or just take a walk in a city or village. I am always watchful for Buddha’s welfare and that enables him to remain calm and predictable. He knows that I am his best advocate, and his faithful steward.

Webster reminds me that stewardship refers to the duties and obligations to manage the life of others, with regard to their rights. One may wonder what rights a pet has, and the answer lies in the Five Freedoms.

1. Freedom from hunger and thirst.
2. Freedom from discomfort.
3. Freedom from pain, injury or disease.
4. Freedom to express normal behavior.
5. Freedom from fear and distress.

If you can satisfy these requirements then I applaud you for being a great pet steward. If not, then you can see the path ahead to fulfilling your ethical obligation to being your pet’s best advocate. Come join me!

To illustrate how this works I consider a Halloween party for pets which I attended in October. A photographer was on location, ready to record the experience of each pet and their steward as they engaged in the holiday activity. I was present not as a behavior consultant, but in another capacity.

Mark, a friend of mine, brought his dog Thor to the event dressed in a festive costume. It was very cute and I was happy to greet them, but Thor immediately displayed stress signs. Mark practiced PETS and recognized that Thor was stressed, so he promptly removed him from the environment.

After about 20 minutes to calm down Mark brought Thor into the environment again, and he still displayed stress signs. Mark acknowledged Thor’s distress and took him away rather than forcing him to endure a Halloween photo.

I applaud that decision as a wonderful demonstration of advocacy and stewardship. Mark considered the best welfare of his beloved pet as more important than a holiday photo.

The next visitor was a woman with a dog wearing a very cute costume, but the dog looked stressed from the start. As I witnessed the process the Halloween photo was taken and the lady completed a written form afterword.

Do we want to choke dogs?

Do we want to choke dogs?

During that process I observed the dog was wearing a choke chain which was held very tight, allowing no more than four inches of movement. As the lady continued filling out the form her dog whined and cried in distress, but she paid no attention.

I did not observe her act as her dog’s best advocate, nor did I see her engage in the PETS protocol or consider the Five Freedoms.  She ignored the stress her dog displayed.

As pet stewards we have a choice. I encourage you to please consider yourself as your pet’s best advocate and make decisions accordingly. Their welfare may trump our expectations on occasion, and that is OK.

Please consider joining me in signing the Shock-Free Coalition pledge to demonstrate your determination to advocate for the best welfare of dogs.  Whether it is a shock collar, prong collar or choke collar we can make stewardship decisions for the welfare of our pets.  PPG is here to inform you so you can fulfill your role as pet steward and be your dog’s best advocate.

Daniel H. Antolec is a certified canine behavior consultant and accredited force-free dog trainer, and the owner of Happy Buddha Dog Training. His Labradors, Buddha and Gandhi, are registered Pet Partners therapy dogs.

An Open Letter to County Commissioners re: Consumer Transparency – the Methods Used in Animal Training, Care and Management Will Protect Pets, Their Owners, Local Residents and the Public at Large

Shock Free Coalition Social Media Graphics_012

Introduction: The Importance of Transparency between Clients and Service Providers

Frieden (2013) states that: “Free and open information empowers people to make informed choices and reduces the likelihood that misinformation or hidden information will endanger health.” It is not unusual and, in many cases, is mandated, that providers and manufacturers of potentially dangerous services and products place warnings on said products, thus providing transparent details to the end user regarding any risk from use.  Tobacco, alcohol, gardening equipment, power tools, and even some children’s toys all come with warnings intended to ensure transparency regarding the potential fallouts of use. Further, many individual products are labeled with mandated warnings regarding their correct use. Indeed, it could be argued that all manufacturers and service providers have a legal liability to disclose any potentially injurious side effects and advise consumers of any inherent risks of using a particular product or service; that, in fact, they would be negligent if they failed to do so.

It is absolutely baffling, then, that professional dog trainers and canine behavior consultants currently have no legal responsibility whatsoever to disclose any information to their clients or the general public regarding the methods they use. At present, the only obligation is an ethical one, which, sadly, many elect not to acknowledge. This can be and, indeed, is very misleading to unsuspecting pet owners who have no knowledge of the pet industry’s lack of standards and regulation, or the differences between training methods and equipment. In many cases, pet owners only find out about these differences – and the fallout associated with them – when they find themselves encountering behavior problems caused by the use of outdated aversive techniques and equipment.

