Humane Dog Training - American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior Position Statement

ASVAB- Position Statement on Humane Dog Training

"There is no evidence that aversive training is necessary for dog training or behavior modification."

Evidence supports the use of reward-based methods for all canine training. AVSAB promotes interactions with animals based on compassion, respect, and scientific evidence. Based on these factors, reward-based learning offers the most advantages and least harm to the learner’s welfare. Research supports the efficacy of reward-based training to address unwanted and challenging behaviors. There is no evidence that aversive training is necessary for dog training or behavior modification.

Reward-based techniques should be used for teaching common training skills as well as to address unwanted behaviors. The application of aversive methods – which, by definition, rely on the application of force, pain, or emotional or physical discomfort – should not be used in canine training or for the treatment of behavioral disorders.

As the role of companion animals has evolved, their welfare and the relationships between humans and animals have become increasingly important. It is understood that animals are sentient and should be treated with respect and compassion.

Learning manners and skills can help animals to co-exist harmoniously with people in the home and in society. The techniques used to teach these manners and skills can strongly affect an animal’s future behavior and emotional wellbeing.

Training methods are most effective when they focus on teaching the animal what to do, rather than punishing them for unwanted behaviors. Common training issues such as jumping, barking, and housetraining can be managed by arranging the environment appropriately and reinforcing desirable responses. More serious behavior concerns such as aggression, anxiety, and fear require a treatment plan that includes environmental management, behavior modification, and, in some cases, medication. Environmental conditions that drive the behavior should be addressed and the dog should be set up to make appropriate responses. Management can include avoiding situations that lead to unwanted behavior and ensuring the safety of all involved.

Many methods of changing behavior in dogs are effective; however, the evidence-based veterinarian or behavior consultant should be concerned not just with what is effective but what does the least harm and produces the best long-term results. Current literature on dog training methods shows a clear advantage of reward-based methods over aversive-based methods with respect to immediate and long-term welfare, training effectiveness, and the dog-human relationship.

Exhaustive analyses of dog training literature have been completed and are available for review.1–3 A brief summary of the current evidence regarding canine training and some common questions about training techniques are addressed in this document.


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