Tag Archives: Dog Training

The Power of Positive Reinforcement in Dog Training: An Evaluation

Rottweiler-Head
Those of you who have been following our blog will have read the coverage of negative dog training we did earlier. This post focuses on a popular and viable alternative: positive dog training.

For those who came in late, dog training can be negative and positive. Negative training implies physically punishing a dog’s failure to follow orders with immediate reinforcement, and while it is a very conventional method of dog training that is effective in certain scenarios, it is largely regarded as barbaric and primitive. Positive training, on the other hand, focuses on rewarding a dog’s success with food or affection. Here is more about it.

A Bit of History

The earliest mention of positive reinforcement that can be found in literature is in novelist Jack London’s books “Call of the Wild” and “White Fang”, both written in the late 1800s. However, the idea that positive reinforcement might be a viable alternative to punishment in behaviour modification was proposed by B F Skinner, an American cognitive psychologist, in 1971. However, in spite of its relatively antiquated roots, the technique only became popular in the latter half of the 20th century.

About the Technique

As stated earlier, positive dog training in Sunshine Coast focuses on rewards. Here is how it works – every time your dog learns to follow your instructions, you reward it. The “reward” can be physical and/or psychological. Physical rewards include foods and have a very immediate effect on the training. Psychological rewards are often just as effective as physical rewards and include affectionate gestures toward the dog. Studies have shown that in most household scenarios, dogs actually respond more to positive reinforcement than to punishment, and that with a reward-based system, canines grow up to be healthy adults with little or no collateral complications, which leads to them living longer and happier.

Pros and Cons

1. Positive reinforcement alone works best with dog breeds that are not aggressive. Certain aggressive breeds of dogs often require controlled amounts of negative reinforcement especially as adults.

2. Just like negative reinforcement, a dog will only associate a positive reinforcement with success when it is immediate. If your dog follows your order now and a reward is only imparted after say, fifteen seconds, it is likely that the dog will not manage to associate the reward with the (now distant) act of success. This will eventually confuse the dog and lead to complications that could be unmanageable at home.

3. “Rewards” in the form of food, when given repeatedly to a dog, often results in physical complications such as weight gain, heart and liver problems, and reduces the vitality and life span of a dog. There are most sophisticated dog training techniques such as “clicker “ training that uses a clicker as a replacement to a treat after a certain duration of time. Clicker training is probably the most used training technique by professional dog trainers in Sunshine Coast at the moment because it is safe from all perspectives and delivers quick results.