Uniting Pet Professionals to Improve Animal Welfare
Over the past 30 years, we have seen great strides in the care and understanding of dogs. The Hierarchy of Dog Needs shown below is a comprehensive summary of the current understanding of our dog’s needs. Pet professionals are tasked with helping us achieve the best possible care for our pets. Every professional whether they are a store clerk, manufacturer of dog products, veterinarian, trainer, or groomer will have either a positive or detrimental impact on our dogs’ lives. One of the primary goals of Force Free Oregon is to provide a directory of trustworthy pet professionals who adhere to Force Free methodology and seek continued learning and professional development. We aim to provide one central place to find Force Free trainers, dog walkers, daycares, veterinarians, and groomers that reside in Oregon.
Why Force Free?
Our dogs need to feel safe, loved, and able to trust us. Force Free methods help our dogs feel safe so that they don’t feel the need to bark, lunge, or bite. Force Free methods help us build our social bond with our dogs while dominance oriented methods detrimentally impact our bond
Research has consistently shown that the use of aversive techniques such as prong, shock, or choke collars have detrimental effects on our dogs' welfare and behavior.
Dr. Karen Overall, Ph.d., a veterinary behaviorist who adopted and treated Flash, a dog that had put 3 people in the hospital before coming to her home, said this in a 2019 paper ” Contrary to popular belief, efficacy data for aversive, punishment-based interventions are lacking. However, studies have demonstrated that adverse behavioral outcomes are associated with punitive training methods among dogs in the general population and dogs seen at specialty behavioral medicine practices.”
In this 2017 paper, the use of punishment-based training was one of the risk factors for euthanasia or rehoming of dogs contradictory to prevailing dog myths. Stanley Coren, Ph.D., discusses the science of using punishment to change dog behavior in this blog. Dr. Zazie Todd’s list of research papers and research related blogs on dog training can be found here. We have provided a shortlist of research papers at the end of this blog.
Why are Biological, Social, and Emotional Needs prioritized Before Training?
Many behavioral problems are a result of unmet biological, social, and emotional needs. We need to address the dog holistically instead of covering up underlying problems with training. When dogs’ social needs are met, demand barking and other attention seeking behaviors decrease. The function of the aggressive displays is to keep scary things away. When we help dogs feel safe, most aggressive displays disappear. Proper nutrition, sleep, and exercise can also go a long way in addressing behavioral problems. Pet stores, groomers, veterinarians, dog walkers, daycares play very important roles in these layers of the pyramid.
But my profession isn't involved in dog training, how does Force Free relate to us?
Unfortunately, many trainers using scientifically backed methods have sent their clients to a veterinarian to rule out medical problems, only to find some veterinarians recommending aversive methods such as shock collars, prong collars, and alpha roles. One of the goals of the directory to help trainers direct their clients to veterinary clinics who will only give scientifically sound behavioral advice and to help veterinarians easily refer their clients to trainers who follow the same Do No Harm ethics. Together we can reduce the number of dogs euthanized for behavioral issues and network together to bring more patients and clients to each practice.
A basic understanding of dog body language and behavior facilitates safer and less stressful veterinary visits for all involved. A fundamental understanding of Force Free methods helps veterinary clinics provide Fear Free veterinary care by learning to prevent fear from developing when possible, to recognize fear, and understand how to address it, and. Small changes can make a big difference.
Force Free Oregon endorses veterinary clinics who have taken time out of their busy schedule to learn how to make veterinary visits less stressful through the Fear Free program or Sophia Yin’s Low Stress Handling. Dr. Karen Overall, DVM, wrote a succinct summary of behavior related research applicable to veterinary clinics in this paper. AAHA behavior management guidelines are another great resource geared toward veterinary clinics. Applying what you learn in these programs can increase your revenue and client retention rate!