Open information equates to transparency, which is an enormously important concept in the business of pet training and behavior consulting. This is – or should be – an environment founded on the principles of behavioral science, where practitioners are working with living beings, both human and four-legged.

Informed Consent

There are several issues that are pertinent when considering transparency. For example, as far as pet training and behavior consulting is concerned, a lack of transparency results in a client not understanding the foreseeable risks and discomforts; omits to provide detailed information regarding the actual training procedures to be undertaken; lacks to explain or provide professional alternative options for the client; and includes zero obligation or undertaking to gain a receipt of informed consent.  

Informed consent is a behavioral science concept. Informed consent refers to a professional’s acknowledgement that a client has the right and responsibility to ensure they can advance their own welfare, emotional and physical well-being. In the case of animal behavior consulting, a pet owner is required to fulfil this obligation by advocating for their pet. This means that owners – and thus their pets – have freedom of choice in terms of the type of behavioral and training services they venture into, and that they do this voluntarily once they have sufficient information at hand to make informed decisions. Naturally, our pets cannot read and write, so the expectation and onus is always that both the owner and the professional, will do no harm. Conversely, the goal must always be to do good, a significant part of which involves not using any method or equipment that may cause physical or psychological harm. As such, informed consent is ethical and in the best interests of both the pet and his owner(s).  

Informed consent ensures that all relevant information pertaining to the services the professional will provide, and the tools and methods utilized, are understood and agreed to by all parties. A key component of the agreement must be a clear outline of any potential risk from the application and use of the tools, methods and philosophies employed by the professional. This will ensure clients have an appropriate understanding of the circumstances and the expected results that will materialize from the client-service provider relationship, and any pursuing transactions. According to Welfel (2009, p. 157), “clients have ethical and legal rights to this information.”  

Indeed, given the full responsibility pet ownership carries both in the home and in public, pet training and behavior professionals must be obligated to fully disclose all aspects of the professional-client relationship in terms of confidentiality, each party’s role, methodologies, equipment, systems and individual service provider philosophy (Tudge, 2010).

It is essential that industry professionals and public service officials are cognizant of a pet’s vulnerability and his or her obvious inability to offer informed consent, as well as the ethical and legal responsibilities pet owners have to their families and local communities, and the umbrella responsibility local governments have in terms of providing for safe public environments. This disclosure process should include statements that address potential conflicts of interest concerned with the animal’s welfare and the local and state animal control ordinances and laws. According to renowned psychology professor Dr. Susan Friedman (2010): “Opinions vary about whether a given behavior’s risk to others is sufficient to warrant governmental action. But where there are clear ways to prevent substantial harms, government may have a responsibility to act.”

Professional Organizations

In the field of animal training and behavior consulting, there are currently numerous professional organizations thatoffer membership and credentials. Few, however, hold their members to a strict code of conduct which involves the application of their trade through scientific protocols and the objective to cause no harm.

Unfortunately, as the pet training industry is entirely unregulated at present, anyone can tout themselves as a trainer or behavior consultant regardless of education, skill, knowledge or experience – or lack thereof. As a result, those who callthemselves dog trainers, or the ever popular term “dog whisperers,” may still be utilizing outdated punitive methods, such as disc throwing, loud correctional “no’s,” devices and methods that work through eliciting a “startle response,” and/or an alarm reaction to prevent, barking, jumping up, growling or any other problematic behavior, and, in some cases, more extreme tools such as electric shock collars, choke chains and prong collars.

All of these are, sadly, still at large. They are training tools that, by design, have one purpose: to reduce or stop behavior through pain and fear. This, as opposed to a modern, constructional approach where operant behaviors are built, and problematic emotional reactions are changed via positive reinforcement and counterconditioning protocols based on the science of behavior.

The Pet Professional Guild (PPG) is the one US-based, international member association for pet professionals who useforce-free training methods only. PPG holds its members to a very high standard in terms of ethics, protocols andtransparency. Members are committed to humane, scientific and effective training, care and management protocols. They never use – indeed, never have any need to use – correction-based training, equipment and/or aversive stimuli for the care, management or training of pets, and the foundation of their work is always to do no harm.

