Aversive training methods in dog training are very controversial. It tries to get rid of unwanted behavior through deterrence and other unpleasant stimuli. On the one hand, the methods, applied correctly, can show short-term success, on the other hand, the consequences are unpredictable. Find out more about the controversial topic in our guide.
Maybe you have already heard of Cesar Millan? The American is a book author and dog trainer, he also appears regularly as "dog whisperer" or "pack leader" on television. He often uses so-called aversive training methods, which is why he gets repeatedly criticized. The professional association of dog educators and behavior consultants even demanded the cessation of the television program in the German-speaking countries, since the methods of laymen are too easily misunderstood and misused.
What are aversive training methods in dogs?
The "Duden" describes the term "aversive" with "aversion", synonyms for "aversion" are for example "disgust", "disgust", "displeasure", "hostility" and even "hatred". Aversive training methods are therefore educational measures that exert an at least unpleasant stimulus on the dog, causing him a strong dislike, a fright, pain or anxiety. Basically, these are more or less severe penalties. The goal is to quickly and effectively get rid of unwanted behavior. As soon as the four-legged friend does something the dog owner does not want, he gets an aversive stimulus, in the hope that he will combine this stimulus with his behavior and refrain from doing so in the future in order to avoid the aversion.
Aversive training methods are, for example, the following means of education:
● Spray bottle or water pistol
● Loud clapping or another sudden, loud noise
● Shaking box filled with nails, stones or peas and other throwing objects
● Training Collar: Spray, vibration, electric, choking or spiked collar
● Painful stimuli via the leash, for example, linen pressure
● Other pain stimuli, such as pinching the flank, "snapping on", stroking with the fingertips, ear pulling, easy stepping into the groin
● Forced submission by snout, "Alphawurf" (tossing to the side), pulling paws away, stepping on the paws, holding on to a dog, or lying down on it
Short-term effect of aversive training methods
It may be that aversive training methods immediately cause the dog to be the unwanted behavior. For this they have to be applied "correctly", that is:
● Your four-legged friend must understand the aversive stimulus as an unpleasant consequence of his wrongdoing.
● Do not let your dog know that the aversive stimulus emanates from you.
● The punishment must immediately follow the misconduct. Just a few seconds prevent your pet from associating his actions with the unpleasant consequences.
● The aversive appeal must be strong enough to make it worthwhile for the dog to refrain from misconduct. But he must not be so strong that he causes the four-legged person pain or fear, possibly even injured him.
For experienced dog trainers who have practiced this for years, it may be possible to exactly meet these conditions so that the quadruped actually does what a human wants. Similarly, Drill works in the military or an authoritarian parenting style in children. The individual will of the "pupil" is broken and subjected to the will of the educator. Although the dog spurts and obeys when aversive training methods have the desired effect, it remains difficult to predict whether this will last in the long term.
After all, the corresponding dog trainer only have a brief relationship with the four-legged friend, but his family has him with him all his life. Especially on television with Cesar Millan and Co. only excerpts and partial aspects of dog training can be shown, these are also trimmed to entertainment value and show effect. Inexperienced dog owners can quickly get a wrong impression.
Anxiety and behavioral problems due to aversive training methods
Who uses aversive training methods wrong - and this danger is great - harms his dog with it in the long run. For example, if the four-legged friend realizes that the aversive stimulus emanates from you, he develops an aversion to you. He does not realize then that the unpleasant consequences are the result of his actions. If you are lucky, your dog will only do the misconduct in your absence. If you are unlucky, he scares you. If too much time goes by between misconduct and punishment, your pet can not make the right connection - here it can happen that he gets scared of anything else that happened to be in his immediate vicinity when the fright or pain was provoked.
If the stimulus is not unpleasant enough, aversive training methods will not work; if it's too strong, hurt your dog. Either way, penalties will hurt your dog's trust and the bond between them. Although the four-legged may bend to your will, but happy and balanced, he is not, but is under stress, because he permanently calculates with aversive stimuli. In the worst case, your dog develops an anxiety disorder, becomes aggressive, or displays other problematic behavioral problems.
Dog-friendly alternatives to aversive training methods
Instead of correcting unwanted behavior by means of aversive training methods superficially and with incalculable consequences, you should rather reward desired behavior with a reward. Unwanted behavior is best ignored. For emergency situations in which your dog should quickly interrupt his action - for example, because he approaches a potential poison bait or runs away from you - he has the commands "out!" and "No" and control the recall. These require patient and consistent training, but in no case violence or drill. In our guide "How your dog understands commands better: 5 tips" you can find help.