The products you choose to carry, recommend, and the advice your employees give all influence pet parents’ interactions with their dogs. Who you invite to use your store for talks, seminars, and vaccine clinics can have a significant impact on your clientele’ perception of your store, training methods, and experience in your store. Force Free Oregon Stores pledge to avoid carrying and recommending aversive training equipment. When a client asks for behavioral advice, be sure that the advice your employees give is up to date Force Free advice or refer them to a Force Free Trainer. Understanding the fundamentals of Force Free dog training can improve sales by knowing what products the local trainers will be recommending to clients. Providing your staff training in dog body language can reduce the risk of dog bites or fights happening in your store because your staff will be better prepared to know when to step in and intervene. Force Free Oregon has a section in the directory for Force Free professionals available for talks and seminars to make it as easy as possible to select professionals that can be trusted to provide your clients and employees with safe humane and effective information.
Photo Credit: Fang! Pet & Garden Supply
Veterinarians have one of the most challenging jobs in the pet related professions. They are tasked with retaining vast amounts of medical knowledge and diagnosing species that can’t speak to them as well as the emotionally draining task of providing our pets a humane death. Behavioral issues cause the untimely euthanasia of many dogs.
Veterinary practices are often the first to see puppies and often the first to provide behavior advice and having the potential to note and address behavioral problems early. Veterinary care is deeply rooted in scientific medically appropriate interventions: Force Free methods are the scientifically endorsed behavioral interventions.
When Madison Veterinary Hospital changed their behavioral advice from dominance based methods to positive reinforcement and started a Puppy Kindergarten Class they observed that the percentage of dogs that stayed in the home for at least 2 years improved from 33 % to 94% among those who attended the class!
Force Free methods make the difference between a relaxed dog, cooperative with grooming, and a dog that is progressively more terrified with every visit and harder to groom. Making a few changes to your routine, learning body language, and how to apply counter conditioning can help dogs become calm and confident.
Happy relaxed dogs lead to better referrals, better client retention, and a less stressful workplace.
Force Free Oregon wants to make it easier to identify great groomers that can help introduce puppies to how grooming can be a pleasant experience and help adult dogs leave fears behind. We encourage groomers to take the Fear Free Groomer Certificate Course. Have a client that needs more help than you can provide? Force Free Oregon makes finding humane trainers easy to find that can help your client overcome fears.
Photo Credit: Do No Harm Dog Training
Managing groups of dogs so that all dogs have an enjoyable visit requires in depth knowledge and understanding of body language, dog arousal levels, appropriate play interactions, and techniques to successfully redirect dogs in a humane manner.
Dogs can learn practical life skills while at daycare. Force Free methods can greatly ease the redirection of dogs without aversives and prevent unpleasant interactions and displays of aggression. We count on our Force Free daycares to clearly communicate the methods they use with their dogs and how their dogs are doing in daycare. Daycares are not suitable for every dog, but some dogs just need a few changes among play buddies, the environment, or the schedule to greatly improve their experience. Patricia McConnell and Two Brown Dogs have put together this resource.
Every pet professional has the opportunity to help pets live happy and fulfilling lives.
We hope you will join us as we work towards a society where pets are cared for with
scientifically endorsed humane care.
American Animal Hospital Association Behavior Management Guidelines
The late Dr. Sophia Yin compiled a complete collection of educational resources for veterinarians, groomers, trainers, and owners. She created the premier resource for handling and restraint in the veterinary setting with as little stress as possible to the animals. https://lowstresshandling.com
Fear Free ® is an educational program that is continually growing and offering new online classes. It is a valuable resource for all pet professionals. https://fearfreepets.com
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Burrows, K. E., Adams, C. L., & Millman, S. T. (2008). Factors Affecting Behavior and Welfare of Service Dogs for Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, 11(1), 42–62. https://doi.org/10.1080/10888700701555550
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An experienced and knowledgeable dog walker can make a big difference in a dog's life. Many dogs need help learning leash manners. Dog walkers using Force Free methods can rapidly help dogs improve leash manners, making walks more pleasant at both ends of the leash. Force Free training methods help ensure that the dog has a fun and enriching walk.
Understanding body language helps prevent dog bites and is critical knowledge to advising the pet parent as to whether the current walking plan is the best option for their pet. Dog Biz provides some educational resources for dog walkers. See the resources section of this blog for some links to body language resources.