Team Dog is an organisation based in Sydney, Australia that is all about promoting sensible, science-driven animal welfare practices, supporting pet owners, and working towards a safe, humane Australia. We know that shelters with open minds that embrace progressive sheltering techniques wholeheartedly will be rewarded with the joy of celebrating the end of euthanasia of adoptable animals within their organisations.
We respect everyone’s choice to use which training tools are best for their pets or for their clients. We also believe that being open to all training tools gives individual dogs more options, and allows trainers to help more dogs. This is absolutely crucial in a sheltering world of timeframes – where otherwise great animals that are not easily controllable while on leash or have treatable behaviour issues can end up being killed for that behaviour if it can’t be rectified in a realistic timeframe.
All tools have the potential for misuse and abuse – even the simple flat collar and lead. Similarly, all tools have the potential for humane and effective use, sometimes enabling a life to be saved, allowing a dog to go for a walk that otherwise wasn’t, or preventing an animal being surrendered to a shelter in the first place.
We would like to see an end to the demonising of some training tools or techniques, and the trainers/owners who use them judiciously and skilfully. This black and white approach can result in reluctance of some trainers to use these tools to save suitable dogs lest their name be dragged through the mud by their peers. The real and very sad result can be dogs being killed in shelters – nice dogs – that could have otherwise been saved.
This isn’t to say that we think these tools and techniques should be used for every dog, or that every single trainer must embrace them personally, it just means that we feel strongly that each individual dog, owner and situation must be assessed on a case-by-case basis so the best possible decision for that animal’s future and longevity can be made.
One thing that we feel must be present in large volumes in all training is positive reinforcement – plenty of positive feedback (through food, toys, or anything else the dog finds valuable) to make training fun and teach dogs which behaviours we want from them. The bulk of all our training dog with dogs must be positive reinforcement based, and our dogs should look forward to the training process. The LIMA principle (Least Invasive, Minimally Aversive) is a great one to keep in mind. Contrary to how some may characterise this principle, it does not preclude the use of aversives or positive punishment.
Those that have followed Team Dog’s work have become part of a community that pushes blaming and shaming aside; a community that looks at the many shades of grey in animal welfare, and realises that the answer is rarely black and white. We ask that our peers and our community stop putting in blockades to adoption, and begin to recognise those shades of grey.
Instead of focusing on what tools are being used, let’s focus on whether a dog is happy and engaged with his handler. Instead of calling people names for using certain tools, let’s focus on whether they are achieving the desired behaviour change in a skillful manner without excessive stress to the dog.
Let’s recognise that there are some situations, particularly in sheltering, where a tool or technique will save a life, directly or indirectly. Let’s put the shaming aside, and focus on the positive. Let’s put our time and effort into fighting actual animal cruelty, rather than fighting people who are practicing life-saving strategies. Let’s be heroes in our community, and be part of the solution.
Note: Team Dog recognises that E-collars are illegal for use in NSW. While we believe the legislation is flawed, we do not encourage any pet owner within NSW to breach it.