Best Practical Guide to Dog Training 2019 (Part 2)

This article will help you understand the scientific principles of how
dogs learn. Since all learning is governed by these basic principles,
learning them can help you develop better training skills through a
proper understanding of behavior

Over the last 15 years, it has become increasingly difficult for owners
to translate the behavioral jargon used by some dog trainers. This
is made even more difficult by the fact that trainers sometimes misuse
behavioral terms. In addition, although most people today are somewhat
familiar with behavioral terms, they are often confused about
what these terms really mean. For example, what do “positive reinforcement,”
“positive training,” “punishment” and “negative reinforcement”
really mean? It is important for owners to have a basic
understanding of these terms and others, and how they apply to your
dog’s training.

Part of what causes confusion is that no single training method
works in every situation. The reason for this is that every dog, environment
and owner is unique. With an unlimited number of possible
scenarios, it stands to reason that there will be more than one way to
modify and/or teach various behaviors to dogs and owners. This is part
of the reason why five trainers can have five different ideas about how
to teach the same thing. A famous trainer and author once said that if
you put 10 trainers in a room and ask them their opinion about something,
the only thing they’ll agree on is that the other nine don’t know
what they’re talking about. This makes it challenging for dog owners,
to say the least.
Owners who understand basic behavioral principles will find it
easier to make training decisions based on facts. This is important,
because when trainers use unproven or unscientific methods, the
results may not be good. It may even be counterproductive. As such, it
is crucial that training techniques be rooted in science.
Please read this chapter twice. The first time, try to read it straight
through. Then read it a second time, pausing to consider the different
examples and concepts I cover. It’s my experience that this will help
you “get it.” Let’s start with some basic terms: motivation, reinforcement
and punishment

Motivation is a need, drive or desire that incites a person or animal to
some action or behavior. All learning entails some change in behavior.
In order to change, the dog must be motivated to change. If there is no
motivation, no change or learning will occur.
There are two main types of motivation: positive and negative.
With positive motivation, the dog works to get things the dog likes.
Examples of positive motivation include:
◆ Walks
◆ Attention
◆ How Your Dog Learns
◆ Petting
◆ Rubs
◆ Playing with other dogs
◆ Food treats
◆ Playing with toys
◆ Getting to sniff
◆ Car rides
◆ Going outside
◆ Access to a favorite resting place
◆ Scratches
Here’s an example of how positive motivation is used in training:
Shred, a six-month-old American Eskimo Dog, runs to her owner and
sits when she first greets him. Shred is petted and scratched for sitting.
This is something Shred likes. Shred is positively motivated to sit for
pets and scratches.
Negative motivation is when the dog works to avoid something the
dog considers unpleasant. Examples of negative motivation include:
◆ A spray of water
◆ Choke chain corrections
◆ Not getting a food treat
◆ Raising your voice
◆ A shock from an electronic shock collar or mat
◆ Loud noise from a motion sensor alarm
◆ Citronella spray
◆ Being ignored
◆ Losing her toys
◆ Losing her playmate

Here’s an example of how negative motivation is used in training:
Sometimes Shred gets so excited that she jumps on her owner when
greeting him. The owner responds by turning away and ignoring her.
Shred considers this unpleasant and she is negatively motivated to not
jump, so she can avoid being ignored.
You can use both positive motivation and negative motivation to
either reinforce/increase a behavior or punish/reduce/eliminate a

Reinforcement means to give new strength or force to a behavior; for
training purposes, it means to do something to strengthen a behavior.
If you want to increase the probability that a certain response will
occur, some sort of reinforcement must be involved. This may include
negative reinforcement or positive reinforcement.
Reinforcement must be something meaningful enough for the dog
to try to get (positive reinforcement) or try to avoid (negative reinforcement).
And it must be meaningful to the dog.
Desired behavior Shred needs to learn to stay off the
Positive reinforcement Positively reinforce Shred for staying
off the couch by feeding her food
treats when she’s on the floor in her
safe spot.
Negative reinforcement Negatively reinforce Shred for staying
off the couch by giving relief from the
loud noise of a motion sensitive
sound alarm, which stops making
noise the instant she jumps off the

The box on page 28 demonstrates how either negative or positive
reinforcement can be used to obtain a desired behavior. Look at the box
carefully, because that last part on negative reinforcement can cause
some confusion. The negative reinforcement does not take place when
the noise starts, but rather when the noise stops.
Since trainers use terms like positive reinforcment and negative
reinforcement all the time, let’s review to make sure you are very clear
about what these terms mean.
Positive reinforcement involves giving reinforcement at the
moment the dog performs the desirable behavior, to increase the likelihood
the dog will perform that behavior again. An example is giving
your dog a food treat the moment she achieves the sitting position.
Negative reinforcement involves removing something the dog considers
unpleasant the instant she performs the desired behavior. An
example is releasing the pressure on a flat buckle collar the moment the
dog achieves the sitting position.
Training methods can contain both positive and negative reinforcement.

