The behavioral training model known as the “Humane Hierarchy” was developed by Dr. Susan Friedman, who herself is a renowned behavior analyst. It consists of 6 different layers of training methods and has been adopted by the Certification Council of Professional Dog Trainers as a guide. Every knowledgeable dog trainer is expected to explore all options before escalating to more intrusive training methods through this guide. For further consultations, trainers can redirect to Off Leash K9 Phoenix to get second opinions as well.
- Medical, Nutritional, And Physical Settings
Well-nourished and healthy dogs can be the best learners when properly trained. It is of utmost importance that the nutritional and medical needs of a dog are attended to in a timely manner. Pain and injury can be major hindrances while training canine pets. Professional dog trainers are expected to recognize such distress signs and recommend appropriate pre-training veterinarian consultations. Usually, dog trainers ask their clients to go for vet checkups and health validations of pets before starting any training program. Medical and nutritional deficiencies are likely to reduce training effectiveness otherwise.
- Antecedent Arrangements
Here the “antecedent” refers to the surrounding environment for dogs. Environmental triggers can be the reason for problematic behavior in many canines. As such, manipulating such behavior triggers and temptations can definitely improve training outcomes. Even the use of simple tools like baby gates and puzzle toys can create a healthier environment for dogs to learn new things. Ignorance towards environmental triggers can lead to ineffective training, even with more intrusive methods. Feeding dogs in separate areas to avoid fights or closing blinds to stop stray barking can be useful changes to a dog’s environment.
- Positive Reinforcement
Every healthy dog loves its treats and a fair share of petting. Taking care of environmental triggers allows a dog to make the right choices in terms of routine behavior. Positively reinforcing dogs with things they need helps them repeat good behaviors more often. Such reinforcements may be in the form of food, play, affection, or even toys they like. Desirable results can lead to dogs behaving in ways suiting their owners. Safely applied, this can be one of the most humane behavior modification practices around for pets.
- Differential Reinforcement
Acceptable alternate behavior replacements might work for dogs under certain circumstances. This process is comparatively complex and might require more understanding. You can attempt to strongly reinforce problematic behaviors with suitable alternatives, including the removal of problematic reinforcers. For instance, a jumping dog can be reinforced alternately to stand, sit or retrieve toys. The purpose is to focus on something else, rather than jumping, that gets acknowledged as a better behavioral choice eventually.
- Extinction, Negative Reinforcement, And Negative Punishments
This next process might be more stressful for dogs and can cause anxiety in them. So, yield signs should be carefully assessed before moving onto such behavior modification practices. Extinction refers to the elimination of an existing behavior that stops working for dogs. This way they might stop behaving in ways that do not yield desirables for them anymore. Doing so may also cause frustration from mild to counterproductive range in dogs due to confused understanding. On the other hand, negative punishments mean depriving dogs of things they want for misbehaving. Often negative punishments work in conjunction with positive reinforcements to emphasize easier understanding. Behavioral modifications may yield when dogs realize things that do not get them what they want. Negative reinforcements might be the most intrusive of them all and draw enough criticism. Pinching or removing food from your pet for behavioral rectifications doesn’t go well for all. Although not inherently cruel, negative reinforcements can still put dogs through unwanted anxiety and may require reconsideration.
- Positive Punishments
Considered as the last resort in dog training, positive punishments require thorough consultation with other experts before implementation. Behavioral modifications with fear of positive punishments might not be ideal for most pet owners and dog trainers. These methods risk behavioral fallout in dogs including permanent fear and elevated aggression. Trainers without adequate skills and creativity might prematurely jump into this stage though. But doing so can cause serious harm to the human bonding with dogs. Any ideas or suggestions from other experts, or going over the previous 5 stages might be more productive before resorting to positive punishments.
Although the Humane Hierarchy is an exceptionally useful framework for dog trainers, it is never the ultimate plan for any. It is not intended as a justification for using force, pain, or fear for training pet canines. It emphasizes surrounding conditions and efforts to understand, treat and train dogs in more effective and humane ways. The ranking of training methods has been recognized from the least to most intrusive ones, but not to be treated as a set of standard rules in any case.