Meghan E. Herron, Frances S. Shofer, Ilana R. Reisner 2008
Prior to seeking the counsel of a veterinary behaviorist many dog owners have attempted behavior modification techniques suggested by a variety of sources. Recommendations often include aversive training techniques which may provoke fearful or defensively aggressive behavior. The purpose of this study was to assess the behavioral effects and safety risks of techniques used historically by owners of dogs with behavior problems. A 30-item survey of previous interventions was included in a behavioral questionnaire distributed to all dog owners making appointments at a referral behavior service over a 1-year period. For each intervention applied, owners were asked to indicate whether there was a positive, negative, or lack of effect on the dog’s behavior, and whether aggressive behavior was seen in association with the method used. Owners were also asked to indicate the source of each recommendation. One-hundred-and-forty surveys were completed. The most frequently listed recommendation sources were ‘‘self’’ and ‘‘trainers’’. Several confrontational methods such as ‘‘hit or kick dog for undesirable behavior’’ (43%), ‘‘growl at dog’’ (41%), ‘‘physically force the release of an item from a dog’s mouth’’ (39%), ‘‘alpha roll’’ (31%), ‘‘stare at or stare [dog] down’’ (30%), ‘‘dominance down’’ (29%), and ‘‘grab dog by jowls and shake’’ (26%) elicited an aggressive response from at least a quarter of the dogs on which they were attempted. Dogs presenting for aggression to familiar people were more likely to respond aggressively to the confrontational techniques ‘‘alpha roll’’ and yelling ‘‘no’’ compared to dogs with other presenting complaints (P < 0.001). In conclusion, confrontational methods applied by dog owners before their pets were presented for a behavior consultation were associated with aggressive responses in many cases. It is thus important for primary care veterinarians to advise owners about risks associated with such training methods and provide guidance and resources for safe management of behavior problems.
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