Nowhere is the controversy greater in dog training than on the subject
of punishment. There are many reasons for this, including a backlash
from the many years punishment was very commonly used as a primary
way of training dogs. For most people, it is also far less pleasurable
to think in terms of punishment than it is to think about praise or
reward. After all, wouldn’t it be great if all you need is love? My
answer, like that of almost everyone, is “Yes!” However, while it surely
would be great, that’s not how the real world works. In the real world,
punishment has a place in training. Not a primary place, but a place
nonetheless. So what does punishment mean? Is punishment cruel?
First, punishment can be defined as a penalty imposed or any ill
suffered as a consequence of wrongdoing.
Sounds kind of ominous, doesn’t it? It is here that the debate
begins. Is punishment cruel? It depends on what the punishment is. For
example, if Shred jumps up on her owner and her owner responds by

striking Shred with a stick the instant Shred jumps, I would say without
question this punishment is cruel. Why? Because such a reaction
runs a very real risk of physically harming Shred. What’s more,
because this punishment is likely to be very painful, a whole host of
other problems may manifest themselves as a result. For instance,
Shred might become afraid any time her owner holds a similar object.
This fear might become generalized to all people holding objects.
Shred might, in her fear, become aggressive. Shred might be injured.
Obviously, no knowledgeable, enlightened trainer would recommend
such a method. If any of you encounter a trainer who does, steer clear
of that trainer.
The question is, just because the example above illustrates that
some punishment can indeed be cruel, does that mean all punishment
is cruel? My answer is, “Absolutely not.” It depends on the punishment.
As a general rule, punishment needs to be associated with the
behavior, not the person or persons administering it. Additionally, and
very importantly, punishment must not cause physical or emotional
harm to your pet.
When a punishing stimulus is a consequence of a certain behavior,
it will decrease the likelihood of that particular behavior occurring
again. The punishment must be something the dog feels is either
unpleasant enough to avoid experiencing (positive punishment) or
valuable enough to avoid losing (negative punishment).
The kind of positive punishment where you say “no, no, no” to the
dog and wag your finger may not be unpleasant enough for the dog to
really want to avoid. However, she may try to avoid a choke chain correction.
This is an important point. Some people are so uncomfortable
with the idea of punishment, they have a tendency to use extremely
mild levels. Unfortunately this can often be ineffective. You need to
find a balance—the mildest correction possible that still has meaning
for your dog.
Trying to negatively punish a dog by withholding petting will not
work if the dog doesn’t care that much about being petted. However,
withholding a ball the dog loves to play with would negatively punish
some behaviors. This is another important point, and involves knowing
your dog well enough to understand what really motivates her.


Undesired behavior Shred is jumping all over you.

Positive punishment Use a tug on the leash to get Shred off

Negative punishment Turn your back on Shred, ignoring her
completely for two or three seconds,
thus depriving Shred of your attention
when she jumps on you.

So to review:
Positive punishment involves presenting a negative consequence to
an undesirable behavior the moment the dog engages in the undesirable
behavior. It is here where a professional trainer can really make a
difference. Punishment the instant an undesirable behavior takes place
requires practice and timing—timing that often separates a professional
trainer from a layperson. Punishment after a behavior has taken
place will be ineffective and counterproductive in training.
An example of proper positive punishment: saying “No!” the
instant your dog chews on the couch.
An example of improper (and ineffective) positive punishment:
coming home, seeing your dog has chewed on the couch, taking the
dog over to the couch and telling the dog “No!”
Negative punishment involves removing something good from the
dog at the moment the dog performs an undesirable behavior.
An example of proper negative punishment: taking away the dog’s
free, supervised access in your den the instant she starts chewing on
your couch.
An example of improper (and ineffective) negative punishment:
Coming home, seeing your dog has chewed on the couch and then
ignoring the dog for the rest of the evening to punish her for chewing
on your couch. (She won’t get it!)
Now that we’ve covered some of the basics, let’s get a little more
Undesired behavior Shred is jumping all over you.
Positive punishment Use a tug on the leash to get Shred off
you when she jumps on you.
Negative punishment Turn your back on Shred, ignoring her
completely for two or three seconds,
thus depriving Shred of your attention
when she jumps on you.

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