An aversive is something that is used to punish a dog for doing something we perceive to be wrong.
At Four Paws we will only
use positive, reward-based training and will only
rehome to families that do the same.
Aversives can range from simply saying the word 'no' to shouting, manhandling, scruffing, alpha-rolling, choke chains, water sprays, rattle bottles all the way up to shock collars
. While not all of these methods may cause actual pain, they will induce fear - hence they are an aversive.
While on the surface these methods might appear to work as they may stop the dog from doing whatever it is you don't want him to do, what they have actually done is to suppress the dog's warning signs that he is unhappy with a situation (growling or barking, etc). The dog's underlying emotional response has not changed. In fact, the dog's already negative feelings about the situation will have been reinforced by use of the aversive. Not only will the situation remain fearful for him, he will now also be fearful of what you - his handler - are going to do to him as well :'(.
Suppressing the warning signals is a very dangerous thing to do. There may well come a point where your dog becomes so stressed out by the situation he is in (as his underlying emotional response has not changed) that he cannot contain his fear any longer and lashes out. These are dogs that go from zero to full bite in the blink of an eye. No prior warning that he is uncomfortable.
In the case of fear aggression or resource guarding, this is where a good
behaviourist is worth their weight in gold and will be able to give you methods for managing the situation while you work on changing the underlying emotional response to one of a positive association.
In cases such as inappropriate chewing, etc, then it may be a little complicated as your dog may be chewing due to boredom, lack of exercise (physical and mental), stress, separation anxiety... However, re-directing your dog's attention onto something else (so showing him what he is
allowed to do) will work much better than just telling him what he can't do.
Most of us will be able to tell our dog 'no' without it being considered an aversive - as long as we then go onto give the dog something he is allowed to do and is fun for him
Continually telling him no without showing him what he can
do could result in the dog trying out all sorts of behaviours in the hope of finding one that pleases you. If nothing pleases you then he may well just stop trying and shut down completely
Positive does not mean permissive, so it does not mean that boundaries are not set. No one wants to live with an out of control dog
. It's just that the boundaries need to be set by showing the dog what is expected and rewarding for that, rather than punishing for doing what we perceive to be wrong. Your dog has no sense of right and wrong - he will just do what works for him!
Also posted under Behavioural Issues.