This paper was written in May 2017 for a class on animal ethics that I took during my anthrozoology studies at Canisius College. It may not reflect the most recent information, but it does include some valuable resources and insight I wanted to share given recent events in my area.
Currently in the United States, the dog training industry is largely unregulated: anyone can call themselves a dog trainer and charge for training services (Barry, 2008; Kaminsky, 2016). This unfortunate reality results in dogs and their guardians receiving potentially life-threatening misinformation, particularly in cases of aggression. Similarly, this also results in dog trainers who use training methods that can cause negative dog welfare. In late 2016, a self-proclaimed dog trainer on Long Island, N.Y. was caught on video abusing a client’s dog that was in his care (Goldberg, 2016). This did result in a New York State Senator, Todd Kaminsky, proposing a bill to require licensing for dog trainers. The bill has yet to be passed.
In this paper, I will draw from multiple disciplines to explore the ethics of dog training, particularly looking at different dog training methods as well as the necessary interplay of science and ethics in the dog training industry. Ethologist Marc Bekoff (2006) discusses “the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration and cooperation” (p. 471), and I believe this applies to this topic as well as any. Additionally, I will examine the need for a standardized professional code of ethics for dog trainers and behavior consultants, specifically analyzing the ethical codes of various professional associations.
In the love we have for our dogs, concern for their welfare is inherent. Often times, this concern presents itself when our dogs are sick or injured, and we call the vet. But what else contributes to the welfare of our dogs besides addressing their physical needs?
As dog guardians who all strive to have well-behaved dogs, we undoubtedly benefit from understanding how dogs learn. Incorporating this knowledge of learning theory into our interactions with our dogs can make training more effective and fun.
Through my various studies and experiences learning about and working with dogs, I’ve come to believe that one of the most important things we can do to improve the human-dog relationship is to improve our understanding of canine body language. Inadequate understanding of dog behavior and body language not only damages the human-dog bond, but it also puts people at risk for bites. Furthermore, the more we learn about dog behavior and body language, the more we learn about the safest, most humane and effective ways to train them.
Many dog guardians would agree that they’re attached to their dogs and that their dogs are attached to them. However, many don’t realize just how unique and important that bond is.
When we think about dogs, many of us think about a loving, loyal companion--one that might even be curled up on the couch next to you as you read this (both of mine are). However, not all dogs are allowed on the couch, let alone considered companions.
Strong, interdependent relationships have been cultivated between humans and nonhuman animals for thousands of years (Amiot & Bastian, 2015). While nonhuman animals are utilized in countless ways ranging from food, clothing, etc., one of the more complex relationships exists between humans and their companion animals.
During my fall semester as a second-year graduate student in the Anthrozoology program at Canisius College, I took a wonderful course entitled "Psychology of the Human-Animal Bond." As I'm sure you can imagine, I learned so much in this course that applies directly to the work I do through Heal to Howl. I wanted to share with you the paper I wrote for this class as it very interestingly compares various dog training methods with parenting styles. Be sure to let me know what you think in the comments below!
Most humans would agree that we share some very special relationships with nonhuman animals. The relationships we have with our companion animals such as dogs as well as horses are often rooted in strong emotional bonding and attachment(1). Research has shown that this attachment bonding is actually quite similar to what occurs between humans, but, of course, is also very unique. By deepening our understanding of these bonds, we can determine how to become better animal guardians.
Over the past six months, I've had the amazing pleasure of deepening my education and experience in dog training and behavior:
Owner of Heal to Howl.