Positive Reinforcement and "LIMA"

Why I use positive reinforcement and LIMA-based training and behavior modification methods, and other important and misunderstood information about how dogs learn

Simply put, reinforcing the good stuff works the best in most circumstances, and keeps your pup eager to keep working for you! All of the current scientific research shows that dogs learn best when we build a cooperative bond, set good boundaries and enforce behaviors we want, consistently. 

Let's all move past the old "Dominance/Alpha" Theories we now know are debunked and disrespectful to your dog! Learn more HERE

We know that haphazardly applying any type of punishment or aversive does NOT really teach dogs, but instead startles them and creates conflict and stress. This can lead to frustration, over-excitement and anxiety, tension and aggression. (*See my Blog article about shock collar usage HERE.) With punishment methods, you'll see less listening, less cooperation, less trust and less offering of GOOD behaviors. They may have an immediate response by stopping the undesirable behavior, but internally there is a negative association with YOU or anything/anyone around them, not the behavior they were doing. So, they'll repeat that "bad" behavior. Unless, we use those moments as a teaching opportunity instead. We want to say "Do THIS instead!" That is accomplished by using reinforcers like treats, praise, freedom, play, a walk, access in or out, meals and attention to show our pups what we DO like. They are more likely to repeat behaviors that have good outcomes associated, those moments have a stronger impression in their minds than a "No!" or "Stop!" or "Bad dog!" Those only convey "I am angry!" and provide ZERO information after for the dog to willingly learn or choose to do next time. A conflicted dog will repeat these mistakes, make undesirable choices, become stressed and anxious and will avoid your guidance aka tune you out.

Aversive methods like water spray bottles, pennies in a can, rolled up newspaper, a person yelling "No!" and other forms of behavior modification/interruption that elicit a startle response fall under the same category as positive punishment. Sure, you may get that initial response, but then we lose the moment to fear, like a turtle in their shell when startled. Instead, we want an engaged, curious and happy mind that's open to us and our influence!

There are simply BETTER WAYS and these outdated methods are now know to be detrimental to our dogs emotional, psychological and even physical health and should be avoided or only used as a last resort under the care and guidance of a highly trained, educated, dedicated and experienced dog training professional who has a deep understanding of how to ethically apply such methods.

What Is LIMA?

"LIMA" is an acronym for the phrase "least intrusive, minimally aversive." LIMA describes a trainer or behavior consultant who uses the least intrusive, minimally aversive strategy out of a set of humane and effective tactics likely to succeed in achieving a training or behavior change objective. LIMA adherence also requires consultants to be adequately educated and skilled in order to ensure that the least intrusive and aversive procedure is used.

LIMA does not justify the use of punishment in lieu of other effective interventions and strategies. In the vast majority of cases, desired behavior change can be affected by focusing on the animal's environment, physical well-being, and operant and classical interventions such as differential reinforcement of an alternative behavior, desensitization, and counter-conditioning."

So, trainers who don't adhere to this current professional standard- might want to rethink about how dogs learn, and not just what makes US feel less frustrated in the moment. The "quick fix" is NOT usually the best fix.

Operant Conditioning (Skinnerian) Methods

Great resource HERE for more details about how we use Operant Conditioning to Influence Dog's Behaviors

Classical Conditioning Methods (Basic Learning)

Great resource HERE for more details about how we use Classical Conditioning to Influence Dog's Behaviors

Respondent Conditioning (Pavlovian Conditioning)

AVSAB: How to Choose a Trainer

AVSAB: Position Statement on Human Dog Training

AVSAB: Position Statment on the Use of Dominance Theory in Behavior Modification of Animals

AVSAB: Position Statement on Positive Veterinary Care