What’s in a Name? Pet Resource Center: Part 2

In our last blog post entitled ‘What’s in a Name? Pet Resource Center’, we explained why we’re no longer referring to ourselves as an “animal shelter” and are now calling ourselves a “Pet Resource Center.” This follow-up post will expand on why the Humane Society of Utah has adopted this new model by showcasing the educational services we provide through behavior and humane education.

Humane Education

At HSU, we believe that educating younger generations is the key to ensuring better lives for animals in the future. We support this belief by providing education sessions for schools and community groups at no cost. Our colorful and thought-provoking presentations are for youth from preschool to senior high. We cover age-appropriate topics from basic pet care to complex ethical and moral issues. No matter the age group, participants are taught the importance of proper pet care, spaying/neutering to control the pet population, choosing adoption first, and how to appropriately interact with animals. Teachers can schedule field trips to our shelter to meet and learn about our humane education animals and tour our center. 

Young Boy in Kitty City
A young boy with curly brown hair plays with an adoptable gray cat in kitty city.


HSU also offers a H.E.R.O. Summer, Fall, and Spring Camp for children ages first through sixth grade at our Pet Resource Center. During a typical day at our week-long H.E.R.O. (Humane Educators Reaching Out) Camp, children participate in age-appropriate humane education workshops, presentations, games, and more. Workshops focus on different types of animals each day, many with visitors – two-legged, four-legged, finned, and feathered – from other animal welfare groups in Utah. Our education services are in constant demand throughout the Wasatch Front and beyond. In 2021, our Humane Education Program reached 10,226 children – a 37% increase from 2020.

Behavior and Training

Since many pet guardians experience behavioral issues that can create challenging problems and these frustrations can lead guardians to consider rehoming their pet, our Pet Resource Center offers adopters the opportunity to meet with our certified trainers at no cost. 

Dog training class at Humane Society of Utah
A room is full of people sitting and looking at a large screen with dog training slides.

Our behavior staff are all certified trainers and regularly participate in continuing education to ensure they are familiar with the latest understanding and best practices on animal behavior. Our trainers are committed to a behavior program based on positive reinforcement and only use humane training techniques utilizing evidence-based learning theories. We know that committing to positive reinforcement helps us build trusting relationships with animals while effectively meeting our training goals. And we feel it is our responsibility to provide the most effective training options for our community.

Positive Reinforcement Training

With so many training options available, it can be hard to figure out which is the best method for you and your pet. The animal training industry remains unregulated, leading to a variety of opinions about what methods are the “right” methods. In alignment with our mission to “eliminate pain, fear, and suffering in all animals,” the Humane Society of Utah chooses to use evidence-based force-free training.

We are committed to a behavior program based on positive reinforcement. When training or handling animals, we advocate the use of humane training techniques utilizing evidence-based learning theories. We know that committing to positive reinforcement helps us build trusting relationships with animals while effectively meeting our training goals.

Scientific evidence in support of positive reinforcement-based training has been overwhelming.

Studies show that positive reinforcement leads to improved welfare of companion animals, has a positive influence on the human-animal bond, and is effective in achieving training goals.

We pride ourselves on remaining up-to-date and using the latest information that the scientific community has to offer regarding companion animal training and animal welfare. Our behavior staff are all certified dog trainers and regularly participate in continuing education to ensure that they are familiar with the latest understanding and best practices pertaining to animal behavior. We feel it is our responsibility to provide the most effective training options for our community.

Why Don’t We Use Correction-Based Training Methods?

  • The use of aversive-based methods and equipment, including e-collars, prong collars, choke chains, and other tools can result in fallout including:  
    • Aggression (directed towards the handler or others)
    • Escape/avoidance behavior  
    • Learned Helplessness (apathy)  
    • Generalization of fear to other elements in the environment (including the handler)  
  • We want to grow the human-animal bond by increasing understanding between humans and their pets, establishing clear communication, and putting the welfare of both human and animal first. 
  • The science of behavior across species is well-established and has been studied for decades through fields such as applied behavior analysis and animal welfare science. This field overwhelmingly proves that positive reinforcement is the most humane and effective method to teach and to modify behavior.
  • Using punishment becomes habitual and easily escalates. This is not the relationship we want to promote for pet guardians in our community.

Sources

American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior Position Statement on Punishment

Does training method matter? Evidence for the negative impact of aversive-based methods on companion dog welfare. Vieira de Castro et al. December 2020

University of Pennsylvania. “If You’re Aggressive, Your Dog Will Be Too, Says Veterinary Study.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 February 2009.

Efficacy of Dog Training With and Without Remote Electronic Collars vs. a Focus on Positive Reinforcement China et al. July 2020

Electronic Training Collars Present Welfare Risk to Pet Dogs. Cooper Et Al September 2014

IAABC Statement on LIMA

“What’s Wrong With This Picture? Effectiveness is not Enough” Dr .Susan Friedman

Collars or Harnesses?

Why Harnesses?

The area around a dog’s throat is one of the most vulnerable parts of their body. Research finds that when a dog pulls, or the leash is jerked, the pressure exerted on a dog’s neck by a flat collar is enough to risk damage to the dog’s neck. 

  • Collars should only be used to display ID tags, not for restraint or control. Harnesses are a better option to control your dog safely.
  • Slip and prong collars can cause injury to your dog’s neck and spine. Even when used correctly, these collars work by causing pain.

Prong collars, shock/E-collars, and choke chains also have long-term adverse behavioral effects, including problems with aggression, anxiety, and fear.

Safer Options

There are comfortable harnesses available that make walking your dog easier. Harnesses with a leash attachment at the dog’s chest and back help reduce pulling (like the Freedom No-Pull Harness shown here).

Our staff is happy to show you how to fit and use a new Freedom Harness. 

* Please note, some front-clip harnesses restrict movement to keep the dog from pulling, but those are meant for short-term management while you are working on training your dog to walk on a loose leash. A Y-shaped harness such as the Perfect Fit harness shown in the illustration below, is a better solution for long-term use as it allows the dog to move freely. 

 

Training

Once you have the right equipment, your dog can practice walking on a loose leash. If you make it rewarding for your dog to remain near your side, you will notice that your walks go more smoothly.  

Learn how to train your dog to walk on a loose leash.  

For more tips on loose leash walking, call the Animal Behavior and Training Department at 801-506-2417 or contact us for information.

Read our statement about using positive reinforcement training instead of correction-based methods.