Animal Welfare - When Positive Training Can Become Coercion

There is a movement in our industry to make learning positive for our dogs by providing choice and control--what does that actually look like? How do we measure this? How can we be sure that the dog is freely participating in the program? It's like a coal miner working in a coal mine: they could either work in the coal mine to earn a paycheck or not work in the coal mine which means they can't put food on the table. Their alternatives are limited, and so their perspective. They also have choices as a coal miner: they can either push a trolley or they can swing a pick axe. The coal miner has choices within their job, but does that make their experience enjoyable? In modern dog training, we have to consider the welfare of the animal during the training process. Providing choice and control are wonderful topics explored by many trainers today. At the heart of this movement is a concern for our animal's experiences and the desire to want them happy and fulfilled. But this paints an incomplete picture. Adding the Degrees of Freedom perspective to this movement can provide a thorough and pragmatic approach to ensuring our training is enjoyed by our animals and even guide our decisions as to what kinds of procedures to implement during training. This presentation will explore Dr. Goldiamond's Degrees of Freedom and Coercion analysis. We will explore what degrees of freedom/coercion are, how they are measured, and the implication this has for training. We will explore these concepts through research and cases studies. The seminar is suitable for veterinary professionals, animal trainers, animal behaviorists, and anyone with an interest in the neuroscience of training and behavior.
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Meet the instructor

Sean Will

Sean Will studied under Dr. Jesús Rosales-Ruiz and earned a master's degree in Behavior Analysis from the University of North Texas. While studying at UNT, he spearheaded the development of Constructional Affection and developed constructional shelter programs to increase efficiency in animal shelters. Sean has over 15 years of experience as a professional trainer and has provided consulting for individuals and organizations that oversee the care of animals. Currently, Sean is in Florida Tech's doctoral program researching problem-solving and animal training.
In 2020, Sean co-founded the Constructional Approach to Animal Welfare and Training (CAAWT). CAAWT is a non-profit organization whose mission is to enhance the lives of animals and the people who care for them by providing educational content on animal behavior, care, and ways to solve behavioral problems. CAAWT hosts an annual internal conference and quarterly webinars to disseminate information on the Constructional Approach and its many applications to animal welfare and training. Sean also co-hosts a monthly podcast by the same name that features fun guests and amazing stories of how the Constructional Approach has improved the lives of the animals they care for and the people around them!
Patrick Jones - Course author