Dictionary.com defines an aversive as a “reprimand, punishment”. In dog training, an aversive action can be an “unpleasant sound, a physical correction, the pain caused by a shock collar or prong collar correction, or a harsh scolding” according to Preventive Vet.
Something can be considered aversive if the fear and pain-causing event is used as punishment to stop an undesirable behavior and/or reduce the probability of it in the future.
- choke collars
- prong collars
- shock collars (e-collars)
- invisible fences & collars
- shaker cans
Even squirting water at dogs to startle them into stopping an unwanted behavior can be considered an aversive tool.
- ‘Alpha Rolls’,
- Leash popping
- Holding a dog’s mouth closed
- Poking with fingers to simulate the mother dog’s nip
- Staring at or moving toward a dog in a threatening manner.
New research shows that the unintended effects of these often result in aggressive behavior, stress and fear for the dogs.
- “Dogs whose training involved punishment and compulsion show more tension related behaviors and higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol” per Psychology Today
- Learning new tasks through force-based training caused dogs to exhibit a more negative emotional response and slower responses when tested a month later.
It may seem like aversive actions work, at least initially. On the other hand, there are better options that are positive and non-aversive.
The truth is that dogs learn better when they are eager earn our praise and affection. Positive reinforcement utilizes this two ways: (1) rewarding your dog only when they get it right and (2) making it very clear what they are doing right so it is easier for them to keep getting it right. On the other hand, aversive actions decrease your dog’s enthusiasm to train.
To clarify, positive non-aversive training doesn’t mean that there are no rules, limits or boundaries for your dog. Positive training helps your dog choose to follow the rules because they want to earn our praise. That is a very powerful piece of successful learning.
Do you have questions about positive non-aversive training? Take advantage of our free dog training advice. Visit our Ask A Trainer page for more information.