Position Papers

Gigi Moss Dog Training uses positive reinforcement methods, classical conditioning, and operant conditioning to shape dogs into happy, well-behaved, and reliable companions.

Essentially, the various forms of reward-based training harness dogs’ natural willingness to do what we ask. It’s a humane way to bridge the communication gap between species and to show dogs clearly what we want and expect.

Dogs trained via positive feedback remain eager and interested in us and in learning. They find it pretty fun, actually.

Dog trainers who focus on positive reinforcement are not permissive or pushovers, as so many critics claim. We absolutely focus on the times dogs get it “right,” but when they get it “wrong” or do something annoying, we don’t punish them. We simply don’t reward them and instead withdraw our attention.

When dogs learn that good behavior earns rewards, including our attention, then withdrawing that contact in a non-confrontational, non-emotional way is a very powerful learning tool. Positive Reinforcement

Gigi Moss Dog Training does not use or recommend shock collars because they cause pain, stress, and lasting negative behavioral effects on the dog, including fear and aggression. Shock collars are an example of punishment-based training.

In one 2003 study of guard dogs in training, researchers found that shock collar training is, “stressful, that receiving shocks is a painful experience to dogs, and that the S-dogs evidently have learned that the presence of their owner (or his commands) announces reception of shocks, even outside of the normal training context. This suggests that the welfare of these shocked dogs is at stake, at least in the presence of their owner.”

In a statement released in 2009, the North American Veterinary Conference Post Graduate Institute in Advanced Clinical Behavioral Medicine advised pet owners, “Never, under any circumstances, choose a dog trainer who uses an electronic collar (shock collar).”

In 2005, noted veterinary behaviorist, Karen Overall, M.A., VMD., PhD, Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Behavior wrote that, “Shock is not training – in the vast majority of cases it meets the criteria for abuse.”

To minimize this reality, some refer to shock collars as electronic collars (or e-collars) or remote training collars, but they all do the same thing – deliver a shock to the dog’s tender neck area. To justify their use, some people will refer to the sensation as a “tickle” or “buzz,” but as several online videos clearly show, it’s much more painful than that, whether triggered by a dog barking or by a person using a remote to initiate the shock. Shock Collars [PDF]

Gigi Moss Dog Training does not use dominance dog training or punishment.

Generation ago, most dog trainers used punishment, corrections, or aversive techniques to teach dogs. These methods stem from now outdated and debunked theory that dogs misbehave because they seek a higher position in the pack. In the vast majority of situations, this is not the case at all.

Yet, dominance-style dog training has seen resurgence in recent years both on TV and online. Sadly, dominance theory often results in people hurting, scaring, or intimidating dogs. Dogs trained this way may indeed stop doing “bad” things or may comply with “commands,” but they do so not because they enjoy it but because they are afraid not to comply.

It’s such a concern that the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior, among others in the veterinary and dog training professions, developed a lengthy position paper addressing dominance theory and its use in dog training. It reads in part: “AVSAB is concerned with the recent re-emergence of dominance theory and forcing dogs and other animals into submission as a means of preventing and correcting behavior problems … it can cause one to use punishment, which may suppress aggression without addressing the underlying cause. Because fear and anxiety are common causes of aggression and other behavior problems, including those that mimic resource guarding, the use of punishment can directly exacerbate the problem by increasing the animal’s fear or anxiety.” The paper on Dominance Theory includes a detailed Q&A addressing the myths surrounding “wolf behavior as it relates to dogs.”

Additional reading on the topic:

The paper includes a detailed Q&A addressing the myths surrounding “wolf behavior as it relates to dogs.” 

A big part of dog training involves teaching people how best to communicate with their dogs. To aid in that educational process, I developed these position statements on key issues.