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July 5, 2013

Correct training helps prevent dog bites

It’s not a myth — summer is dog bite season. Apparently, the same irritation humans feel as the mercury climbs affects our canine companions, too. But, did you know that the method you use to train your dog could have a big impact on whether he becomes a biter or not?

If you ask most good trainers, they’ll tell you that the very best insurance against dog bites is to attend a safe off-leash puppy class while your pup is between the ages of eight to 16 weeks. Pups need play with other puppies to develop “bite inhibition.” For older dogs, training in a positive manner, as soon as you can after you adopt them, poses far less risk than using punishment or dominance-based methods. Research shows that aggressive training methods have been associated with increased levels of aggression in dogs, and many leaders in the industry advise against them (http://abrionline.org/article.php?id=254).

Sadly, there has been resurgence in the use of such methods, including the use of electronic shock collars, despite evidence of the risks. (http://www.petprofessionalguild.com/shockcollars)

Jean Donaldson, of the highly regarded Academy for Dog Trainers, and author of “The Culture Clash,” is critical of all such methods, but is very adamant in her rejection of shock collars.

“Until these devices are illegal, consumers must protect themselves and their dogs by looking beyond the marketing messages of those who profit from their sale and use,” she said. “It is not necessary to use electric shock to change behavior. It is not necessary in humans, in zoo species, in marine mammals or in dogs.”

Donaldson’s sentiments are echoed by Dr. Karen Overall, VMD, PhD, and diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Behavior (ACVB), who is also certified by the Animal Behavior Society (ABS) as an applied animal behaviorist, in her paper titled, “Why Shock is Not Behavior Modification.”

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