As pet owners we tend to focus our training efforts on young animals and indeed this is a very important time in their mental development. But animals continue to learn throughout life – every second of every day they are absorbing information from their environment and make decisions based on how their brain processes this information.
When animals are anxious or stressed their brains become reactive and pessimistic which causes them to process and respond to their environment inappropriately.
At BBVS we aim to treat the mental health of the animal so that it can learn more acceptable responses using behavioural modification techniques based on the principles of learning theory and force free training.
Behavioural science recognises that all animals (including us!) learn the same way via classical and operant conditioning (the fundamental concepts of learning theory).
In classical conditioning, an animal learns to associate certain events with certain outcomes. For example, dogs quickly learn to identify their owner picking up the leash with being taken out for a walk.
In contrast, operant conditioning involves the animal making associations between its own behaviour and certain outcomes or consequences.
As trainers and owners we can therefore influence the animals’ behaviour by influencing the ‘consequence’ it receives.
In learning theory, giving something to the animal (can be good or bad) is described as positive; whilst taking something away is described as negative.
And if the consequence of the behaviour makes the behaviour more likely to reoccur it is classified as ‘reinforcement’; whilst if the consequence makes the behaviour less likely to reoccur it is classified as ‘punishment’.
Therefore, using this terminology, giving the animal something to encourage it to repeat a behaviour, is classified as ‘positive reinforcement’.
Force free training focuses on positive reinforcement; and it is not only EXTREMELY successful in shaping their behaviour; it also helps strengthen the human-animal bond because it promotes a positive emotional state.
However, as with all training, correct timing is important for it to be effective and we will work with you to refine this.
At BBVS we DO NOT utilise nor condone methods that are coercive to the animal.
Not only are there obvious welfare issues involved but it is generally far less successful in changing the animals behaviour. What often ends up happening is the animal becomes stressed and confused whilst the owner feels guilty. The animal’s behaviour does not improve and the bond between owner and pet is diminished – a poor outcome for everyone.
A force free approach to training is absolutely VITAL when dealing with ‘sensitive’ pets.
In an animal that is predisposed to fear and anxiety any form of aversive training will cause an increase in mental stress. This is not only detrimental to the animal in question, it increases the risk of the animal exhibiting aggression which can be very dangerous.
We do not work with trainers that continue to base their training on the outdated and scientifically disproven dominance theory , which promotes physical control of the animal.
This is not just because of the potential welfare implications associated with these methods. It is because they do not represent what is now known about animal social structures and how they themselves communicate and form relationships.
BBVS has good working relationships with several excellent trainers in the local area. If a trainer is required for ongoing behavioural modification we will, where possible, recommend an appropriate one for you and your pet.