Dog Training Methods Compared - The Positive Vs. Negative Debate!
Looking to train your dog and stumped about which dog training method or philosophy is best? Ask ten different people how they believe dogs should be trained and you’ll likely hear ten different stories. The truth is there are really two major dog training approaches, positive reinforcement and negative reinforcement. And most training techniques fall under these two approaches.
Positive Reinforcement Dog Training Techniques
Positive reinforcement isn’t a new technique however it is a more recent approach when compared to negative reinforcement techniques. Positive reinforcement basically means you reward for good behavior. It embraces the philosophy that animals perform better when they know they’re going to receive a reward. The training results are permanent and positive reinforcement doesn’t create negative behaviors.
Benefits of positive reinforcement include
* Creating a bond of trust between owner/trainer and dog
* Creating a structure of behavior and reward
* Eliminating and preventing negative or aggressive behaviors
* Empowering owners to train – it’s easier to use positive techniques successfully
* Motivating dogs to learn. When a dog knows they’re going to get a treat they’re much more excited to learn a new behavior.
Positive reinforcement training embraces several training methods including clicker training, play training, nothing in life is free, and even luring. The essence of these techniques only differs in the process.
For example, with clicker training the click marks the correct behavior and the behavior is enforced with a reward. It can be a food reward, a belly rub or a game of tug of war, it doesn’t matter.
Food rewards, are of course easier and most dogs are very responsive to food. Play training substitutes the food reward with play time and luring guides a dog’s behavior with food. Okay, onto negative reinforcement…
Negative Reinforcement Dog Training Techniques
Before there were positive reinforcement dog training techniques, negative reinforcement was the standard approach trainers took. Now negative reinforcement isn’t all bad. Sometimes a little aversion goes a long way. However it has it’s time and place.
Negative reinforcement takes the following approach – punish for bad behaviors and the dog will remember what they’re not supposed to do. Negative reinforcement training techniques range from yelling at a dog when they do something wrong to electric shock – think about those invisible fences, that’s negative reinforcement. Choke chains and confinement are also forms of negative reinforcement.
Here’s the thing…
There’s a reason why positive reinforcement is a more recent philosophy. Trainers and animal behaviorists have learned that negative reinforcement typically doesn’t help an animal to really learn a behavior.
When a person or an animal receive a positive impulse there are chemicals released in the brain that make associations. Positive associations help an animal learn a behavior faster and better than negative reinforcement. Additionally, negative reinforcement creates potentially negative emotions like fear and aggression.
Fear and aggression are the most common causes of unwanted behaviors in dogs thus making negative reinforcement techniques a potentially vicious circle. Many traditional dog training methods like the Koehler Method embrace and are founded on negative reinforcement techniques.
Depending on your dog, your personal training philosophy and the reason you’re training your dog, different approaches may work better for you. Additionally, often times a combined approach, using positive reinforcement 99% of the time and the occasional negative stimuli 1% of the time, may be the most effective.
Dog training techniques are wide and varied. When exploring which method is right for you, examine whether they embrace positive or negative reinforcement techniques and what tools the method uses. Some methods are developed for high level agility training and competition and others are designed to help you co-habitate with your dog in a loving and structured environment. You know your dog best, what method fits your goals and needs?
The above article brings to mind the same concept being used in human Psychology to better understand and appreciate motivation. I supposed choosing either to use positive or negative reinforcement, just like in human Psychology, would largely depend on what the expected outcome would be. Thus, family dog training would have to be different than when your dog is intended for other purpose other than being a pet dog.