Dog Training Methods – Understanding and Applying them Properly
There are many opinions about which dog training methods are the best to use when working with dogs and their owners. There are a variety of “camps” expressing their views of training techniques. For example, there is a movement that believes that positive reinforcement training is the only method that should be used to train animals, of any sort, and many opponents disagree with this philosophy. What I often find when working with owners and trainers is that they do not have a solid understanding of these training methods and therefore don’t understand how to properly apply them.
In order to truly understand dog training methods, we must first understand that these methodologies have absolutely nothing in common with the tools that are often used to apply them. For instance, even though a prong collar can be used to apply positive punishment when working with a dog, the used of a prong collar does not automatically imply that positive punishment is being utilized as a dog training method. As another example, the human hand, a highly effective dog training tool, can be used to employ any of the methods that are commonly used.
Operant Conditioning refers to a type of learning wherein the dog realizes that his behavior has consequences, whether positive or negative. We use operant conditioning to shape the behaviors we want the dog to perform. Reinforcement, whether positive or negative will increase the likelihood of the behavior. Punishment, whether positive or negative will decrease the likelihood of the behavior.
Positive Reinforcement (+R) as it applies to operant conditioning involves the addition of a reinforcing stimulus following a behavior that makes it more likely that the behavior will occur again in the future. A simple example would be giving the dog a treat for sitting. Clicker training is one of the most well know forms of positive reinforcement training.
Negative Reinforcement (-R) as it applies to operant conditioning involves the removal of an unpleasant stimulus following a behavior that makes it more likely that the behavior will occur again in the future. Negative reinforcement is a method that should only be used by trainers with a considerable amount of experience and who have impeccable timing. Negative reinforcement takes on many forms and does not always include the use of an aversive to work. A familiar example of negative reinforcement would be to pinch the lip of a puppy until it stops biting your hand.
Positive Punishment (+P) as it applies to operant conditioning involves the addition of an unpleasant stimulus following a behavior that makes it less likely that the behavior will occur again in the future. Positive punishment is often used without proper understanding by many pet owners. It is often carried out using a pinch or prong collar, remote training collar or martingale. It is commonly enacted by applying an aversive stimulus after the dog has committed some transgression.
Negative Punishment (-P) as it applies to operant conditioning involves the removal of a reinforcing stimulus following a behavior that makes it less likely that the behavior will occur again in the future. This method is also used almost daily by pet owners. An example of negative punishment would be to simply remove a bone from the dog after he growls.
A variety of these dog training methods are commonly used when working with pet dogs, service dogs, police dogs, detection dogs, and search and rescue dogs. Having a solid understanding of these training methods and also understanding how and when to use them is one of the core fundamentals of being a good dog trainer. This essential information is just one of the many topics covered in detail during our School for Dog Trainers. The material is taught in a way that is simple to understand and easy to apply, regardless of the type of dog you are training.
If you have questions or would like to speak with someone about our School for Dog Trainers, feel free to call 866.200.2207 or email us at email@example.com