Author Archives: Niki Tudge

The Effects of Using Aversive Training Methods in Dogs – A Review by Dr. Gal Ziv

By Niki Tudge 

As a professional in the pet industry and one who is heavily invested in the promotion of force-free animal care, training and management I am always looking for new research and findings to help in the aged debate about dog training methods and their efficacy. 

Since its inception in 2012, PPG’s position has been that “the use of electronic stimulation, or ‘shock’ or ‘e-collars’ to care for, manage and train/modify the behavior of pet animals is simply not necessary. In 2017, can there really still be a debate over the issue of using pain as a “method” of animal training? Decades of peer-reviewed, scientific studies show, whether discussing dogs, humans, dolphins or elephants, that electric shock as a form of training to teach or correct a behavior is ineffective at best, and physically and psychologically damaging at worst. 

Well today a new research paper came across my desk titled “The Effects of Using Aversive Training Methods in Dogs” – A Review by Gal Ziv. The paper is published by the Journal of Veterinary Behavior. As a PPG member, I have access to this journal at a greatly discounted rate. In fact, the rate difference is so substantial it covers the cost of my annual guild membership.  However, today I wasted no time trying to determine when my subscription copy would arrive, I purchased the individual article. It certainly did not disappoint and for all of you interested in applied animal behavior and our profession of animal training I suggest you run not walk to grab a copy of this paper.  You can purchase it by clicking here . If you are a PPG member then check the member area for your journal discount code. 

The Highlights Are

  • Trainers should rely on positive reinforcement based methods when training dogs and aversive training methods should be avoided when training dogs

I look forward to getting out my clip board and more strategically reviewing the 37 page article armed with my large green and blue highlighter pens. Until then here are a few of my own ramblings

  1. Applying an electric shock provides no effective strategy for an animal to learn a new or alternative behavior; it simply inflicts pain and risks making him fearful, anxious and/or aggressive.
  2. Generally speaking, a pet owner’s main goals when shocking their pet are, firstly, to punish perceived misbehavior in the moment and, secondly, reduce future recurrences of the undesirable behavior.
  3. Shocking is a form of punishment and, as such, can only achieve the first goal, and harshly. In the absence of a constructional approach whereby new and more appropriate behaviors are built, most punishment outside a laboratory environment (where all components can be systematically manipulated) is extremely unreliable and encased by unintended consequences.
  4. We now have enough research to conclude that using fear or physical punishment in the name of training or care of our pets is ineffective and potentially harmful (in some cases, lethal). We also know that countless professional organizations and industry experts condemn physical punishment and urge pet owners to seek professionals who advocate for and, instead, practice positive behavior modification.  

 The bottom line is that it is entirely possible for pet industry representatives to support professional autonomy and the use of a humane hierarchy, while also taking a stand and position against the use and application of electric shock as a “training method.” 

As such, I call on fellow industry professionals and associations, animal welfare organizations, and professional animal training and behavior bodies worldwide to stand together, to collectively reach out to, engage and educate pet owners in the implementation and practice of humane, kind and effective training tools and techniques. Rather than rely on aversive means, I encourage all organizations to embrace the vast body of scientific research that details the many advantages of positive training methods, and publicly say “no” to any technique that causes pain or fear — including those administered via equipment that delivers electric shocks.

Those of us who have the privilege and responsibility to represent pet professionals and, consequently, reach the wider audience comprised of pet owners and caretakers, are in the optimal position to make significant changes across our industry, within our representing bodies, and for the benefit of the pets we serve, the owners we service, and the professionals we represent. The time to achieve this is now, let’s shape the future!

 Article Details 

Ziv, G., The Effects of Using Aversive Training Methods in Dogs – A Review, Journal of Veterinary Behavior (2017), doi: 10.1016/j.jveb.2017.02.004.


Forge Positive Relationships With Clients,Employees and Colleagues – Learn Conflict Resolution Skills!


by Niki Tudge

conflictWhy is it that so many people have a negative conditioned emotional response to the word conflict? Why do we always assume that conflict is negative and unpleasant, a creator of all evil? This is simply not true. As human beings we are all individuals and it is when our differences come to the surface that conflicts can arise. I challenge you to switch paradigms and start thinking of conflict simply as a difference in how we approach and feel about things. If you can do that then you are off to a great start in being able to generate positive outcomes, rather than believing that conflict is adversarial and aggressive. This should make managing conflict a much more pleasant endeavor when you have to sort out any differences with your clients. The fact that conflict exists is not a bad thing as long as we resolve it effectively. Conflict that is managed properly can lead to enhanced personal and professional growth. 

How do we define conflict? The Random House Dictionary defines it thus: “To come into collision or disagreement; be contradictory, at variance, or in opposition; clash.” Some examples of workplace conflict may be:

  • When a client is dissatisfied with your services or product.
  • If an employee is upset with his manager when she changes his schedule at the last minute.
  • A difference of opinions between you and a client regarding training methods. 
  • A dispute between you and a colleague regarding a training process or principle


Seek first to understand, then to be understood.

– Stephen Covey

Think about all the wonderful relationships you can forge, business partnerships you can enhance and situations with your clients you can resolve if you handle conflict effectively. In our industry, having a grasp of conflict resolution is a must, particularly when you consider how emotionally charged some of the situations we find ourselves in can become. Let us instead view conflict as an opportunity to generate positive, collaborative solutions with our clients, partners and business associates. Once you have adopted the appropriate attitude towards conflict and, if you then arm yourself with a conflict resolution process, you will have all the necessary tools to understand any differences with clients. You can then use this understanding to interact with them in a more productive manner. Think about how much you can enhance the lives of family pets if you are better equipped to collaborate with their owners.

 You cannot shake hands with a clenched fist.

 – Indira Gandhi 

How can these conflicts also be healthy? Think about how conflict can increase motivation and competitiveness. These types of drivers can result in greater success, whether this is a better process, better teamwork or greater satisfaction. Remember that everyone experiences conflict at some point in their lives. You cannot avoid it so learning to deal with it is extremely important. 

