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Our Ethics

Force-Free. Fear-Free. Forever.

Canine Counseling is a LIMA-compliant company, certified under the Certification Council of Professional Dog Trainers. The description below was taken from the CCPDT website, which can be viewed in full here.

What Is LIMA?

LIMA is an acronym for the phrase “Least Intrusive, Minimally Aversive”. LIMA describes a trainer or behavior consultant who uses the least intrusive, minimally aversive strategy out of a set of humane and effective tactics likely to succeed in achieving a training or behavior change objective. LIMA adherence also requires consultants to be adequately educated and skilled in order to ensure that the least intrusive and aversive procedure is used.

LIMA does not justify the use of punishment in lieu of other effective interventions and strategies. In the vast majority of cases, desired behavior change can be affected by focusing on the animal’s environment, physical well-being, and operant and classical interventions such as differential reinforcement of an alternative behavior, desensitization, and counter-conditioning.

LIMA Is Competence-Based

LIMA requires trainers/consultants to work to increase the use of positive reinforcement and eliminate the use of punishment when working with animal and human clients. In order to ensure best practices, consultants should pursue and maintain competence in animal behavior consulting and training through continuing education, and hands-on experience. Consultants should not advise on problems outside the recognized boundaries of their competencies and experience.

No Alpha, Top-Dog or Dominance Theory

 

We do not subscribe to the (extensively debunked and outdated) 'dominance theory' behavior model. We instead rely on up-to-date research and scientific study to inform our training methods and through this are able to see a much less severe and nuanced social hierarchy among domestic dogs.

Where did Dominance Theory come from?

The original study that proposed Dominance Theory was based on observations made of captive wolves conducted in the 1930s and 1940s by Swiss animal behaviorist Rudolph Schenkel. Schenkel concluded that groups of wolves will engage in, often violent, social struggles to gain 'dominance'. The problem with this model is that most of these wolves were taken from an established wild pack and placed into captivity with other, often unrelated individuals. Captive, unrelated wolves in a confined space will, and do, fight over resources and will vie for position as 'top dog'.

Why is it no longer accepted?

First and foremost, dogs are not wolves. In fact they share a similar percentage of DNA as we do to chimpanzees, (<2% difference). It is true that they share an enormous amount of physiological, anatomical and behavioral features with our domestic dogs but there are also stark differences. The following is paraphrased from an article written by Pat Miller (CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA). You can read the full article here.

"What we know now, thanks to a wealth of research and decades of observation, is that wolves have a very similar social hierarchy as we do. A family group usually consists of a mated pair and their offspring of the past one to three years. Occasionally, two or three family groups may merge to form a larger pack.

 

As the offspring mature they disperse from the pack, leaving the main breeding pair as the only long-term members of the group.

 

By contrast, in captivity unrelated wolves are forced to live together for many years, creating tension between mature adults that doesn’t happen in a natural, wild pack".

This forced coexistence creates a natural need to seek out prime resources, such as access to food, water, shelter and potential breeding partners. The confined space and presence of unrelated, unfamiliar individuals causes them to guard these limited assets from the other members of the group, resulting in violent and often bloody battles to defend them.

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Punishment: Its Place in Modern Dog Training

 

In order to answer this question, let's quickly talk about the word punishment and how it applies to animal learning. Punishment, in the scientific terminology of behavior modification, indicates the addition of an aversive element, or removal of a reinforcing one, that would cause a specific behavior to become less or more frequent. These methods are respectively known as positive punishment and negative punishment.

 

In contrast to positive reinforcement, positive punishment often relies on fear, anxiety, pain or discomfort in order to shape the behavior of an animal. Unfortunately, it often produces what appear to be 'quick fixes'. For example, if you smack the muzzle of a dog when she growls, growling behavior is likely to decrease as the dog now anticipates pain when they are vocal.

The down-side to this is that while we have technically eliminated the barking behavior we have not begun to treat the underlying cause. If the dog was growling fearfully at the approach of an unfamiliar human, and now doesn't feel comfortable growling, they may resort to something more severe if the trigger presents itself again. This is where we see a lot of 'out of the blue' bites. A fantastic example of this can be seen in this video of famously aversive trainer Cesar Milan.

 

Negative punishment is the removal of something pleasant, such as abruptly stopping a play session when a dog gets too excited and barks. Barking will likely decrease as the pup learns that being vocal results in the end of play. They will avoid barking in future as they enjoy play and want it to continue. The change will be slower, but the method is humane, effective and long-lasting.

We do use negative punishment in our training methods, as in the example above, which produces a net neutral effect (absence of something positive), whereas positive punishment results in a net negative effect (adding something punishing).

We will never use positive punishment to train your pup.

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