Aversive Conditioning (Good or Bad?)


This week is all about aversives, or a way to help avoid an undesirable behavior by helping the client to associate that activity with a negative outcome.

These people and dogs are not associated with my training or company, but have allowed me to see different types of aversives that they use on their dogs.

I always train animals behaviorally, by understanding the root of the problem behavior and having the dog learn and fix this problem or fear on their own. Now not every trainer uses positive reinforcement training and thus they revert to shock collars, spray collars, or punishment to help stop the undesired behavior.

This experiment will give me and in turn my readers insight into these pros and cons of aversives.

Spray collars

Today I am observing a small breed dog with a spray collar. I am taking into consideration the duration of the barking period in response to the aversive spray.

Does the dog indeed stop barking? For the small breed dog, who barks regularly we saw a very quick response. He managed to bark twice. Twice the spray offered an unpleasant mist and once the dog realized that the spray was only occurring when he was barking, the barking stopped. He barked 30 mins later once again the spray went off. Immediate silence.

Now was the dog comfortable. My observations say “no”. Being alone was still uncomfortable for the dog but the barking was no longer the way to express the feeling. Instead there were quieter moans and whimpering followed by a long-awaited relaxation period nearly 1 hour later.

This owner seems pleased with the spray despite the fact that her dog’s coat smells like the spray and the actually problem behavior which was a separation anxiety is not cured but merely masked.

Since I don’t use aversives in my training it was interesting to have a comprehensive understanding of what these devices do.

Tomorrow a medium breed dog will be analyzed for the same spray collar. Results to follow

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Posted on June 12, 2013, in Behavioral problems and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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