Let us look at this in greater detail. In the first bullet point above we have a disenchanted client. When clients are happy or neutral about your services, how often do you actually get the opportunity to spend quality time talking and listening to them? Most satisfied clients interface with their trainers at the delivery of the service and then go on their merry way. When clients complain about one of your products or services, however, it presents the ideal opportunity to spend real quality time with them. If you handle this conflict professionally you will forge a strong, long-lasting and trusting relationship. Client dissatisfaction can be turned around. In many cases, clients who have had complaints handled successfully can become your very best salespersons. 

Next time we will talk about a recommended conflict resolution process. Subscribe to our blog to get new blogs directly in your inbox. alternatively you can purchase our book that covers this topic and so many others. Click here 



Scientific and Research Data That Show The Harm That Shock Collars Can Do Behaviorally

Since its inception in 2012, PPG’s position has been that “the use of electronic stimulation, or ‘shock’ or ‘e-collars’ to care for, manage and train/modify the behavior of pet animals is simply not necessary.” (Note: For the purposes of this document, electronic stimulation devices include –but are not limited to — products often referred to as e-collars, training collars, shock collars, e-touch, stimulation, tingle, TENS unit collar, remote trainers, and e-prods.) In 2017, can there really still be a debate over the issue of using pain as a “method” of animal training? Decades of peer-reviewed, scientific studies show, whether discussing dogs, humans, dolphins or elephants, that electric shock as a form of training to teach or correct a behavior is ineffective at best, and physically and psychologically damaging at worst. 

Renowned board certified animal behaviorist and veterinarian, Dr. Karen Overall (2005) states: “There are now terrific scientific and research data that show the harm that shock collars can do behaviorally. At the July 2005, International Veterinary Behavior Meeting, held in conjunction with the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior and American College of Veterinary Behaviorists research meetings, data were presented by E. Schalke, J. Stichnoth, and R. Jones-Baade that documented these damaging effects…There is no longer a reason for people to remain misinformed. Let me make my opinion perfectly clear: Shock is not training – in the vast majority of cases it meets the criteria for abuse.”

Overall, K.L. (2005). An open letter from Dr Karen Overall regarding the use of shock collars.

sourced from

What are your thoughts on this?

Let’s All Be Dopamine Trainers

by Niki Tudge

Be  A Dopamine Trainer

When you train using Positive Reinforcement the brain is flooded with Dopamine, a chemical involved in functions like movement, motivation and reward. When you train using scary punishments the brain is flooded with norepinephrine a chemical that mobilizes the body for action and fight or flight. 

Find a Dopamine Trainer Today – Contact Your Local DogSmith

Be a Dopamine Trainer




Why Does My Dog Bark & How Can I Manage/Prevent It

Dogs use barking to communicate. If you listen to your dog’s bark you will note that he uses different kind of barks to communicate different things.   Higher tone barks are usually associated with play, excitement and/or greeting of people or other dogs.   Lower tone barks are usually associated with alerting, fear and/or aggression.   

Black Lab Puppy DogNosticsIt is unreasonable to assume that you can eliminate barking. Dogs bark, it is what they do. Shock collars or bark collars that deliver an electric shock or unpleasant blast of liquid to barking dogs are inhumane because they are punishing a dog for communicating. The kindest way to modify barking is to reduce your dog’s motivation for barking.  

 Reduce Boredom 

Leaving a dog outside unsupervised is a recipe for boredom barking. Being social animals a bored dog is a lonely dog that is seeking interaction. The problem is, if you give the dog attention after he barks you have reinforced the barking! Instead it is much easier to supervise your dog while outside, wait for the dog to empty himself and then play a quick game and head back inside. This sequence of events sets your dog up to hurry up and empty himself quickly and reinforces this by playing a game.

 Barking For Attention 

‘Watch this!’ your dog says to himself before he starts barking for attention. As the owner’s face reddens with anger, the dog’s tail begins to wag.   Eventually the owner barks, ‘quiet!!!!’ and the dog has got the attention he wanted, which works perfectly to maintain the barking behavior. The short demand for quiet even sounds like a bark to the dog, so now he thinks the owner is joining in. What fun! 

Barking On Cue 

To prevent this scenario, teach your dog to bark on cue by ringing your own doorbell. Most dogs will bark when you ring the door bell. If the dog does not bark when you ring the doorbell, do whatever else prompts barking.   When the dog barks, click and treat the dog for barking. Repeat this, but this time say ‘speak’ immediately before you ring the doorbell. Do this 5 times.   Now say ‘speak’ in an excited way and hopefully your dog will bark. If not go back to the last step a few more times.   

Barking To the Cue ‘Speak’ 

Now for the fun part!   

Cue the dog to ‘speak’. The dog barks and this time after the bark say ‘quiet.’ The dog has no idea what this means, so he will STOP barking and give you a puzzled look. Click and treat! This is what you are really after. You want your dog to bark to alert you something is going on and then once you have checked it out, you can tell the dog to be quiet. From this moment on you will never click and treat your dog for ‘speak’ again, but only for ‘quiet’. Only being quiet gets the reward.  

Calm is Quiet 

In order to prevent excessive barking you want a calm and relaxed dog.   The way to get that is to exercise your dog. Every dog is different. Some dogs need hours of exercise per day while others are happy with 10 minutes of full speed running. Others are happy with a walk around the block. Know how much exercise your dog needs and when he is tuckered out ask him to lay down. Observe your dog for signs of relaxation. When he relaxes, calmly give him a treat. Do not click. This is the one time we don’t want the startling effect of the clicker.   

The idea here is to reinforce calm, because a calm dog is more likely to be a quiet dog.

 Chew Toys as an Anti-Barking Tool 

Another fabulous way to prevent barking is to provide your dog with different chew toys every few days. Just like us, dogs get bored with the same old stuff. Rotate your toys and chew toys by changing them out every few days and you will have done some great training to set the dog up for success. 

