Healing relationships part three
In this mini series we have been looking at why people use aversives, contributing factors to attitudes changing and adopting force free practices and welfare for dogs.
Now we are going to look deeper into this and the correlation between the use of aversives, behavioural problems and the impact on both guardians and dogs.
It's common knowledge in the dog training and behaviour industry that dogs who have behavioural problems suffer through their welfare in a lot of cases.
Many dogs are abandoned, relinquished or euthanised due to behavioural problems. Dogs who remain with guardians are known to have poor welfare and quality of life in some cases. (1,2)
It's important to highlight that all humans are different and we all handle things differently, for my own experience with Zombie, my youngest who is fearful, I didn't feel overwhelmed or burdened by his behaviour. Because I took a different approach and had a different attitude to begin with. I didn't see Zombie or categorise him as having fearful behaviour or being classified as reactive.
Instead, my attitude and approach when describing him was "He has big emotions and he feels a lot of fear, he finds the world a scary place, I do too. He's frightened of x, y, z and I would list off his fears. I also made a point of identifying his strengths. He may have been worried about strangers and other dogs but he also wasn't fearful of Fireworks or thunderstorms.
He may have been fearful towards strangers and dogs but he didn't react in the sense of what people normally think when the term "reactivity" is used which is why so many of us are moving away from it. Because Zombie was so fearful he shut down. He would have a panic attack, I related to this and could identify with this and I was very open and transparent about all of our journey.
For me I saw a lot of myself in Zombie, my own anxiety and neurodivergence and I spoke to many people and of course I was given lots of unhelpful and unsolicited advice such as euthanizing him and I also got lots of helpful support from colleagues.
I'm so glad that I didn't listen. Today Zombie is a happy and well rounded dog, he's playful and makes people laugh, he's boisterous and friends with some people and some dogs. As a dog should be because they absolutely will not be friends with everyone just like us.
Researchers found guardians of dogs may experience a form of caregiver burden as found in humans and families due to dogs being seen as a part of the family unit. (3)
Through the data that the researchers collected they found that there were four major areas which could be analysed as to understanding the breakdown in relationships and the struggles of behavioural challenges in dogs.
Caretaking - expense of the vets, training, behaviour modification, breakdown in relationships, lack of understanding and support from friends and families.
Emotions - both negative and positive emotions were reported. Negative included emotions such as anger, fear, frustration, sadness and resentment. Whereas some reported feeling that they had a stronger bond.
Coping strategies - seeking help and getting support from trainers and behaviourists as well as some vets and therapists for themselves.
Lack of understanding and support - from the general public on walks, friends and family and social media. (4)
So when we look at these four categories, the dog isn't actually to be blamed. The frustrations all come down to money and having to spend more money than anticipated originally.
Lack of support from friends, family and even some professionals as well as unsolicited opinions from the general public and social media.
So here we aren't looking at dogs with behavioural problems as being the problem. We are looking at humans who are unable to deal with negativity from other humans and feeling that this all stems from their dogs behaviour.
Guardians are negatively impacted due to other' s opinions. So coming back to part one where I discussed the trainers and behaviourists who have crossed over and their reasoning, this is exactly why people use aversives.
People don't like to feel inadequate and some more than others, some guardians like myself can focus on their dogs strengths and support their dog through their anxiety and emotions.
People who want the behaviour fixed and they want it fixed now. This is where people turn to aversive methods. Because of their own ideologies, beliefs and lack of understanding of how dogs work, dogs emotions and intelligence.
Every single person I spoke to, all crossed over as soon as they learnt better. As soon as a good teacher informed them of how dogs work, where they are going wrong and showing them a different way. A kinder way, but above all, education.
As the saying goes. "When you know better, you do better." This series hasn't been about preaching to the choir, this series is about explaining why people use aversives. Because in order to help any guardian and their dog, we first of all have to understand the why of the behaviour.
If we want to see more people crossing over, we have a duty of care to educate guardians, to not shout and belittle across social media as the research I have shared highlights. Social media is a part of the problem. Shaming and hating on people is a part of the problem.
Showing them, educating them and supporting them is the answer to the problem. It's time to stop people pleasing and using aversives to get a wanted behaviour because it's an emotion and you can only heal an emotion you can't fix an emotion, you can either heal an emotion or suppress the emotion through aversives until the emotion blows up. Which it does.
Help people with tutorials, signpost to groups where there are expert Moderator and Admin teams. Offer help and support. Teach people about scholarships with force free schools. Be the change. Be the reason someone signs the Shock Free Coalition pledge with the Pet Professional Guild. Be the reason dog welfare gets better, be the reason that aversives are extinct.
I have a YouTube channel filled with free tutorials https://youtube.com/@miyagisdogtraining
I have a Facebook group for support and help from the community and not judgement or fear. Miyagis Dog Training Community
Go to Do No Harm Dog Training for support and for a team of Admin and Moderators who can help advise, guide and support you. Where comments are monitored.
Extinct aversives not the emotion.
J.C. New Jr., M.D. Salman, M. King, J.M. Scarlett, P.H. Kass, J. Hutchiso. Characteristics of shelter-relinquished animals and their owners compared with animals and their owners in US pet-owning households
J. Appl. Anim. Welf. Sci., 3 (2000), pp. 179-201
E.F. Hiby, N.J. Rooney, J.W.S. Bradshaw
Dog training methods: their use, effectiveness and interaction with behaviour and welfare
Anim. Welf., 13 (2004), pp. 63-69
V. Braun, V. Clarke.Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qual.Res. Psychol., 3 (2006), pp. 77-101
Kristin Buller a et al. (2020) Living with and loving a pet with behavioural problems: Pet owners’ experiences, Journal of Veterinary Behavior. Available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/.../pii/S1558787820300356...
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