Companion Animal Psychology: Can Dog Training Books Be Trusted?

Scientist examined 5 very popular pet dog training books for clinical precision– and found huge variations in the quality of information they provide.

If people are going to spend their money on a pet training book, you would hope they would get guidance that works, simple to follow, updated and precise. Unfortunately, some pet training books fail, inning accordance with an evaluation by Dr. Clare Browne (University of Waikato )et al of five very popular books

. There is a silver lining in this story: some dog training books contain great information.

The evaluation discovered some popular pet training books include info that is irregular, scientifically inaccurate or uncertain; suggest the usage of punishment-based methods in spite of their association with unfavorable outcomes; and utilize anthropomorphisms and recommendations to leadership that might interfere with pet owners’ understanding of their animal’s behaviour. This is bad news for animal welfare. It’s likewise problem for owners who might struggle with their pet dog’s behaviour due to following bad recommendations.

Dr. Clare Browne told me in an email,

The review is framed in terms of exactly what canine guardians have to understand in order to train their dogs. Provided that behaviour issues are a threat for pets being surrendered to animal shelters, the scientists say, “if people’s training efforts are more effective, fewer pets may be relinquished.” There can be real-life consequences to following pet training advice.
The scientists chosen 5 books based on their appeal. The books were initially picked based upon a search of 3 major online booksellers (Amazon UK and United States and Fishpond NZ) in 2009; subsequent searches in 2012 and 2014 revealed their continuing popularity.

The books consisted of in the evaluation are: Cesar’s Method by Cesar Millan and Melissa Jo Peltier; The Pet dog Listener by Jan Fennell; It’s Me or the Pet dog by Victoria Stilwell; Don’t Shoot the Pet! by Karen Pryor; and How to Be Your Canine’s Buddy by Monks of New Skete.

The two books that come out of the evaluation best (the silver lining) are It’s Me or the Pet by Victoria Stilwell and

Don’t Shoot the Pet Dog! by Karen Pryor. The scientists say It’s Me or the Canine has existing info about dog behaviour and training, and provides the info in a method that’s accessible and easy for pet dog owners to follow. The scientists found Don’t Shoot the Pet Dog! contains excellent info and in-depth coverage of learning theory as used to any types, consisting of human beings, although it is not particular to pet dogs. Both books have an emphasis on positive support.

Picture: Michael Kraus; top, picsbyst (both Shutterstock)

The Pet dog Listener is based on the idea that pet dogs have a hierarchical structure and frequently compares canines to wolves. Cesar’s Method remains in part autobiography of Cesar Millan, and is based upon the concepts of, energy, and being the “pack leader”. How to Be Your Pet dog’s Best Pal is based on the concept that human beings ought to be the “alpha” and consists of a lot about positive penalty.

Are these 5 books evidence-based? The researchers compared what the books say to what science informs us about ways to train a pet.

The books read completely along with searched for descriptions of aspects of learning theory (e.g. favorable support, positive penalty)and for information pertinent to human-dog communication(e.g. body language, tone of voice, and timing). As general details, the scientists clearly looked at how the books suggested people teach their pet dogs’sit’, ‘lie down’and’come’. The researchers counted the number of times particular topics were discussed along with the quality of the details

(e.g. how well the books defined favorable reinforcement compared to a clinical definition). The tallies for how numerous times favorable reinforcement and positive penalty are pointed out are

extremely interesting. Pryor points out R+46 times and P+7 times, and Stilwell mentions R+52 times and P+ 9 times. This reveals the strong focus these authors have on favorable reinforcement. Fennell mentions R+ 30 times and P+4 times. Millan & Pelltier are the only ones to mention P+ more frequently than R+ (21 times vs 16 times, respectively). Monks of New Skete discuss R+ 59 times and P+ shows up 58 times. Both the Millan & Peltier book and Monks of New Skete use the

word ‘correction & ‘to describe some favorable punishment, and Monks of New Skete reserve the word’punishment’ for more severe punishments( e.g. jerking on the leash is explained as a correction, however shaking and hitting the pet dog are described as penalty). As the researchers point out, inconsistencies in descriptions of reinforcement and penalty may be confusing to canine owners. In terms of how the books covered finding out theory (vital information if you wish to

train a pet dog ), there was a great deal of variation. The scientists say Pryor’s book offered the most detailed info, with a primary focus on favorable support. 3 of the books did not discuss either reinforcement (Millan & Peltier ), punishment(Stilwell), or both (Fennell), although they did have examples of them in the book. Monks & of New Skete did explain both, but they encourage beginning with a low level of positive punishment and then increasing it with time. The researchers explain this is not constant with the clinical literature; studies show that animals can habituate to penalty administered in this way, such that with time high intensity penalty will not stop the behaviour (although it may have worked if used from the start ). This is really harsh and not great for animal well-being.” encouraging the canine guardian public to utilize physically aversive training strategies, as suggested in some of these books, may not be the most sensible course of

action in regards to safety and animal welfare.” The timing of delivery of reinforcement and/or penalty iscrucial, but the scientists foundthat just Pryor and Stilwell highlighted timing and provided clear, replicable suggestions.

all of the books referred to the use of classical conditioning(except for Other than, which has a different focusVarious, Stilwell was the only one to explain itDiscuss Just three of the books contained guidelines for the best ways to teach pets to ‘sit ‘,’ lie down’, and ‘come'( it’s worth keeping in mind the other two do not explain themselves as dog training books, although they are popular as such). Stilwell included clear directions using non-coercive approaches; Fennell was likewise non-coercive, but the researchers felt the guidelines in some cases lacked information. Monks of New Skete had directions that were easy to follow, however they recommended physically putting the pet dog in position (negative reinforcement). The researchers say, “this is unexpected, as since the 1980s there has been a shift away from physically pushing dogs during training.”The scientists found Pryor has fantastic information, but by meaning, considering that the book is about any animal, it was not particular to training pets. The level of information about the cues people should use when teaching dogs likewise differed throughout the books. The researchers go over the literature on dog training methods which suggests potential dangers to animal well-being from utilizing confrontational methods. They say,< blockquote class =”twitter-tweet twitter-tweet-error”data-twitter-extracted-i1530629251184749246=”true”

>”Although a causal link has not been established, it could be argued that punishment-based strategies have been shown to be associated with fewer advantages than reward-based training



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