Owner-Absent Barking 

If your dog barks and/or howls when you are gone, please tell your DogSmith, your dog may be suffering from separation anxiety. The behavior modification for separation anxiety is very different than for excessive barking. 

Be Realistic 

If you own a Sheltie or a Terrier you are going to have to learn to live with some barking. Certain dogs are so genetically programmed to bark they even do so in their sleep.

 Understanding Why

Understanding why your dog is barking will help you set your dog up for success. In all training we want the dog to achieve success not failure. With barking this is especially true. It is also so much easier to prevent excessive barking then it is to fix it after the fact. Don’t take a quiet dog for granted; reinforce ‘quiet’ just like you do other behaviors.

 Need help with barking. Contact your Local DogSmith



 Written by Niki Tudge

Dear Veterinarian,


There are numerous professional organizations that offer membership and credentials in the field of animal training and behavior. Few, however, hold their members to a strict code of conduct which involves the application of their trade through scientific protocols and the objective to cause no harm.

Unfortunately, the pet training industry is entirely unregulated, meaning that anyone can say they are a trainer or behavior consultant. As a result, those who call themselves dog trainers, or even “dog whisperers,” may still be utilizing punitive methods, such as disc throwing, loud correctional “no’s” and, in some cases, more extreme tools such as shock collars, choke chains and prong collars. All of these are, sadly, still at large. They are training tools that, by design, have one purpose: to reduce or stop behavior through pain and fear. This, as opposed to a constructional approach where operant behaviors are built, and problematic emotional reactions are changed via positive reinforcement and counterconditioning protocols.

Humane, modern animal training relies on science-based protocols: “Within the field of applied behavior analysis (ABA), there is a 40-year-old standard that promotes the most positive, least intrusive behavior reduction procedures (also known as the Least Restrictive Behavior Intervention, LRBI).” (Friedman, 2010). Regardless, there are trainers who elect not to move into this arena, and/or gain informed consent from clients regarding methods and equipment used. They may still be members of professional institutes, associations and councils because many organizations do not hold their members accountable for the training methods they use. Consequently, it is easy to be fooled when searching for a training or behavior professional.


Dog trainers who are still steeped in using punitive training methods are often known to use outdated terms such as “dominance,” “pack leader,” and “alpha dog,” all of which have been proven by canine behavior scientists and specialists to be inappropriate and inaccurate in their application to pet dogs. In addition, many such trainers use training methods founded in aversive protocols deemed obsolete and damaging – both physically and psychologically (see American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior position statements under Supporting Documents, below).

At the Pet Professional Guild educational summit for canine training and behavior professionals in November 2016, respected Houston Heights veterinarian, board certified animal behaviorist, author, and PPG special counsel,Dr. Karen Overall stated: “Dominance theory has shut off scientific research and has crept into medicine to the point where we think we can do things to animals whereby we are asking them to ‘submit’….dominance theory is insidious and has crept into everything we do with dogs and it’s wrong. It has gotten in the way of modern science and I’ve just about had it. Every single thing we do with dogs hurts them because we don’t see them as individuals or cognitive partners.” (Overall, 2016).

The Fallout of Corrective Training Procedures

Dogs are cognitive, intelligent creatures that experience emotions such as fear, anxiety, and joy. They are subject to the same laws of ABA as any other living organism. Forcing dogs to comply to avoid being shouted at, told “no” in a threatening manner, or having some other discomfort forced on them through voice control, body language or eye contact does not enhance the canine-human relationship, nor does it create an environment where healthy learning can take place. Rather, a pet repeatedly subjected to aversive stimulation may go into a state of “shut down,” or a global suppression of behavior. This is frequently mistaken for a “trained” pet, as the pet may remain subdued and offer few or no behaviors. In extreme cases, pets may refuse to perform any behavior at all, known as “learned helplessness.” In such cases, animals may try to isolate themselves to avoid incurring the aversive stimulation. This is evidently counterproductive to training new, more acceptable behaviors. (O’Heare, 2011).

For punishment to be effective as a means to training a dog, or any other animal for that matter, there are three critical elements that must be met: consistency, timing and intensity. First, the punishment must occur every time the unwanted behavior occurs. Second, it must be administered within, at most, a second or two of the behavior. Third, it must be unpleasant enough to stop the behavior. In the real world, outside science laboratories, meeting these three criteria is virtually impossible for a dog training professional, and most certainly for a dog owner.

According to psychology professor, Dr. Susan Friedman (quoted above), who has pioneered the application of ABA to captive and companion animals: “Punishment doesn’t teach learners what to do instead of the problem behavior. Punishment doesn’t teach caregivers how to teach alternative behaviors. Punishment is really two aversive events – the onset of a punishing stimulus and the forfeiture of the reinforcer that has maintained the problem behavior in the past.” (Friedman, 2010). Especially troubling for pet professionals is that punishment requires an increase in the intensity of the aversive stimulus for it to have any hope of maintaining behavior reduction.

Scientific “Do No Harm” Methods

All animals are motivated by food. Food is necessary for survival. It is therefore a powerful primary reinforcer and a critical component when used correctly as part of a strategic training or management plan. For behavior consultants who engage in behavior change programs where it is necessary to change a pet’s emotional reaction to a problematic stimulus, food is essential. When modifying observable behaviors such as growling, lunging and biting that are often manifestations of a fearful and/or anxious emotional state, the goal must be to change the underlying emotional response, thus enabling the dog to learn a new, more appropriate behavior. It is frequently misunderstood that fear is an emotion and not a behavior. You cannot simply “train it out.” Indeed, fear is often the underlying emotional state to aggressive behavior, and requires the implementation of a different set of scientific protocols and a greater understanding of emotional learning and animal behavior. A review of the scientific literature recommends the use of food as a reinforcer in desensitization and counterconditioning protocols that are specifically aimed at addressing the underlying emotions of fear and/or anxiety. In reality, using food to countercondition emotional responses is the most widely accepted method for treating fear-based behaviors (Overall, 2013).

