Aversion Training for Dogs

by Quentin Coleman
In the United States, 100,000 dogs suffer snake bites every year.

In the United States, 100,000 dogs suffer snake bites every year.

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Teaching your dog to obey basic training commands like "sit" or "come" revolves around positive reinforcement, which associates a pleasant outcome with the desired action. Aversion training is the opposite. Aversion conditioning gives your pet negative associations with things you want him to avoid.

Purpose

Aversion training is an unpleasant experience for your pup, but it could end up saving his life. Several good reasons exist for conditioning a dog to avoid certain stimuli. Rattlesnake aversion training is commonplace in western areas of the United States where dogs have a high chance of encountering one of these venomous creatures. You can also train your dog to avoid pursuing endangered animals. Some New Zealand dog owners condition their pets to avoid kiwi birds, since canines are a leading cause of the species' decline, according to the New Zealand Department of Conservation.

Method

The majority of aversion trainers use an electronic shock collar to condition dogs, according to Sgt. Lou Castle, past president of the Los Angeles County Police Canine Association, in an article on the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point website. The goal of the training is to associate pain, or another negative sensation, with exposure to the avoidance target. It's recommended that you turn the collar all the way down, then slowly increase the strength of the shock collar just until it provokes a reaction from your dog. The collars aren't deadly when properly used, but you don't want to hurt your pup more than necessary. With the same method, you can also use aversion training to stop your dog from chasing wildlife or participating in other undesirable activities.

Professional Training

If you want to put your dog through aversion training for rattlesnakes or other wild animals, it's best to let a professional handle it. Your pup has to experience the sight and smell of the avoidance target, which means he needs to get close to a live specimen. Unless you are confident in your snake-handling skills, doing this yourself could be very dangerous. Some establishments can conduct a training session in about 15 minutes, according to Thunder Paws Dog Training. While a professional will charge you a fair amount for her time, the vet bills from a nasty snake bite could end up costing you a lot more.

Preventing Bad Behavior

Aversion training is effective, but it's not foolproof. That's why you should train your dog to obey basic verbal commands and keep him on a leash whenever he's out for a walk. Start teaching your dog to respond to your commands when he's young. Use positive reinforcement to encourage obedience, and reprimand your dog sternly when he doesn't listen. Avoid using shock collars for obedience training unless positive reinforcement techniques fail. Consider consulting a dog trainer to whip your unruly pup into shape if you aren't having any luck.

Photo Credits

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About the Author

Quentin Coleman has written for several news publications as well as the University of Delaware's public relations department. He also spent more than 10 years working with a local animal shelter to help nurse kittens, treat sick cats and domesticate feral animals. Coleman graduated from the University of Delaware with a bachelor's degree in journalism.

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