There are several versions of the Humane Hierarchy around and available for dog trainers and behavior consultants to use and reference.

Some of these humane hierarchy models are accompanied by pages of explanation, detail and academic citations. Others are wonderfully graphic and detail each level of the hierarchy  and the progression direction. For me constructing a humane hierarchy was a far more simple exercise. You see I decided that my Humane Program did not need to be a hierarchy. I  really only need to  include the tools, methods and philosophy that i feel the need to use.

I am convinced that if behavior consultants conduct a thorough Functional Assessment as the first part of a behavior change program and they have the courage of their convictions in terms of a force-free philosophy then the steps as indicated on the “Lab” System will be sufficient in changing and modifying problematic behaviors, supported where necessary by a Veterinary Behaviorist. Click here to access a PDF of LAB

After the implementation of a behavior change program supported by a thorough Functional Assessment if appropriate results are not achieved then.
1. Review and revise where necessary the level of program commitment and compliance from the pet owners and participating pet professionals
2. Revisit the original functional assessment. Analyze the relationship the behavior has with its environment. Revisit and review the relationship between the antecedents/behavior and the behavior/consequences.
3. Secure peer supervision to review the Functional Assessment and provide advice on implementation procedures
4. Secure mentor supervision to review the Functional Assessment and provide advice on implementation procedures
5. Refer to a Veterinary Behaviorist

Why Conduct  A Functional Assessment

There are fundamental differences between the behavior analytic approach to assessing problem behaviors in our pet dogs and the medical model approach. The medical model approach to problem behaviors diagnoses and treats the behavior problem like an illness or disease. Within the medical model approach problem behaviors are categorized and then set protocols are prescribed based on the category the problem falls into. The medical model approach does not address the cause of the behavior or look at the specifics of the individual animal displaying the behavior. The medical model addresses the problem behavior through surgery, pharmacology intervention or anecdotal explanations based on how the behavior looks or the animal’s believed mental condition. Much of the prescribed treatment used to address problems using the medical model is based on intuition and passed down medical protocols.

Unlike the medical model the behavior analytical approach to assessing problem behaviors recognizes that behavior is a product of the environment and the individual animal’s conditioning history. The behavior analytical approach recognizes that in order to change the behavior the causes need to be identified. The behavior analytical approach focuses on the details of the specific behavior.

The behavioral approach to problem behavior is far more effective and efficient than the medical model because it is based on the science of learning theory and follows scientific processes to identify the antecedents and consequences of the behavior. The behavior analytical approach does not rely on anecdotal recommendations or trial and error tactics, it systematically identifies the functional relationship the behavior has with its environment. In particular it looks at the relationship the behavior has with the antecedents and the postcedents. When these two important relationships are understood then an objective and effective  behavior change program can be developed. We must be able to explain and describe what is going on if we are planning to control, manipulate or change the behavior.

For more information on How To Conduct a Functional Assessment click here