Transparency and Consumer Advocacy

“Positive relationship,” “natural methods,” “relationship building,” “positive only,” and “no food necessary” are all taglines regularly used by dog training organizations in their marketing literature. These expressions appeal to pet owners who may not always understand the various training methods available to them, and the fallout and unintended consequences of making the wrong choice.

The Pet Professional Guild (PPG) is the one US-based, international member association for pet professionals who use force-free training methods only. PPG holds its members to a very high standard in terms of ethics, protocols and transparency. Members are committed to humane, scientific and effective training, care and management protocols. They never use aversive training devices and techniques. The foundation of their work is always to do no harm.

How to Choose a Training or Behavior Professional

PPG holds that humane educators neither agree with, nor have any need to use correction-based training using devices or aversive stimuli for the care, management or training of pets. Devices and methods that work through eliciting a “startle response,” and/or an alarm reaction to prevent, barking, jumping up, growling or any other problematic behavior are inhumane and just not necessary.

Ramirez-Moreno and Sejnowski (2012) define the startle response as a “largely unconscious defensive response to sudden or threatening stimuli, such as sudden noise or sharp movement” that is “associated with negative affect.” Lang, Bradley and Cuthbert (1990) state that the startle response (or aversive reflex) is “enhanced during a fear state and is diminished in a pleasant emotional context.” These, and many other canine behavior experts consider the use of the startle response to be a management or training technique that uses fear as the motivation. The direct consequences of this can include the (intended or unintended) infliction of stress and pain on an animal by an owner or trainer, and, as mentioned above, generalized fear, suppression of behavior, learned helplessness and/or redirected aggression in the animal him- or herself.

There is perhaps no better way to summarize than the words of Jean Donaldson, founder and principal instructor at The Academy for Dog Trainers, author of best-seller,The Culture Clash, and PPG special counsel, who states: “Dog training is a divided profession. We are not like plumbers, orthodontists or termite exterminators who, if you put six in a room, will pretty much agree on how to do their jobs. Dog training camps are more like Republicans and Democrats, all agreeing that the job needs to be done but wildly differing on how to do it.” (Donaldson, 2006).

A key question, then, for veterinary professionals who need to refer their clients to a dog trainer or behavior consultant, is whether they will refer to those who promote methods that include pain and fear as a means of motivation, or those who use more progressive methods that rely on scientifically-supported protocols based on positive reinforcement and seek to do no harm. Before deciding, PPG urgesveterinary and animal care professionals to conduct thorough research given that so many fear-based training and behavior change methods can be very subtle, or even invisible, in the slick, magical way they are marketed to unsuspecting pet owners.

Originally posted  here

Download PDF Versions of this document

To download a PDF version of this text click here
To download a UK version of this letter click here 



Donaldson, J. (2006). Talk Softly and Carry a Carrot or a Big Stick?Academy for Dog Trainers Blog.

Friedman, S. (2010, March). What’s Wrong with This Picture? Effectiveness Is Not EnoughAPDT Journal.

Lang, P.J., Bradley, M. M., & Cuthbert, B.N. (1990, July). Emotion, attention, and the startle reflexPsychological Review 97 (3), 377-395.

O’Heare, J. (2011). Empowerment Training. Ottawa, ON: BehaveTech Publishing

Overall, K.L. (2016, November). Current Trends: Beyond dominance and discipline. Paper presented at the Pet Professional Guild educational summit, Tampa, Florida. (Cited in Nilson, S. (2017, January). Beyond Dominance. BARKS from the Guild (22) 10-11).

Overall, K.L. (2013). Manual of Clinical Behavioral Medicine for Dogs and Cats. St. Louis, MO: Elsevier Saunders

Ramirez-Moreno, D.F., & Sejnowski, T.J. (2012, March). A computational model for the modulation of the prepulse inhibition of the acoustic startle reflexBiological Cybernetics 106 88888(3) 169-176. 

Supporting Documents

American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior Position Statement on Punishment.

American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior Position Statement on the Use of Dominance Theory and Behavior Modification in Animals.

Pet Professional Guild Position Statement on the Use of Shock in Animal Training.

Pet Professional Guild Position Statement on the Use of Pet Corrective Devices.

Pet Professional Guild Position Statement on the Use of Dominance Theory in Pet Training.



The Tragedy and Stupidity of BSL!

It is very sad what is happening in Canada with BSL. Don’t sit back as a dog owner and think it does not impact you. There are lists of dangerous dogs breeds and those in favor of BSL will just work through the list. Help stop it before it gets to your dog!!!!
Pet Professional Guild Position Statement on Breed Specific Legislation
DogSmith Puppy OneThe Pet Professional Guild (PPG) is becoming increasingly alarmed at the number of dogs being seized or banned in a variety of communities worldwide based purely on their breed or appearance, allegedly in the interest of public safety. At the same time, there is little, if any, assessment of an individual dog’s behavior or environment, their owners’ knowledge of canine behavior and training, and/or their suitability as a dog guardian.
PPG holds that Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) such as this paints an unjust picture of certain breeds of dogs and punishes responsible dog guardians unnecessarily. PPG considers BSL to be ineffective in dog bite prevention and the safety of the public at large, and opposes any law or regulation that discriminates against dogs based purely on breed or appearance. Rather than approach the issues of dog bite prevention and public safety via such unsatisfactory means, PPG is of the opinion that educating pet industry professionals, pet dog guardians, and the general public in canine cognition, communication, and the use of science-based, force-free pet care and training methods are by far the most effective means of reducing dog bites and ensuring greater public safety.
PPG recognizes that any size or type of dog can bite. Breed, however, is not a good predictor. A study by Patronek, Sacks, Delise, Cleary, and Marder (2013) concluded that: “Most DBRFs [dog bite-related fatalities] were characterized by coincident, preventable factors; breed was not one of these. Study results supported previous recommendations for multifactorial approaches, instead of single-factor solutions such as breed-specific legislation, for dog bite prevention.”
PPG holds that a neutral approach should be taken to evaluate dogs on an individual basis, focusing on behavior and environment, rather than appearance. Singling out specific breeds as dangerous provides the public with an unfair perception of those dogs while potentially creating a false sense of safety as far as other dogs are concerned. PPG believes instead that a combination of the following is needed in order to reduce the number of dog inflicted bites: 

– Public education.

– Owner education.

– Shelter and rescue organization education.

– Positive, early socialization.

– Force-free, science based training.

– Ensuring that dogs are paired within appropriate households.

Breed Specific Legislation Defined

BSL (also known as Breed Discriminatory Legislation) is a law or legal ordinance that restricts or prohibits the ownership of certain breeds (or types) of dogs. In places where BSL has been implemented it varies from a complete ban of certain types of dogs to regulations imposing restrictions on ownership and special requirements including, but not limited to, mandatory muzzling; leash laws; special ‘housing’ (for example, fully enclosed cages); chaining; minimal wall enclosure height; mandatory microchipping; tattoos; registration documents; mandatory spay/neuter policies; yearly veterinary checks and reports stating the animal has no disease or injury that could make him/her ‘especially’ dangerous; prohibited access to public spaces especially, but not limited to, those frequented by children; transfer or sale notification requirements; and registration of the dog on local, provincial and national registries. Other requirements relating to the owner/handler may include minimum age; proof of mental and physical capacity; lack of criminal record; special ‘dangerous dog’ handler’s license; civil responsibility insurance; and proof of training. Note that this list is not exhaustive as the laws and restrictions vary from country to country, state to state, and county to county.

Which Breeds Are Most Often Affected by BSL?

Regulated breeds usually comprise “pit bull” type dogs. However, the breeds targeted vary in different countries and even in different states or counties within the same country. American pit bull terriers, American Staffordshire terriers, American bulldogs, Staffordshire bull terriers and English bull terriers are often included in the “pit bull group,” wherein the term “pit bull” is used generically for a number of closely related breeds such as these. In some cases, too, dogs who are thought to resemble a pit bull are inaccurately labeled, based purely on their appearance. Importantly, a study by Olson, Levy, Norby, Crandalla, Broadhurst, Jacks, Barton and Zimmerman (2015), designed to measure agreement among shelter staff in assigning pit bull-type breed designations to shelter dogs and to compare breed assignments with DNA breed signatures, found that visual identification is unreliable. Their findings included that:

– Animal shelter staff and veterinarians are frequently expected to guess the breed of dogs based on appearance alone.

– Even when observing the same dogs at the same time, shelter staff had only moderate agreement with breed designations.

– One in five dogs genetically identified with pit bull heritage breeds were missed by all shelter staff.

– One in three dogs lacking DNA for pit bull heritage breeds were labeled pit bull-type dogs by at least one staff member.

– Lack of consistency among shelter staff indicates that visual identification of pit bull-type dogs is unreliable.

Other breeds that often find themselves the target of BSL include Rottweilers, mastiffs, chow chows, German shepherds and Doberman pinschers. In Europe, the filo Brasileiro, dogo Argentino, presa Canaria and Japanese tosa are included on many of the lists of dogs affected by breed discriminatory laws. The laws usually target any dog that resembles the listed breed so are ‘type’ specific rather than truly ‘breed’ specific.

Are Breed-Specific Laws Effective?

BSL can and does result in the destruction of dogs. Research, however, would suggest that there is no evidence to support claims that BSL makes communities safer for people or companion animals. Indeed, there is little, if any, evidence to support any claims that BSL has reduced the number of dog bites. Here are some examples:

• Denver, Colorado enacted a breed-specific ban in 1989. Citizens of Denver continue to suffer a higher rate of hospitalization from dog bite-related injuries after the ban, than the citizens of breed-neutral Colorado counties (National Canine Research Council (NCRC), 2013).

• A study by Rosado, García-Belenguer, León and Palacio (2007) compared medically treated dog bites in Aragon, Spain for five years prior to and following enactment of Spain’s Law on the Legal Treatment of the Possession of Dangerous Animals (sometimes referred to Spain’s Dangerous Animal Act) in 2000. The results showed no significant effect in dog bite incidences when comparing before and after enactment of the BSL (NCRC, 2013).

• The Netherlands repealed a 15-year-old breed ban in 2008 after commissioning a study of its effectiveness. The study revealed that BSL was not a successful dog-bite mitigation strategy because it had not resulted in a decrease in dog bites (NCRC, 2013).

• The province of Ontario enacted a breed ban in 2005. In 2010, based on a survey of municipalities across the Province, the Toronto Humane Society reported that, despite five years of BSL and the destruction of “countless” dogs, there had been no significant decrease in the number of dog bites (NCRC, 2013).

• Winnipeg, Manitoba enacted a breed ban in 1990. Winnipeg’s rate of dog bite-injury hospitalizations is virtually unchanged from that day to this, and remains significantly higher than the rate in breed-neutral, responsible pet ownership province of Calgary (NCRC, 2013).

Breed bans continue to prove to be both ineffective and costly. In 2003, for example, it was recommended that the breed ban in Prince George’s County, Maryland, which had cost the county $570,000 over two years in kenneling and maintenance costs, be repealed. A task force declared the ban ineffective. Attempts to enforce the breed ban in the UK have proved expensive, with kenneling costs for confiscated animals alone totaling more than £3 million (US$3.9 million) in the first four years (Bradley, 2014).

Overall, the number of reported dog bites has decreased substantially since the 1970s (NCRC, 2013). Nevertheless, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) (2016), more than 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs in the US annually. Serious bites are, however, relatively rare and no particular breed is more likely to be responsible for them.

In 2007, of the 2,158 dog bites reported to the County of San Diego Department of Animal Services, California, only 7.4 percent were classified as “serious.” (San Diego Department of Animal Services, 2007 (cited in Bathurst, Cleary, Delise, VanKavage, & Rushing (2011)). In a two-year period, from 2007–2008, there were 2,301 bites reported to the Indianapolis Department of Public Safety – Animal Control, Indiana. Only 165, or 7.2 percent, of these reported bites were classified as “severe.” The 165 severe bites were inflicted by 34 different breeds of dogs. (Indianapolis Department of Public Safety, 2008 (cited in Bathurst et al. (2011)). In 2007, only 10 (5.5 percent) of all reported dog bites in Washington D.C., were classified as severe. The 10 severe bites were inflicted by “nine different breeds of dogs.” (Government of District of Columbia, 2007 (cited in Bathurst et al. (2011)).

A study in Ireland (Ó Súilleabháin, 2015), found that current regulations cited under the Control of Dogs Act 1998, whose objectives were to “reduce the incidence and severity of bites from specific dog breeds (11 total, including mixes and strains) deemed capable of inflicting injury requiring hospitalisation more frequently than all other breeds,” have not had the intended effect: “The regulation of these breeds should have resulted in a decreased incidence of hospitalisations, whereas a significant increase in incidence was observed.” (Ó Súilleabháin, 2015).

Ó Súilleabháin pointed out that current regulations may actually have been contributing to increases in hospitalizations due to dog bites: “Regulating breeds places restrictions on dogs that pose little risk and ignores the possibility that any breed is capable of inflicting serious injuries; for example, fatalities have been caused by dogs that fall into the toy breed categorisation (Collier, 2006). Ott et al. (2008) indicated that the breeds currently regulated in Ireland do not possess higher levels of aggression in comparison with other domestic breeds. Breed legislation can mislead the general public into believing that unregulated breeds are less capable of inflicting serious and fatal injuries (Clarke et al., 2013).” (Ó Súilleabháin, 2015).

Who Is Getting Bitten and Why?

Statistics show that the majority of dog bites occur in children or the elderly. The results of a study by Dixon, Mahabee-Gittens, Hart and Lindsell (2012) assessing dog bite prevention knowledge in children concluded: “Our results show a notable lack of awareness and knowledge regarding dog bite prevention among children, as nearly half of child participants failed a dog bite prevention knowledge test based on well-accepted dog bite prevention recommendations. Moreover, based on parent/guardian responses, less than one-third of children had ever received formal dog bite prevention education.”

A lack of appropriate care, supervision and mistreatment of the dog were key components in many dog bite occurrences. According to the NCRC, Patronek et al. identified “a striking co-occurrence of multiple, controllable factors: no able-bodied person being present to intervene (87.1 per cent); the victim having no familiar relationship with the dog(s) (85.2 per cent); the dog(s) owner failing to neuter/spay the dog(s) (84.4 per cent); a victim’s compromised ability, whether based on age or physical condition, to manage their interactions with the dog(s) (77.4 per cent); the owner keeping dog(s) as resident dog(s), rather than as family pet(s) (76.2 per cent); the owner’s prior mismanagement of the dog(s) (37.5 per cent); and the owner’s abuse or neglect of dog(s) (21.1 per cent). Four or more of these factors were present in 80.5 per cent of cases; breed was not one of those factors.” (NCRC, 2013).

Education, Training and Welfare

Taking all the above into account, PPG believes that increasing public safety and continuing to reduce the number of bites is of the utmost importance and that, while canine behavior is complex, many dog bite incidents could be prevented if pet guardians, trainers and legislators were better informed about canine communication and how to act safely around dogs. Canine signs of stress and anxiety can sometimes be subtle, but a greater knowledge of how dogs communicate and how our interactions with them can lead to a greater risk of bites is key to tackling bite prevention.

The importance of this education goes hand-in-hand with positive management strategies; early socialization, as outlined in PPG’sPuppy Socialization Check List,to prepare pets for successful future encounters with people, dogs, new environments and other animals; ensuring that dogs are paired with the appropriate owner(s) and home environment; and force-free, science based training.

In addition, PPG holds that professional force-free trainers have an important role to play in dog bite prevention. The use of non-confrontational, science based, positive operant and respondent training techniques; programs of desensitization and counterconditioning; appropriate socialization; management strategies, and the education of pet dog guardians regarding such topics as canine communication and appropriate force-free pet care and training protocols, are paramount in helping tackle the subject of dog bite prevention and promoting safer communities.

In Section Two of PPG’s Guiding Principles it is stated that: “We always hold the pet’s welfare as our top priority.” (PPG, 2016.). It is PPG’s position that breed specific laws adversely affect a pet’s welfare and are, without doubt, often detrimental to a pet’s psychological and physical well-being. PPG holds that the subject of dog bite prevention and safety should be tackled through breed neutral laws, education, stricter enforcement of animal cruelty legislation and a greater accountability of all pet owners, trainers and legislators for the animal’s welfare.

Countless animal welfare organizations and professional bodies worldwide have issued position statements that comprehensively refute the efficacy of BSL as a means of reducing dog bites and increasing public safety, including the American Veterinary Medical Association, American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior, British Veterinary Association, Best Friends Animal Society, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Humane Society of the United States, Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Australia and Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals UK. All support an end to breed specific laws in favor of breed neutral legislation (laws aimed at ensuring all owners are responsible for the care and control of their dogs, regardless of breed) as do countless renowned specialists in canine behavior, training and communication, a selection of whom are cited below.

What the Experts Say

“Without exception, I stand firmly against BSL. The research has shown time and time again that BSL does not reduce dog bites in the areas where it is enacted, and has caused many innocent dogs to be taken from their families simply because of the way they look.” –Victoria Stilwell, award winning dog trainer and behavioral expert, president of the Victoria Stilwell Academy for Dog Training and Behavior, and CEO of Victoria Stilwell Positively Dog Training.

“PPG’s position is to follow the evidence, which to date strongly suggests that BSL does not achieve the objective of decreasing dog bites or serious dog attacks. Instead, dog guardians should be held responsible for their pets’ conduct, regardless of breed, and dogs who have not offended should not be targeted.” -Jean Donaldson, founder and principal instructor of The Academy for Dog Trainers.

