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What is Positive Reinforcement Training?

January 12, 2015

For better or for worse, there are a lot of different types of dog training options out there. Between the popularity of certain TV celebrity trainers who promote the use of punishment-based training methods and the overload of information on the Internet, it can be hard for pet parents seeking training to know what to choose or what is realistically best for their beloved dog.

 

Positive training revolves around teaching dogs what to do by rewarding behavior we like instead of continually punishing a dog for what we don’t like.  To be fair, punishment-based training can technically provide results in your dog’s behavior, but it comes at the risk of your dog developing long-term emotional and physical negative effects, increasing bad behavior, increasing the chance of aggression, and overall, damaging the bond and relationship with your dog.

 

Here are just a few of the many reasons that positive dog training is the better option:

 

 

- Science says to go positive. There have been many scientific studies completed that show the results of positive training being a better option for our pups. Not only is it a better option, it has been proven to be equally and even more effective than punishment-based techniques.

 

- Punishment-based training focuses on errors. No one likes to constantly be told they are wrong. If you’re using aversive techniques, your dog is constantly being told when he or she is wrong followed by shocking, pinching, choking, jerking, hitting, etc. This can quickly get your dog to dislike training (and sometimes even you) altogether.

 

- Positive training is effective. Some people think positive training means that we allow dogs to do whatever they like with no boundaries or limitations. This is simply incorrect.  We set rules and boundaries for dogs while rewarding good behavior in the form of food, toys, praise, play, petting, etc. to encourage dogs and let them know we want to see that behavior more. We also ensure to discourage negative behavior, but in a humane way. These techniques work just as well for puppy training as it would for aggressive behavior, and just as well for a little Maltese as it would for a big Great Dane!

 

- Stress doesn’t help dogs learn. Using punishment-based training methods will stress most dogs. When under stress, even humans don’t perform as well as we normally would. Trying to train a stressed dog will slower the process and makes it take longer to see any real results.  Also, if the stress is severe enough, it can even elicit aggressive behavior in your dog that you wouldn’t see otherwise.

 

- Positive training is the key to truly strengthening the bond with your dog. Dogs trained using punishment-based methods usually obey because they know better than to not obey. A dog that is trained using positive methods will obey because he or she enjoys it! Positive training builds confidence in your dog and also strengthens your bond. Fighting fire with fire usually ends up with someone being burned. It’s better to focus on training our dog positively and building a bond based on trust, respect, and love. Although humans may be able to argue over what techniques may be better or more desirable, I’m sure if our dogs could talk they would opt for the positive, more humane approach. 

 

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Dog Training Professionals - Pet Professional Guild