TIME TO TEACH SOME OLD DOGS NEW TRICKS
The first major study of working dogs has just been
released showing that it’s not only dogs that could learn a few new tricks.
Report Coordinator Dr Nick Branson of Deakin University said the Australian Working Dog Survey Report looked at the training and treatment of dogs used for work and sport, revealing some alarming results.
“One major concern is an overemphasis on the use of a corrective approach to dog training, where there is an overemphasis on punishment as a training tool, rather than teaching the dog through positive reinforcement,” said Dr Branson.
“More than 20% of the respondents reported using an electric shock collar during training. This is an alarmingly high result, especially because only 6% of the respondents have had some sort of formal education in dog training.”
The study, commissioned through the Australian Animal Welfare Strategy, looked at four types of working dogs: private industry (farm, hunting, guard etc); Government (Customs, Quarantine, Defence); assistance/service (guide, hearing, search and rescue); and sport (greyhound, sled, sheep trial etc).
The RSPCA said while the survey showed that working dogs were generally well cared for, the results revealed a disappointing lack of accountability within the working dog training industry.
“The high level of punishment used in training dogs is very disturbing and suggests that trainers do not understand the long-term welfare implications of using these techniques and devices on their dogs,” warned the RSPCA’s Chief Scientist Dr Bidda Jones.
”The RSPCA supports the Report’s recommendation to
develop a national education and accreditation program for working dog
Dr Branson believes there is now an opportunity to increase trainers’ understanding about how to train and the results with assistance dogs support this move.
dogs are often required to perform tasks that are of higher complexity than
other working dogs. What’s interesting is that their trainers have the highest
level of formal training, they have the highest level of positive reinforcement
in training and they do not use electric shock collars.”
The full report can be accessed here: