Relationship between training methods, owner attitudes and frequency of problem behaviors in pet dogs (Canis familiaris)
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Problem behaviors such as aggression and destructive behavior are the primary reason why pet dogs are relinquished to animal shelters. These behaviors often pose a risk to humans as well as to other animals. Two factors believed to influence the occurrence of problem behaviors include dog owners' attitudes and owner use of training methods. In this study, dog owners were recruited to participate in an online survey. Survey items included questions about their own dog's behavior, their attitudes towards different kinds of training techniques and approaches to dog management, and questions about the kinds of training methods that they used. Positive owner attitude towards the use of positive punishment techniques significantly predicted owner reports of more dog behavior problems, and fewer good dog behaviors. Anthropomorphic attitudes significantly predicted more problem behavior. Owners' use of positive punishment methods also significantly predicted problem behavior, while use of positive reinforcement significantly predicted more good-dog behaviors. Results add to evidence suggesting the use of positive punishment contributes to problem behaviors in pet dogs and that the use of positive reinforcement may be useful in reducing problem behavior. Further, anthropomorphic attitudes and owners approving of positive punishment may contribute to the development of problems behaviors. Problem behaviors may develop from use of punishment due to decreased welfare and increased stress; anthropomorphic attitudes contribute to problem behaviors by predicting owners' use of punishment. Positive reinforcement may increase welfare in animal and thus account for the lack of correlation with problem behavior.
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