For as long as dogs have been domesticated, a debate has raged among dog owners/trainers on the best way to train their furry pets so that they follow every instruction like the “good boys” they are.
And just how every coin has two sides – dog obedience training also involves two factions that are constantly butting heads on which technique is the most effective one. The big question revolves around the best way to make a dog more obedient towards its trainers, handlers and/or owners. The two most coveted techniques in dog obedience training are – Positive Reinforcement and Negative Reinforcement.
Now for those who are just stepping into the dog trainer’s shoes or have just gotten a new pup and want to know how to get the dog to fetch whenever you like, here’s a quick breakdown of what those terms mean.
Positive Reinforcement, as the name suggests, involves the introduction of a positive stimulus whenever the dog completes a “task” as intended. There is usually a reward or a treat involved that provides the dog with the motivation to continue to repeat the behavior until it is in ingrained in its nature.
“The first test basically measures how long it takes the dog to learn that the machine dispenses treats and that the tone the machine emits means it’s going to release a treat.” as stated on drsophiayin.com
Negative Reinforcement, on the other hand, involves “removal” of an unpleasant stimulus from the environment in response to the dog’s behavior in a certain situation. Ear Pinch Retrieve is one of the most popular negative reinforcement technique that is often employed during dog obedience training and involves the training pinching the ear of the dog with the leash until the dog behaves in the manner intended.
Now that we have covered the brass tacks, let’s dig deeper into each of these techniques and try to understand how each technique can help your dog become an obedient pet.
Widely regarded as the more effective technique for training dogs, positive reinforcement relies on a reward-action mechanism that is all about supplying your dog with a reward each time they undertake an intended behaviour whilst ignoring other behaviors. Positive reinforcement is also considered a much more easier technique to adopt, especially when it comes to newly minted dog owners. Experts also suggest that positive reinforcement works very well in cases where the dog is aggressive or fearful due to traumatic experiences in the past as it is a reward-focused mechanism, in contrast to negative reinforcement which is based on “punishment”.
Having said that, there are still many who believe that negative reinforcement should be the preferred dog obedience training technique. They cite research that implies that negative reinforcement works better than its counterpart for adult dogs. Introducing any degree of “punishment” can be considered abuse in the case of an infant pup but when used with an adult dog from a hunting breed, negative reinforcement is often the faster way of introducing preferred behavioural changes in your dog’s attitude.
To conclude, there is no one-fits-all reinforcement technique when it comes to dog training. As a pet owner, the onus is on you to see how your dog reacts to each of the technique and then proceed accordingly so as to make sure your your pup grows up to an “obedient boy”.