“There is a growing awareness that BSL does not improve community safety and penalizes responsible dog owners and their family companions… Effective laws hold all dog owners responsible for the humane care, custody, and control of all dogs regardless of breed or type.” –Janis Bradley, director of communications and publications, National Canine Research Council.

“Any dog is capable of biting, regardless of breed, sex, or size… With BSL, the veterinary community is put into a challenging position of being asked to identify dog breeds based on appearance, and to report dogs who seem to fit a specified description. Most studies have shown that the visual identification of a breed rarely accurately identified the proper breed when compared to genetic testing.” –Dr. Lynn Honeckman, respected veterinarian.

For a full list of position statements, please seeWhat the Experts Say(PPG, 2016).

Why debate what the experts have already concluded? There is no scientifically valid evidence to support BSL. There is no reasonable argument in its defense, and no evidence to suggest that certain breeds of dogs are more likely to injure or bite than others (NCRC, n.d.). According to the NCRC: “[I]n a recent multifactorial study published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association on the exceptionally rare event of dog bite related fatalities, the researchers identified a striking co-occurrence of multiple, controllable factors in these cases. Breed was not identified as a factor.” (NCRC, 2013).

PPG founder and president Niki Tudge has stated that: “PPG’s role is to educate and engage more pet professionals and pet owners, promoting the science based, result based force-free message, philosophy and training practices. As founder and president of PPG, I believe that this same goal should be applied to all pets. Research shows us that all animals learn in the same way and that each animal is an individual regardless of its breed. Many of our professional members interact, either personally or professionally, with many, if not all, of the breeds affected by breed specific legislation and will bear witness to the fact that animal learning is not breed specific. Just as important, it is critical to the welfare of our pets and their owners that animals are trained using force-free, positive reinforcement philosophies to prevent and mitigate aggressive behaviors due to fall out from the application of using punishment and fear to modify and change.”

Multifactorial Approach

There are several factors that contribute to the potential for dog bites and BSL is erroneous in that it pays no attention to a dog’s behavior (or the guardian’s), but focuses instead on the breed or even the dog’s appearance. It is PPG’s position that public policies should focus rather on the behavior of a particular dog, the behavior of his/her guardian, and the environment they live in. We propose that education is key to preventing the majority of dog bites. A greater knowledge of canine communication should be an essential component of said education, as should more widespread knowledge of the adverse effects of using forceful methods in training and interactions with our pets. Multifactorial approaches are needed if the number of potential dog bite incidents is to be reduced, as outlined above. The ultimate goal would be responsible ownership, including appropriate supervision of pets and the housing of pet dogs as family members in a safe and nurturing environment. The duty of care lies with the guardian, the canine professional and the policy makers. As such, PPG holds that humane and effective treatment of all dogs and breed neutral laws should replace BSL.



American Veterinary Medical Association. (n.d.).Dog Bite Prevention.

American Veterinary Medical Association. (2014, May).Literature Review on the Welfare Implications of the Role of Breed in Dog Bite Risk and Prevention.

Bathurst, C., Cleary, D., Delise, K., VanKavage, L., & Rushing, P. (2011, August).The Problem of Dog-Related Incidents and Encounters. Community Oriented Policing Services, US Department of Justice.

Bradley, J. (2016).Breed-specific Legislation (BSL) FAQ.

Bradley, J. (2014).Dog Bites Problems and Solutions. Animals and Society Institute.

Clarke, T., Cooper, J., & Mills, D. (2013).Acculturation – Perceptions of breed differences in behavior of the dog (Canis familiaris). Human-Animal Interaction Bulletin (1) 2:16-33

Collier, S. (2006, July).Breed-specific legislation and the pit bull terrier: Are the laws justified?Journal of Veterinary Behavior Clinical Applications and Research 1(1).

Dixon, C.A., Mahabee-Gittens, E.M., Hart, K.W., & Lindsell, C.J. (2012, February).Dog Bite Prevention: An Assessment of Child Knowledge.The Journal of Pediatrics 160 (2)337-341.e2.

National Canine Research Council. (n.d.).Our Research Does Not Support Breed-Specific Legislation: Centers for Disease Control and American Veterinary Medical Association Statement.

National Canine Research Council. (2013).Potentially Preventable Husbandry Factors Co-occur in Most Dog Bite Related Fatalities: Co-occurrence Whitepaper.

National Canine Research Council. (2013).Reported bites decreasing.

Olson, K.R., Levy, J.K., Norby, B., Crandalla, M.M., Broadhurst, J.E., Jacks, S., Barton, R.C., & Zimmerman, M.S. (2015, November).Inconsistent identification of pit bull-type dogs by shelter staff.The Veterinary Journal (206) 2197–202.

Ó Súilleabháin, P. (2015, June).Human hospitalisations due to dog bites in Ireland, 1998-2013: Implications for current breed specific legislation.The Veterinary Journal 204(3)357-9.

Ott, S., Schalke, E., Von Gaertner, A.M., Hackbarth, H. (2008, May).Is there a difference? Comparison of golden retrievers and dogs affected by breed-specific legislation regarding aggressive behavior. Journal of Veterinary Behavior (3) 3134–140.

Patronek, G., Sacks, J., Delise, K., Cleary, D., & Marder, A. (2013, December).Co-occurrence of potentially preventable factors in 256 dog bite–related fatalities in the United States (2000–2009).Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (243) 121726-1736.

Pet Professional Guild. (2016).Guiding Principles.

Rosado, B., García-Belenguer, S., León, M., & Palacio, J. (2007).Spanish dangerous animals act: Effect on the epidemiology of dog bites.Journal of Veterinary Behavior (2)166-174.

Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Australia (n.d.).How can we help to prevent dog attacks in the community?


