The Humane Hierarchy

The guidelines for Least Intrusive, Minimally Aversive animal training were developed by Dr. Susan Friedman in the 1990’s. Dr. Friedman is been a leader in understanding animal behavior and training. They were based on similar guidelines in human medicine and the law. The phrase, “do no harm” may be familiar to you. Here is the Humane Hierarchy as it has come to be known. Note the little “road signs” showing exit, caution and stop.

To clarify each “exit”:
1. Is there any physical or nutritional reason for the dog to be behaving in such a way?
2. What are the antecedents to the behavior, e.g., what happens to cause the behavior? Is it the chance to earn a yummy treat or a pop on the collar? What arrangements to the environment can be made to influence the behavior, e.g. training relaxation in a quiet environment to start.
3. Positive reinforcement. Structure your training so that your dog has many chances for positive reinforcement (treats, games, etc.) and many chances for success. Failures are not marked. It is only information!
4. Differential reinforcement of alternative behaviors. Reinforce the behavior you want instead of correcting the behavior you do not want.
5. Extinction, negative reinforcement and negative punishment. Extinction of a behavior occurs when it is no longer reinforced. For example, if I fail to continually reinforce a cued sit with my dog, the behavior will eventually be extinguished. Negative reinforcement is to take away a troublesome thing. If my dog is afraid of people on skate boards and I take her away from them, that’s negative reinforcement. Negative punishment is to take away a pleasurable thing. If my dog jumps on me for attention and I turn my back and withhold attention until she is seated, that’s negative punishment.
6. Last is positive punishment. You are delivering something aversive to the dog. That’s the collar pop, the ear pinch, the rattle can, etc. It can even be scolding or raising your voice. Our dogs are that smart!
The Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT) was established in 2001 and is the leading independent certifying organization for the dog training profession. Part of their code of ethics states trainers should assist clients in establishing humane, realistic training and behavior goals in accordance with The CCPDT Humane Hierarchy Position Statement. It further states trainers should utilize training and behavior methods based on accurate scientific research, emphasizing positive relationships between people and dogs and using positive reinforcement-based techniques to the maximum extent possible.
~ Chris Armstrong

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