Why We Are a Fear-Free and Force-Free Company

Updated: Nov 22, 2021

Training and handling dogs without using force or fear is no less essential to their welfare than providing safe housing, nutrition, or medical care.

Written by Jenny Efimova of The Happy Dog

How we treat animals under our care matters. It’s as simple as that. How we talk to, handle, and train dogs matters. It matters literally and figuratively—it matters both in terms of outcomes and ethics.

The world of dog training (and pet care in general) has evolved greatly over the last several decades. Our understanding of how dogs learn and what motivates them has changed due to the significant advances in behavior science research. Outdated theories on dominance are making way for modern, science-based approaches. Unfortunately, the world of dog training still remains largely unregulated. This means that just about anyone can train and take care of your dog, without any required experience, credentials, or education. And they can use pretty much any method they like, regardless of whether it’s effective or humane.

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With this in mind, we want to be transparent about our philosophy and approach to working with dogs. Here’s what we mean when we say we are a force-free company:

  • We believe it is far more effective to teach dogs what we want them to do while managing the environment so that problem behaviors aren’t practiced, and desirable behaviors are easily achieved.

Teaching dogs by motivating them and reinforcing behaviors we want is more effective, more humane, and leads to a far better relationship between dogs and their people. This is true for all dogs, regardless of breed, age, size, or temperament. Punishment only works by temporarily suppressing behavior, but it doesn’t teach the dog what to do instead, and it doesn’t address the underlying cause of the behavior. We use positive reinforcement techniques to reward dogs for behaviors we want to see more of, and we manage the environment so that our dogs are set up for success. This is why we never walk more than three dogs at once, and take great care to ensure that all dogs walking together have been appropriately matched.

  • We know that dogs learn through both consequences and associations. For this reason, pain-based equipment such as prong, shock, and choke collars carry risks for long-term behavioral side effects including stress, generalized fear, anxiety, and aggression.

We use humane walking equipment, including front and back clipping harnesses. We pay attention to our dogs’ body language and proactively work to avoid situations they may find stressful.

  • We are committed to creating an empowering, compassionate, and stress-free walking and learning environment for every dog.

We want our dogs to enjoy their walks with freedom to sniff and safely explore at their own pace. We provide additional enrichment services so that all of our dogs have stimulating and rewarding experiences, both at home and outside. Our pet care approach relies on teaching dogs what we want them to do without using force, fear or coercion.

Finally, we believe that dogs, much like all living creatures, thrive when they’re given opportunities to make choices and have greater control over their environment.

Thankfully, we no longer need to use punitive methods to work with dogs, because we now know better. And when we know better, we must do better.

Based on current scientific evidence, AVSAB recommends that only reward-based training methods are used for all dog training, including the treatment of behavior problems.

Read their position statement Please read the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants position statement: Least Intrusive Minimally Aversive approach to behavior modification and training.

Helpful resources:

What is Fear Free?

Dog Collars, Harnesses, and Leashes: Fear Free Choices

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