Why You Should Use Positive Reinforcement When Training Your CanineBy Lawrence Reaves
The number of professional trainers who use negative measures (e.g. yelling, leash-pulling, hitting, etc.) to communicate with their dogs continues to drop. Like a growing number of other trainers, they're adopting positive reinforcement measures. This a more effective approach for encouraging canines to respond to commands appropriately.
There are many reasons owners should also adopt positive reinforcement techniques when training their pets at home. We'll describe these reasons below. You'll discover this approach is not only more effective for communicating what you want from your dog, but also strengthens the connection you share together.
It Is Flexible
A lot of trainers have found that punishing incorrect responses fails to work as a training technique for every canine. There are a couple of reasons. First, some behavioral issues - such as dominance aggression - worsen if the dog is treated badly. Punishment for showing belligerence often begets more belligerence.
Second, the dog may not full understand the reason he is being punished. For example, consider a pet that copes with fear of people. How can punishment curb this type of a behavior? In such cases, negative reinforcement techniques will increase the canine's fear - often, of his owner.
By contrast, positive reinforcement can be used for any type of training. You can provide praise, treats, and other rewards (e.g. a trip to the park) to encourage desired behaviors, and discourage those that are unwanted.
It Reinforces The Friendship
If you use negative reinforcement with your pooch whenever he responds incorrectly to a command, he will eventually learn to fear you. Many owners consider this a desirable outcome because they believe it will improve their relationships with their pets. They also believe their dogs are more likely to behave due to this fear.
Both beliefs are false. In reality, your canine learns only one thing from fear: to avoid the person he fears. Moreover, he will be less inclined to follow your directions, unless he expects punishment for doing otherwise. This harms the friendship.
On the other hand, he'll look forward to spending time with you if he is given praise and treats for responding correctly. Thus, if you ignore his mistakes and reward his successes, you'll reinforce the friendship you share.
It Minimizes Confusion
One of the disadvantages of using punishment for training purposes is that it's often unclear. As mentioned earlier, your dog may not understand why he is being punished. Worse, he may receive the wrong message.
For example, suppose your canine barks to get your attention. To curb the behavior, you yell at him. From your dog's perspective, any attention from you is better than a lack of attention, even if you're yelling at him. He may learn that you dislike his barking, but will continue to do it because he receives what he wants (i.e. your attention).
If you were to use positive reinforcement to curb his barking, he would receive the correct message, and would modify his behavior accordingly. He would realize his barking makes you ignore him while his silence results in treats and praise. There is no confusion.
It Keeps The Training Periods Enjoyable
After your canine finishes professional obedience classes, you should continue to set aside time regularly to teach him new commands. Not only does this broaden his ability to respond correctly to your wishes, but he'll also look forward to spending the time with you (and receiving treats!).
This is only possible with positive reinforcement techniques. As suggested earlier, if you use punishment as a training method, your dog will be far less excited to interact with you. Praise, treats, and other rewards keeps the training sessions fun and enjoyable for both of you.
You adopted your canine for the companionship he offers. Punishment is in direct conflict with this goal. Instead, offer him rewards that he enjoys to strengthen the bond between you.
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