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Give Your Dog the Gift of Choice

Jackson Hole News & Guide Monday, Jan. 06, 2020

Imagine you lived a life in which your entire day was dictated by another: when you got up in the morning, what you ate and when; who you interacted with; when you were left alone and for how long; where you slept; when, what and with whom you played; where you went for exercise and activities — even when and where you were allowed to eliminate. In addition, imagine being often “made” to do things you didn’t want to do. How would you feel? Like a dog, perhaps. In America many dogs are completely dependent upon humans. While that is certainly part of the deal with being a domestic animal, dogs’ lives have become dramatically more controlled in recent times, and people’s expectations of their canine companions have increased as well. ... The world of canine behavior and training continues to progress, and one of the most compelling topics as of late consists of the ideas of consent and choice for our companion animals, which raises the question: Is choice necessary for a canine well-being and happiness? Susan Friedman, a psychology professor at Utah State University who has pioneered the application of applied behavior analysis to captive and companion animals, believes so, as do many others in the canine behavior world. “The power to control one’s own outcomes is essential to behavioral health,” she is quoted saying in “Training a dog to make choices,” an article that appeared in Whole Dog Journal in October 2016. “Research demonstrates that to the greatest extent possible, animals should be empowered to use their behavior to control significant events in their lives. When a lack of control becomes a lifestyle, it may result in aberrant behaviors.”

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