Updated: Jun 5, 2020
Fear-free training is the act of teaching an animal without pain, intimidation, threat, force, or coercion. No corrections, no harmful tools (prongs, slip leads, choke chains, etc) and absolutely no physical force. We will use appropriate gear such as harnesses and standard leads as these keep our dogs safe when in public, but we show you how to use them correctly and will never use them as tools for discipline or in a harmful way. Modern dog training uses a system of positive reinforcement to modify behaviours through controlling the consequences. The focus is on reinforcing the positive, rather than correcting behaviours that we don’t like. This means we are able to train dogs without any force or physical contact necessary!
A study by Deldalle and Gaunet in 2013 (Effects of two training methods on stress-related behaviours of the dog (Canis familiaris) and on the dog-owner relationship) found that 65% of the discipline-based trained dogs showed at least one sign of stress, compared to only 8% of the positively train dogs. Common stress signals such as mouth licking (38% discipline; 8% positive), yawning (23% discipline; 0% positive), and low posture (46% discipline; 8% positive) were the most predominately expressed in the study. Dogs (just like humans) will avoid looking at things that raise their stress levels or make them uncomfortable, that being said only 38% of the discipline trained dogs looked at their owners faces while a staggering 88% of the positively trained dogs made eye contact!
When you really stop to think about it, zoos all over the world are now implementing force-free practices with animals such as tigers, elephants and bears... if these dangerous animals can be successfully trained using these types of positive methods why can't your dog? Always question a prospective trainer or behaviourist on their practices, if they aren't fear free then they cannot ethically declare that they are using up-to-date theory to help your dog. When there are better ways of doing things (kinder, gentler and focused on creating a bond over fighting for leadership rights) you have to ask yourself, doesn't your dog deserve the best? Science supports yes, they do, but the choice is yours to make.