Consent in Training

In this episode of K9 Conservationists (previously called Canine Conversations), Kayla speaks with Erin Jones.They discuss the topic of consent in dogs. They cover what consent is, why it is important, and how you get – and maintain – a dog’s consent to participate in training or a behavior treatment plan. 

Consent – what is it? “permission for something to happen or agreement to do something.” What does that mean in a training scenario?

  • Dog is willingly participating – does dog understand what they are consenting to?
  • Dog has agreed to engage 
  • Dog has a choice to participate or not
  • Dog has a choice of what behaviors they can offer
  • Dog needs to understand what the agreement is
  • Consent implies a power dynamic

Can we help dogs understand what they are consenting to by using systematic training? Instead of expecting the entire finished behavior

  • It is easier when you have direct information to offer, such as displaying a brush or nail clippers for a groom, so it depends on the situation 
  • Observational learning help inform a dog about what they are consenting to

What role does choice play in consent?

  • True choices (two options equal in quality) allow for true consent

Is it ever okay to ignore lack of consent?

  • Should be done only when necessary
  • Needs to be done conscientiously 
  • Trust bank account
  • Make choice vs no choice clear

Why is it important?

  • Practical reasons
    • Dog participates more enthusiastically
    • dog generally offers more complete behaviors – discretionary effort
    • less likely to trigger aggression during behavior modification
    • Builds trust
  • Ethical reasons
    • evidence that having choice increases emotional welfare (link to study or article?)
    • less likely to trigger unpleasant emotions 
    • Builds trust 

How do we gauge whether or not we have it?

  • Body language
  • Letting the dog initiate contact
  • Enthusiasm
  • CER
  • Training for choice (cooperative care, capturing)
  • accepting “no” – training a “no” behavior??
  • what happens when your dog gets it wrong?

Can consent be withdrawn?

  • How can you tell? 
  • What can you do to get it back?

Links Mentioned in the Episode

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