American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Position Statement

American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior Position Statement on Breed Specific Legislation

Australian Veterinary Association – Dangerous dogs: A Sensible Solution

Dog Bite Prevention Month

Doggone Safe Be a Tree

Doggone Safe Speak Dog

National Canine Research Council – Effective v. Ineffective Laws

Pet Professional Guild Puppy Educational Resources

Pet Professional Guild Puppy Socialization Check List

Pet Professional Guild – Ten Questions to Ask Your Dog Training Professional – Before You Hire Them!

Pet Professional Guild – What the Experts Say

Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Australia – What is the RSPCA’s position on breed-specific legislation?


How to Effectively Teach a Hand Target

How to Effectively Teach a Hand Target


The ‘Foundation’ Game


Hand feeding your dog is an excellent way to bond with your dog, to teach your dog that hands are good, and to prevent food dish guarding and aggression.  It is also a great way to set yourself up for success for hand targeting. 

Hand targetTo hand feed your dog, take your dog’s empty food dish and set it on the ground.  Now place your dog’s food in your hand and hold it above the dish.  The dog eats directly out of your hand above his dish. 

The next meal, let some food fall into the dish.  Gradually build up to having more food in the dog’s dish, and less in your hand. Once you have all the food in the dog’s dish, make sure you can take food out and drop food back in while the dog is eating.  If you can’t, back up one or two training steps.  Find the step where your dog is successful, start there, and build up. 

If at any point your dog is growling, shows stress or even snaps, STOP the games and contact your local DogSmith Dog Behavior Consultant. 

Next, start messing with the food dish while your dog eats. Pick up the dish.  Move the dish to different locations. 

For the life of your dog, periodically, like once a month, hand feed your dog.  This will help ensure that the dog maintains a happy attitude about people around his food dish.

If you at any point during this hand feeding training have problems, contact your local DogSmith. 

Some problems are:

  • Dog growls
  • Dog snaps
  • Dog lowers head
  • Dog gets stiff
  • Dog seems tense
  • Dog refuses to eat


For safety reasons STOP hand feeding if you encounter any of the problems listed above and ask your instructor for additional help.

‘Hand Targeting’ Game

Most dog bites occur to human hands.  To help prevent that, we want our dogs to understand that hands are good.  Human hands should always indicate something pleasurable to your dog. If your dog is fearful of human hands, please tell your instructor so your dog can be evaluated and you can receive proper coaching to prevent your dog from possibly biting a human hand. 

Hand targeting is a fun game for your dog to learn that hands are a source of good things. You can prompt hand targeting by hiding your closed hand behind your back and then quickly opening your hand and flashing it in front of your dog’s nose. Most dogs will sniff your hand or move toward your hand; click and reinforce this. Quickly begin requiring that your dog touch his nose to your hand. Once you consistently get your dog to touch his nose to your hand, begin presenting your hand from a variety of angles. When your dog is consistently successful from a variety of angles, you can name the behavior ‘nose.’ 

If you are not successful, speak to your DogSmith. Your dog may be afraid of hands, which is a potentially serious issue. 


‘Hands Are Good’ Maintenance Game

Object Exchange

To start playing this game, whenever your dog picks up an object with his mouth give him attention. You want to teach your dog that picking things up is a good idea. When your dog picks up objects, you are setting the foundation for playing fetch and teaching your dog useful tricks like picking up objects you have dropped. If you scold a dog for using his mouth it is possible to destroy the retrieving behavior. 

If your dog grabs an object you do not want him to have, resist the temptation to chase him. Being chased is a usually a huge reinforcement to dogs. The behavior of grabbing objects you don’t want your dog to touch will actually increase!

However it is a great idea to chase your dog when he is playing with one of his own toys. That way you are reinforcing him for playing with his own toys – that is excellent training! 

So back to the object exchange. When your dog has a toy or object in his mouth, gently approach and give your dog food or another toy that is of HIGHER value to the dog. When your dog drops the toy, click and reinforce.  When your dog understand to drop the toy or object you can add the cue of ‘give’ or ‘drop’.  Next, have him ‘give’ toy A, and click and reinforce with toy B or food. This is object exchange. From the dog’s perspective, giving up the toy A is not a big deal, because you are giving him toy B or food that is of greater value. Win/Win!

‘Collar Handling’ Games

 Another way to create a dog that is unhappy about hands is to quickly grab your dog’s collar. So instead make collar grabbing a game. 

  • Gently reach for your dog’s collar and toss a cookie on the floor, repeat five times. You are creating an association between reaching for your dog’s collar and food. This should result in a ‘yippee’ effect reaction to you reaching for the dog’s collar
  • Next touch the collar and toss a cookie on the floor, repeat 5 times
  • Finally, grab your dog’s collar and toss a cookie on the floor.  As before, repeat 5 times. 

Do the same thing with a body harness if your dog wears both. If you ever have to grab your dog roughly by the collar because it is an emergency, be sure to do some ‘collar-cookie’ games afterwards to undo any fear you may have triggered. Be aware that small dogs are much more likely to have a fearful response of having their collar grabbed. Also dogs with reactivity issues that are consistent with poor impulse control can get fearful or angry if their collar is grabbed. Do not work with dogs outside of your range of experience or capability. Dog reactivity is a very serious issue and needs to be coached very carefully by experienced dog behavior consultants or by a trainer working under the supervision of a dog behavior consultant.

‘Body Handling’ Games

Just like collar grabbing the following should be trained to elicit a happy response from dogs:

  1. Being picked up off the ground
  2. Having feet handled
  3. Having all body parts handled
  4. Being bent over
  5. Being groomed
  6. Being playfully slapped – to be over prepared for handling
  7. Being playfully touched with a foot – to prevent a fear response if you accidentally kick your dog
  8. Heavy pressure restraining hug – to prepare for vet visits


Nail trimming and bathing can be in the category of tolerated. Most dogs dislike both so much that it can be a significant challenge to counter condition both behaviors. This goes beyond the capabilities of many pet owners.

Happy Hand Targeting Training!