By Devon Hubbard Sorlie
As Animal Behavior College graduates, you have no doubt studied different training methods. Of the following six training acronyms, can you pick out the one that is unlike the other five? BAT, BARF, C/T, OC, R+ and LIMA. If you selected BARF, you are correct. BARF is short for “biologically appropriate raw food.” The other five describe types of training: BAT (behavior adjustment training), C/T (click/treat), OC (operant conditioning), R+ (positive reinforcement), and LIMA (least intrusive, minimally aversive).
Beginning in January, those who wish to join APDT are required to attest they use LIMA-based training methods in order to become Premium or Professional APDT members. Those who do not use LIMA-based training may join as a Supporting member. As part of our strategic alliance, Animal Behavior College’s updated dog training curriculum now incorporates the Humane Hierarchy: science-based, positive-reinforcement training philosophies that include using LIMA training techniques.
“APDT has always focused on educating trainers, dog owners and others,” noted APDT Chair Khara Schuetzner in her Chronicle of the Dog column that explained the policy change. “We cannot remain inclusive yet demand everyone be at the same level without educating a person first. Changing a person’s beliefs or ideas takes time, patience and understanding. Think of your clients who come to you with a dog training problem, maybe the clients have a piece of equipment on their dogs you despise; do you turn them away? How can we be educated if we judge? How can we be open if we close down communication on what we just see or don’t approve of? This is why LIMA is important. We must continue to find the least intrusive way to train humans and dogs. If there are trainers who are not LIMA-compliant, they will have access to webinars and other resources to assist them in their learning. Our goal is to educate, not discriminate.”
APDT is asking all of its members, whether they are new or renewing, to answer four questions to determine if they are LIMA-compliant in order to have their profiles on the online trainer search. Those questions are:
- Do you use any of the following tools/techniques immediately upon training any behavior or for behavior modification: choke, prong, shock, or electronic collars, shaker cans, sprays, leash-pop/leash correction, yelling or any other technique designed to cause fear, pain, or startle in the dog?
- When training and conducting behavior modification, is the dog continuously monitored for distress signals and/or allowed to opt out? And if the dog is showing signs of stress, do you re-evaluate your training or behavior plan to make appropriate changes?
- If you are unfamiliar with the issues a dog is presenting, do you attempt to work through the issue anyway?
- If you are working with a dog and he/she is not showing progress within the normally expected time frame and you have no other ideas or you are not able to keep distress at a minimal (mild) level, do you continue to work with the dog anyway?
What is LIMA?
For a trainer or behavior consultant to be LIMA-compliant, they must use the least intrusive, minimally aversive strategy out of a set of humane and effective tactics likely to succeed in achieving a training or behavior-change objective with minimal risk of producing aversive side effects. LIMA stresses the need to first use positive reinforcement during training, and that punishment does not make up the majority of a behavior-modification program.
LIMA does not justify the use of punishment (prong or shock collars are two examples) in lieu of other effective interventions and strategies. In the vast majority of cases, desired behavior change can be affected by focusing on the animal’s environment, physical well-being, and operant and classical interventions, such as differential reinforcement of an alternative behavior, desensitization and counter-conditioning. To find out more about LIMA, you can view an APDT webinar here.
The goal of LIMA is for its trainers/consultants to determine and use the least-intrusive effective intervention that will address the target behavior. In the course of an experienced trainer/consultant’s practice, they might identify a situation in which a relatively more intrusive procedure is necessary for an effective outcome. In such a case, a procedure that reduces the learner’s control might be the least-intrusive, effective choice. Additionally, wellness is at the top of the hierarchy to ensure that a trainer/consultant does not implement a learning solution for behavior problems that are caused by pain or illness. LIMA offers an ethical checkpoint for consultants to carefully consider the process by which effective outcomes can be most humanely achieved on a case-by-case basis.
APDT is the largest dog training association in the world whose mission is “building better trainers through education.” As an inclusive (open) association, APDT encourages all who wish to train dogs to become members—from beginners to those who hold doctorate degrees—because through education comes change