Aversive dog training is related to higher incidences of behaviour problems, aggression and fear in dogs according to Researcher, Ziv G (2017)’s article ‘The effects of using aversive training methods in dogs – A review’ in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior.

Domestic dogs are an integral part of human culture, and their welfare is an important concern for owners, caretakers, veterinarians, behaviour specialists, and all those working or handling
them. Much controversy exists in the veterinary and the dog training community regarding the efficacy and possible negative unintended outcomes of various training methods of dogs.

Dog training methods involve either pleasant or unpleasant methods of encouraging behavioural change in the dog. Pleasant methods include rewards-based training, while unpleasant methods involve punishment or negative reinforcement, where performing the correct behaviour results in an unpleasant stimulus being removed.

The author argues that for negative reinforcement to occur, an unpleasant stimulus must first be applied to the dog, and thus negative reinforcement also involves an element of punishment as well. This article reviews the impacts of different training methods on the behaviour and welfare of dogs and the implications for dog welfare.

Research comparing different training methods consistently found that using training methods based on punishment and negative reinforcement were related to higher incidences of behaviour problems, aggression and fear in dogs. One study found that aversive training techniques were also associated with higher levels of dog-to-dog aggression. Importantly, there was no evidence that aversive training methods were any more effective than reward-based training.

Use of electric shock collars in aversive dog training

The use of electric-shock collars was also reviewed, with almost all studies showing that various types of shock collars pose risks to dog welfare. One study showed that dogs began to associate the shocks with the presence of the handler, and showed signs of stress during non-training activities.

In conclusion, the authors expressed concern for the welfare of dogs trained using aversive training methods, particularly when being training by nonprofessionals who may implement the unpleasant stimuli inconsistently, or with excessive force.

Aversive dog training methods no more effective than rewards-based

Aversive training methods were not shown to be any more effective than rewards-based, and in three studies were actually shown to be less effective. The author also expressed concern about the impact that chronic stress due to aversive training methods may have on the physical health of the dogs.

The author recommended that the dog-training community embrace reward-based training and avoid as much as possible training methods that include aversion.

Ziv G (2017) The effects of using aversive training methods in dogs – A review. Journal of Veterinary Behavior 19:50-60.


RSPCA Science Update 58 October 2017