Why Counseling Should Be Included During Any Dog Behavior Modification Process

Down but not out!
Down but not out!

“Perils of Punishment: Psychologists do not know for sure why get-tough treatments are ineffective and potentially harmful, but the psychological literature holds several clues. First, researchers have long found that punishment-based strategies tend to be less effective than reward-based strategies for lasting behavioral change, in part because they teach people what not to do but not what to do. Second, studies indicate that highly confrontational therapeutic approaches are rarely effective in the long term.”

The Intended audience is both owners and anyone who wants to call themselves a dog trainer and/or behavior specialist. Anyone working in this capacity should be familiar with what science says about this topic. In fact, a person who doesn’t and being considered to work with your pets, could signify a red flag.

If you’re still on the fence about the use of punishment in dog training and/or behavior modification, my suggestion is you need to educate yourself to better prepare yourself for helping others, including owners pets and/or your pets.

All too often dog owners are under the impression their dog/s need/s obedience training when their complaint is behavioral. Yes, training new replacement behaviors is often included and necessary when modifying behavior, but before one can begin to work with owners, one must first counsel them and continue to counsel them during the behavior modification process. This is also true in a normal training/teaching environment.

Counseling and gathering historical background information is part of establishing the communication process. I was reminded how important this part of the process is for resolution when recently speaking to someone about my services. The distress and diminishing confidence the client expressed was directly associated with multiple experiences with trainers focused on punishing the pet and/or inadvertently punishing the owner!

This is vitally important to understand. If you intend to help someone, you must have good counseling skills and a lot of empathy. Frankly, lacking these qualities will undermine any good intentions and likely rely heavily on punishment coupled with undermining a person’s confidence.  This leads nowhere else but failure.

Owners unhappy with their dog, whatever the reason, are often stressed, and over-whelmed or worse at the end of their rope (distressed and ready to give up). Now imagine suggesting using force, more energy or just suck it up and get over it! Suggesting to someone, without knowing them, to “get over” something is exactly what is occurring when someone tells you, you need to be more assertive, apply more pressure, use punishment (shock), because all these things can lead to quick fixes(appearance of success), but these strategies back fire, they don’t really provide long-term change. In fact, these strategies can potentially undermine a person’s confidence. When you’re helping stressed people, you need to build confidence. And believe me, owners living with seriously distressed dogs and/or serious behavior problems are stressed if not distressed!

Long-term change

Long-term change is exactly what the word implies, it takes time and depending on the problem and complexity, it can take weeks, months, years and in some instances, the life of the individual. If you’ve been a drug addict, alcoholic or smoked cigarettes and tried to stop (change a habit) you know how hard it can be.  Well, the same can be applied to changing a pet’s undesirable behavior. It’s the same, the same types of processes are used in behavior modification.  The same kinds of challenges are present. And with all the aids available to us, we still fail to stop and/or change our own undesirable behavior/s every day. It takes an incredible amount of will-power to effect change, some more than others, but there’s always some challenge. And there’s always need for support and counseling along the way.

Disclaimer, i’ve personally never been addicted to any illegal substances, my knowledge is formed from science and behavioral literature!

Beware people haters!  

Who hasn’t also heard people in the pet industry tell you how they dislike people (I’m being gentle) and how much they love dogs!? This is so wrong, it’s hard to imagine one not being aware of the implications. Our pets don’t own us, they don’t make decisions for us, they don’t take care of us, and in theory they shouldn’t, they don’t work and pay for their upkeep, they can’t take care of themselves, they need us to do these things for them, so in other words, our pets need us and often they need help from others, your veterinarian, pet sitters, trainers, boarding facilities, anyone you might rely on for care. This means, pet ownership requires contact with people and getting along with people is essential in caring for your pets. Dog trainers and behavior specialists need to like people, know how to work with people, motivate them, make them feel good, prop them up, build confidence, not destroy it. If not, wouldn’t this mean, the very helpers you’re employing don’t even like you? Call me naïve, but this doesn’t sound like the beginning of a good relationship headed in a very successful direction, does it? And it doesn’t sound very professional.

AND then we have to overcome getting history questionnaires completed! That’s another topic! 

 

References:

How to Turn Around Troubled Teens: Research reveals that get-tough tactics may worsen rates of juvenile delinquency http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-to-turn-around-troubled-teens/

 

 

 

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