Frozen by Punishment

“The lower animals, like man, manifestly feel pleasure and pain, happiness and misery.” — Charles Darwin in ‘The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals’   Training a dog to heel through jerks often turns into a frustrating and self-defeating exercise. In the face of continuous leash jerks, dogs often start moving increasingly slower and…

Lighting the Pathways of Reward and Punishment

“Positive reinforcement results in lasting behavioral modification, whereas punishment changes behavior only temporarily and presents many detrimental side effects.” B.F. Skinner (1970) Balanced and dominance trainers tend to present reward and punishment as opposite sides of the same coin, as if choosing one over the other was a matter of taste. This simplistic picture ignores…

My Way is Not the Only Way

For the sake of argument, let us imagine that Cesar Millan is right. We will imagine a universe where punishment causes no adverse psychological effects. In Millan’s reality punishment does not elicit fear and it does not cause aggression; punching a dog will not cause it to bite. Confrontational methods don’t result in defensive aggression;…

Restraint Stress

Whether we are talking about zoo animals or our own pets, blood collection usually involves restraint. Forcible restraint is a stressful experience (for dog and handler), it can produce a fearful response which often results in defensive aggression. While the resulting behavior is what we see, there is also a complex biochemical cascade that accompanies…