Best Practices and Education

For those of us involved in the pet industry’s evolution, we are at a point where many municipalities throughout the United States are seeing more of an impetus for industry legislation. This is largely motivated and predicated by this history of abusive, dangerous, and injurious practices to which too many dogs are still subjected, and which are behaviorally and physically damaging – or even deadly in some cases. Respected veterinarian, board certified animal behaviorist, author, and PPG special counselDr. Karen Overall (personal communication to Hillsborough County Commissioners, Florida, March 30, 2017) states that “…anyone with access to a printer can call themselves a ‘trainer,’ and this is, sadly, the case for most of the training using force and shock (electronic collars, e-stim, et cetera).”

PPG understands that public officials must listen to and take advice from many stakeholders and constituents, and either now, or in the future, may be approached by campaigns supporting pet training methods that involve the use of pain, fear and force. Please do not agree with them. Even research groups that argue the academic point about “formal dominance” – a mathematical construct to understand social relationships – do not support the popular misconceptions that dogs are wolves, dogs must be dominated, and that forceful training is the way forward. In fact, in the widely available research papers this point is specifically addressed and refuted (K. Overall, personal communication to Hillsborough County Commissioners, Florida, March 30, 2017).

PPG would like to make the case for your commission to lend its support only to organizations who have created their own best practices, which include in-depth testing of specific knowledge through both written examination and practical application, and continuing education that must include coaching from researchers and specialists in the fields of ethology, animal behavior and veterinary science; organizations that not only understand the importance of humane practices, but also those who are governed by science and ethics. Like continuing education in medicine, formal continued education matters, as does the ability to obtain and maintain liability insurances and annually renew a certification. If these sound like professional standards, it is because they are.

According to Overall (personal communication to Hillsborough County Commissioners, Florida, March 30,  2017): “There is big money in electronic training – big enough that the umbrella company for all the companies selling these products, have tried to recruit me with a laundry list of incentives and have not succeeded for a couple of reasons:

  1. Forceful training, including shock, does not work because it can only punish – not inform. There are a thousand ways to make mistakes and if no one shows you what will work, you will try them all…and be punished until you stop trying. What works is actually telling the dog what you wish for him to do and helping him learn it.
  2. Such training is mentally and physically injurious to dogs, resulting in increased rates of aggression, biting, relinquishment and euthanasia.”

In 2007, Overall published an article in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior titled “Considerations for shock and ‘training’ collars: Concerns from and for the working dog community.” In this editorial (p. 104), Overall stated emphatically that “absolutely, without exception, I oppose, will not recommend, and generally spend large amounts of time telling people why I oppose the use of shock collars…Without exception, such devices will make my anxious patients worse and allow the anger level of my clients to reach levels that are not helpful and may be dangerous.”  In February, 2017, Dr. Gal Ziv published an article in the same journal that reviewed 17 studies on aversive training methods on a dog’s welfare and behavior towards people and other dogs. The highlights of this academic paper include:

  • Trainers should rely on positive reinforcement based methods when training dogs and aversive training methods should be avoided when training dogs.
  • Even when experienced trainers operate electric shock collars, a dog’s welfare is still at risk.
  • Punishment-based training methods were related to a large number of reported behavior problems (Ziv, 2017).

Methodology in Training and Animal Behavior Consulting

Humane, modern animal training relies on science-based protocols. According to Friedman (2010), who has pioneered the application of applied behavior analysis to captive and companion animals: “Within the field of applied behavior analysis, there is a 40-year-old standard that promotes the most positive, least intrusive behavior reduction procedures.”And yet, there are still plenty of trainers and behavior consultants who elect not to move forward into this arena, relying instead to more negative, intrusive, aversive and, indeed, punitive methods while offering misleading information about how they train, and the potential fallout of such methods (of which they may even be unaware). They may not gain informed consent from clients regarding methods and equipment used, and they may still be members of professional institutes, associations and councils because many organizations do not hold their members accountable for thetraining methods they use. Consequently, it is easy to be fooled when searching for a training or behavior professional (Pet Professional Guild, 2016).

Dog trainers who are still steeped in using punitive training methods are often known to use outdated terms such as“dominance,” “pack leader,” and “alpha dog,” all of which have been shown by canine behavior scientists and specialiststo be inappropriate and inaccurate in their application to pet dogs. In addition, many such trainers use trainingmethods founded in aversive protocols deemed obsolete and damaging – both physically and psychologically (seeAmerican Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior position statements under Supporting Documents, below).

At the Pet Professional Guild Educational Summit for pet training and behavior professionals held in Tampa, Florida in November 2016, Overall (2016) stated: “Dominance theory has shut off scientific research and has crept into medicine to the point where we think we can do things to animals whereby we are asking them to ‘submit’….dominance theory is insidious and has crept into everything we do with dogs and it’s wrong. It has gotten in the way of modern science and I’ve just about had it. Every single thing we do with dogs hurts them because we don’t see them as individuals or cognitive partners.”

The Fallout of Corrective Training Procedures

Dogs are cognitive, intelligent creatures that experience emotions such as fear, anxiety, and joy. They are subject to the same laws of applied behavior analysis as any other living organism. Forcing dogs to comply to avoid being shouted at,told “no” in a threatening manner, or having some other discomfort forced on them through voice control, body language, eye contact, coercion, or equipment designed to inflict fear and/or pain does not enhance the canine-human relationship, nor does it create an environment where healthy learning can take place. Rather, a pet repeatedly subjected to aversive stimulation may go into a state of “shut down,” or a global suppression of behavior. This is frequently mistaken for a “trained” pet, as the pet may remain subdued and offer few or no behaviors. In extreme cases, pets may refuse to perform any behavior at all, known as “learned helplessness.” In such cases, animals may tryto isolate themselves to avoid incurring the aversive stimulation. This is evidently counterproductive to training new,more acceptable behaviors. (O’Heare, 2011).

For punishment to be effective as a means to training a dog, or any other animal for that matter, there are three critical elements that must be met: consistency, timing and intensity. First, the punishment must occur every time theunwanted behavior occurs. Second, it must be administered within, at most, a second or two of the behavior. Third, itmust be unpleasant enough to stop the behavior. In the real world, outside science laboratories, meeting these three criteria is virtually impossible for a dog training professional, and most certainly for a dog owner.

According Friedman (2010): “Punishment doesn’t teach learners what to do instead of the problem behavior.Punishment doesn’t teach caregivers how to teach alternative behaviors. Punishment is really two aversive events – the onset of a punishing stimulus and the forfeiture of the reinforcer that has maintained the problem behavior in the past.” Especially troubling for pet professionals is that punishment requires an increase in the intensity of the aversive stimulus for it to have any hope of maintaining behavior reduction.

Scientific “Do No Harm” Methods

All animals are motivated by food. Food is necessary for survival. It is therefore a powerful primary reinforcer and a critical component when used correctly as part of a strategic training or management plan. For behavior consultants who engage in behavior change programs where it is necessary to change a pet’s emotional reaction to a problematic stimulus, food is essential. When modifying observable behaviors such as growling, lunging and biting that are oftenmanifestations of a fearful and/or anxious emotional state, the goal must be to change the underlying emotional response, thus enabling the dog to learn a new, more appropriate behavior.

It is frequently misunderstood that fear is an emotion and not a behavior. You cannot simply “train it out.” Indeed, fear is often the underlying emotional state to aggressive behavior, and requires the implementation of a different set of scientific protocols and a greater understanding of emotional learning and animal behavior. A review of the scientific literature recommends the use of food as a reinforcer in desensitization and counterconditioning protocols that are specifically aimed at addressing the underlying emotions of fear and/or anxiety. In reality, using food to countercondition emotional responses is the most widely accepted method for treating fear-based behaviors (Overall,2013).

Transparency and Consumer Advocacy: How to Choose a Training or Behavior Professional

“Positive relationship,” “natural methods,” “relationship building,” “positive only,” and “no food necessary” are all taglines regularly used by dog training organizations in their marketing literature. These expressions appeal to pet owners who may not always understand the various training methods available to them, and the fallout and unintended consequences of making the wrong choice.

There is perhaps no better way to summarize the current state of the industry than the words of Jean Donaldson, founder and principal instructor at The Academy for Dog Trainers, author of best-seller, The Culture Clash, and PPG special counsel, who states: “Dog training is a divided profession. We are not like plumbers, orthodontists or termite exterminators who, if you put six in a room, will pretty much agree on how to do their jobs. Dog training camps aremore like Republicans and Democrats, all agreeing that the job needs to be done but wildly differing on how to do it.”(Donaldson, 2006).

