We can’t always understand what dogs are telling us, however science, research and applied behavior analysis has helped professionals world-wide become more aware of why behaviors are happening and how to address them for optimum results. Over the last few decades, the approach to training animals has become more compassionate than ever and we are now positioned as professionals (and dog owners) to achieve long-lasting training results through methods not thought possible previously and without use force or “dominance.”
Laurie’s background combines years of professional experience in shelter work, dog daycare, facility management and LIMA based training methods (see below). Because of her unique experience-base and skill set of working with thousands of different dogs in various environments, she is able to individualize her training with each one of her clients so they can build long-lasting happy relationships with their dogs. Through education, comprehensive training sessions and environmental management, anyone can train their pup to be the perfect loving family member they’ve always wanted.
Laurie Lawless is a Burlington-based canine behavior consultant, and a member of the ASPCA’s Anti-Cruelty and Behavior Team. Laurie is certified through both the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers and through the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants.
Laurie’s career with dogs started in 2008, when she began working at a local kennel in Connecticut during college. Falling in love with the work and feeling compelled to reach further understanding of her own troubled dog, she began volunteering at a shelter and studied dog training through online schooling. Laurie continued to take steps toward furthering her career with dogs and went onto manage a busy doggie daycare, serve as the canine program coordinator at two different shelters, and launch her own dog training and consulting company here in Vermont in 2016.
Currently, Laurie lives in Burlington with her fun, but crazy dog, Moose, and two sassy little ferrets, Lola and Daisy. The majority of her local work is helping families who are dealing with difficult dogs in their home. About once a month Laurie is on the road with the ASPCA helping dogs in need.
Noted Experience and Achievements:
- Associate Certified Behavior Consultant through the IAABC
- Certified Professional Dog Trainer through the CCPDT
- Certified Dog Trainer and Behavior Team Member for the ASPCA
- Operations Manager at Wags Doggie Daycamp and Boarding in Danbury, CT
- Operations & Behavior Consultant at Canine Kindergarten Dog Daycare and Boarding in MT Kisco, NY
- Canine Program Coordinator at the Humane Society of Chittenden County
- Canine Adoption Coordinator at Pet Animal Welfare Society in Norwalk, CT
Dogs Rock! Vermont supports a Least Intrusive, Minimally Aversive (LIMA) approach to behavior modification and training. The below information is taken from the website of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants and is their Position Statement.
What Is LIMA?
LIMA requires that trainers and behavior consultants use the “least intrusive, minimally aversive technique likely to succeed in achieving a training [or behavior change] objective with minimal risk of producing adverse side effects.” It is also a competence criterion, requiring that trainers and behavior consultants be adequately trained and skilled in order to ensure that the least intrusive and aversive procedure is in fact used. 1
LIMA Is Competence-Based
LIMA requires that trainers/behavior consultants work to increase the use of positive reinforcement and lessen the use of punishment in work with companion animals and the humans who care for them. LIMA protocols are designed to be maximally humane to learners of all species. In order to ensure best practices, consultants/trainers should pursue and maintain competence in animal behavior consulting through education, training, or supervised experience, and should not advise on problems outside the recognized boundaries of their competencies and experience.2
Positive Reinforcement and Understanding the Learner
Positive reinforcement should be the first line of teaching, training and behavior change program considered, and should be applied consistently. Positive reinforcement is associated with the lowest incidence of aggression, attention-seeking, and avoidance/fear in learners3.
Only the learner determines what is reinforcing. It is crucial that the consultant/trainer understands and has the ability to appropriately apply this principle. This may mean that handling, petting, various tools and environments are assessed by the handler each time the learner experiences them, and that trainer bias not determine the learner’s experience. The measure of each stimulus is whether the learner’s target behavior is strengthening or weakening, and not the consultant/trainer’s intent or preference.
Clarity and Consistency in Problem Solving
It is the handler’s responsibility to make training and modification of behavior clear, consistent and possible for the learner. We recognize that a variation of learning and behavior change strategies may come into play during a learning/teaching relationship, and can be humane and a least intrusive, effective choice in application. 4 However, ethical use of this variation is always dependent on the consultant/trainer’s ability to adequately problem solve, to understand his or her actions on the learner, and requires sensitivity toward the learner’s experience.
We seek to prevent the abuses and potential repercussions of unnecessary, inappropriate, poorly applied or inhumane uses of punishment. The potential effects of punishment can include aggression or counter-aggression; suppressed behavior (preventing the consultant/trainer from adequately reading the animal); increased anxiety and fear; physical harm; a negative association with the owner or handlers; and increased unwanted behavior, or new unwanted behaviors. 5
Choice and Control for the Learner
LIMA guidelines require that consultants always offer the learner as much control and choice as possible during the learning process, and treat each individual of any species with respect and awareness of the learner’s individual nature and needs.6
What Do You Want the Animal TO do?
We focus on reinforcing desired behaviors, and always ask the question, “What do you want the animal TO do?” when working through a training or behavior problem. Relying on punishment in training does not answer this question, and therefore offers no acceptable behavior for the animal to learn in place of the unwanted behavior.
Punishment should never be the first line of treatment in an intervention, nor should it make up the majority of a behavior modification program. Further, it should be discontinued as quickly as possible once the desired behavior change has taken place. In cases where the application of punishment is considered, best practices of application and next steps can best be determined by understanding and following the Humane Hierarchy of Behavior Change – Procedures for Humane and Effective Practices, outlined in the diagram attached.7
For these reasons, we strongly support the understanding and application of LIMA protocols, and applaud those working with animals and humans in a humane and thoughtful manner.
Suggested Hierarchy of Behavior Change Procedure from Least to Most Intrusive *
Questions? Contact us!