• Lisa Mullinax, CDBC


AVERSIVE - Anything a dog would seek to escape or avoid.

How often have you heard someone say, "SOME dogs/breeds need [insert aversive method or tool]." When I see these statements, all kinds of reasons are given, from breed, to the type of behavior, to saving the life of the dog. The problem is that dog trainers are currently self-regulated (except in a few countries that have developed licensing guidelines). They don't have to prove their knowledge or skills to anyone but themselves. They don't have to know canine body language or how stress affects learning and behavior. They don't have to know multiple ways to change behavior. They don't even have to know how to teach a single simple behavior to open a business. If one relies solely on our personal knowledge or skill to determine that aversives are necessary, the risk for abuse - and behavioral fallout - is high. The Humane Hierarchy, sometimes referred to as Least Invasive, Minimally Aversive (LIMA) approach, is a guideline to help trainers explore all options before considering aversives. "The hierarchy is a cautionary tool to reduce both dogmatic rule following and practice by familiarity or convenience. It offers an ethical checkpoint for consultants to carefully consider the process by which effective outcomes can be most humanely achieved on a case-by-case basis." - Friedman & Fritzler, 2014 Now, the Humane Hierarchy isn't perfect. It still relies on self-assessment. However, it does provide some guidance for the trainer who isn't aware that there are variables beyond reward and punishment. Since I first incorporated the Humane Hierarchy into my practice, and as I learned more about behavior and became more skilled at the variety of ways in which positive reinforcement can be implemented, I haven't needed aversives in my behavior plans. Now, if aversives would *truly* save the life of a dog, I would not rule it out. My chosen training methods are not driven by personal philosophy but what is effective and most humane, based on what I know about learning and behavior (which expands every day). And, based on that knowledge, there has not been a scenario in which aversives were the only or best way to save the dog. When we apply aversives based on breed or behavior, we are not adapting the training to the individual dog, which means we aren't considering (or aware of) all the factors that affect behavior and learning. When we apply aversive tools or methods based solely on our individual knowledge and skill, we are covering up our shortcomings and blaming the dog. When we apply aversives it is because we don't know what else to do. Dogs don't need aversives in training. Humans do. It can be painful to a