You may have heard of positive reinforcement – usually a reward of treats or a pat. But what about negative reinforcement? Or even positive and negative punishment? Intrigued? You probably have used all 4 of these without even realising!
The most common training method spoken of, positive reinforcement is literally reinforcing behaviour that you want, with something positive. A reward. For instance general obedience (sit, stay, down) is rewarded with a treat or praise once the behaviour has taken place. This method of training is by far the most widely used. It is great for building trust between owner and dog. At Dog Barking Mad I mainly use positive reinforcement when training.
This is again to reinforce a desired behaviour in your dog. However, instead of giving something good to the dog you take something away. Something negative. For example… If you want your dog to move out of your way one method you may use is simply to walk towards them and shuffle into them until they move. You are reinforcing their behaviour to move out of your way. Once the behaviour is performed you stop moving. Removing yourself as the negative influence (as your dog doesn’t want to be run over!) This is also how dogs move around each other naturally.
Punishment is always stopping a behaviour. And its not as scary as it sounds. “Positive” again refers to something being given or happening.
Examples actually include most leashes, the halty lead (where it goes over the dog’s nose) and some harnesses that squeeze if the dog pulls, to make him uncomfortable. The unwanted behaviour occurs and in order to stop it the equipment reacts (positively). Pressure is then released when the dog stops pulling. Extreme examples include the prong and electric collars. I loathe these forms of training and personally believe they are used to get “quicker” results but cut corners and do more harm than good.
Saying “no” or making a loud noise is also positive punishment because you are stopping a behaviour by making (or giving) a sound.
Negative punishment again refers to stopping a behaviour, but by removing something “good”. Examples include giving the dog a time out, away from the family pack for misbehaving. The dog performs an unwanted behaviour and the pack is removed for a short time. (Or rather he is removed from the pack).
To put into more simple terms – when negative is mentioned it refers to something being removed, either something good or something bad. When positive is mentioned something is given or occurs, whether it be a good or bad stimulus.
Reinforcement is always encouraging a behaviour and punishment refers to stopping a behaviour, such as unwanted barking.
All training methods must be instant for the dog to understand the cause and effect of what is being taught.
Don’t forget all dogs can be trained but not all methods will work for your dog. The most important thing to remember is that if your dog isn’t responding to your training he simply doesn’t understand! Try another method and happy training from Dog Barking Mad!