A key question, then, for legislators, and indeed anyone looking for a dog trainer or behavior consultant, is whether they will refer to those who promote methods that include pain and fear as a means of motivation, or those who usemore progressive methods that rely on scientifically-supported protocols based on positive reinforcement and seek to do no harm. Before deciding, PPG urges pet owners, veterinarians, legislators, and all other animal care professionals to conduct thorough research given that so many fear-based training and behavior change methods can be very subtle, or even invisible, in the slick, magical way they are marketed to unsuspecting pet owners.

Conclusion: Ensuring Humane Care through Data and Science

On the basis of all we have outlined above, it is time that pet owners, when they engage the services of a professional, are guaranteed full transparency regarding the methods and equipment used, thus ensuring they have the ability to give informed consent and maintain the best interests of their pet and advocate for his well-being and safety. As already stated, science has repeatedly shown that punitive training methods based on fear and pain have serious consequences on an animal’s physical and mental well-being.

Speaking specifically of electric shock, decades of peer-reviewed, scientific studies show, whether discussing dogs, humans, dolphins or elephants, that, as a form of training to teach or correct a behavior, it is ineffective at best, and physically and psychologically damaging at worst. Pets need to be well-socialized and mentally and physically healthy if we are to ensure a productive and safe relationship for all members of their family and the public at large. As such, PPG urges all parties involved in determining new legislation to focus first on education, operational standards and modern, humane methods. Government has a responsibility to implement effective public health measures that increase the information available to the public and decision makers, protect people from harm, promote health, and create environments that support healthy behaviors (Friedman, 2010).

States Overall (personal communication to Hillsborough County Commissioners, Florida, March 30, 2017): “If you wish to make a difference and set a standard, make your decisions on the side of data, science and humane care and pass an ordinance that doesn’t just protect dogs but endorses scientifically-proven, positive training methods.”

Informed decisions such as these will not only be to the enormous benefit of pets and their owners, but also to the professionals who are engaged in the training, behavior, management and care of pets, local communities, and the public at large. The time to achieve this, and to shape the future, is now.

Thank you for your attention.

For more information, please see

Join the Shock-FreeCoalition to make the use of electric shock in anmal training a thing of the past.


Donaldson, J. (2006). Talk Softly and Carry a Carrot or a Big Stick? Available at:

Friedman, S. (2010, March). What’s Wrong with This Picture? Effectiveness Is Not Enough. APDT Journal. Available at:’s%20Wrong%20with%20this%20Picture%20-%20Dogs.pdf

Frieden, T.R. (2013, May 16). Government’s Role in Protecting Health and Safety. New England Journal of Medicine (368) 1857-1859. Available at:

O’Heare, J. (2011). Empowerment Training. Ottawa, ON: BehaveTech Publishing

Overall, K.L. (2007, July-August). Considerations for shock and ‘training’ collars: Concerns from and for the working dog community. Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research (2) 4 103-107. Available at: (07)00173-6/abstract

Overall, K.L. (2013). Manual of Clinical Behavioral Medicine for Dogs and Cats. St. Louis, MO: Elsevier Saunders

Overall, K.L. (2016, November). Current Trends: Beyond dominance and discipline. Paper presented at the PetProfessional Guild educational summit, Tampa, Florida. Cited in Nilson, S. (2017, January). Beyond Dominance. BARKS from the Guild (22) 10-11. Available at:

Overall, K.L. to Hillsborough County Commissioners, March, 30, 2017. Personal communication to the County Commissioner’s Office in Hillsborough County, Florida, United States. Available on request

Tribbensee, N. E., & Claiborn, C. D. (2003). Confidentiality in psychotherapy and related contexts. In O’Donohue, William T., & Ferguson, K. E. Handbook of professional ethics for psychologists: issues, questions, and controversies. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc. pp. 287–300

Tudge, N. (2010). Informed Consent is important to Companion Animal Behavior Professionals. Available at:

Welfel, E.R. (2009). Ethics in Counseling and Psychotherapy (4th edn.). Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks Cole

Ziv, G. (2017, May – June). The Effects of Using Aversive Training Methods in Dogs – A Review. Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research (19) 50-60. Available at:

Supporting Documents

American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior Position Statement on Punishment. Available at:

American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior Position Statement on the Use of Dominance Theory and BehaviorModification in Animals. Available at:

Pet Professional Guild Position Statement on the Use of Shock in Animal Training. Available at:

Pet Professional Guild Position Statement on the Use of Pet Corrective Devices. Available at:

Pet Professional Guild Position Statement on the Use of Dominance Theory in Pet Training. Available at: