Thursday, June 23, 2011

5 Major ill effects of mixing positive reinforcement training and aversive method while training your dog?

Though these two training methods are entirely contradictory, most people use both the methods to train their dogs – of course unknowingly. But if you want a dog that is calm, relaxed, content, healthy and happy through out its life time, then you must never do the mixing thing or to be more precise, you must never use punishment methods to train your dog. The punishment or aversive training method has been disproved and debunked by international animal organizations and is considered to be dangerous for your dog. You can check out the following link for more information about that.

Why is dominance theory outdated?

But for now we will just look at some of the ill effects of mixing positive reinforcement training and aversive methods.

  1. Training is Less Effective - You can definitely use both methods but the training would be much less effective than to only use Positive Reinforcement training method like Clicker Training. Because when you punish the dog and also reward him at the same time, the dog would try hard to avoid punishment than to get a simple treat or reward. This has to do something with natural psychological phenomenon.
  2. Aversive Methods Take Over Your Dog - For a dog that has been trained using only positive reinforcement knows that if he has done something wrong during training, the trainer withholds the treat. But this wouldn’t work that well with a dog that has been trained using both the methods, because for that dog withholding the treat and inflicting no punishment has one and the same effect, which makes it think that he’s out of danger and he’s doing everything alright.
  3. Have to stay extremely consistent - One of the major disadvantages of using negative reinforcement training or aversive method is that you have to stay highly consistent with your punishments or corrections during the training sessions. Otherwise the dog starts thinking that everything’s going just fine. But with positive reinforcement training or clicker training you need not be that consistent on clicking and treating your dog once the dog has fully learned the behavior. In fact you can fully wean your dog off the clicks and treats when he’s fully trained.
  4. Punishing is highly Reinforcing - Punishing is highly reinforcing for you – the trainer – and there is a good probability that you will try that again on your dog which makes you more violent over a period of time. For example, if you have the habit of leash popping your dog for barking at other dogs while walking to stop the that habit then it is highly satisfying for you when your dog actually stops barking, but even if the dog has stopped barking, it still has that tendency suppressed in it. Eventually this suppression of behavior in your dog develops an aversion for other dogs – in the form of lunging or barking at other dogs. Your dog can also develop a variety of other behavior issues if you use aversive methods extensively, which can affect your dog physically.
  5. Switching is difficult but possible - If your dog has been trained using negative reinforcement all these years it will take sometime for it to switch to Clicker Training or positive reinforcement training and learn that he can earn treats for doings thing voluntarily. Initially it might not accept the treats, but later on it will and would happily take part in training sessions. Eventually your dog will be more confident, happy and content. Soon you will realize that it is easier for you to just mark a behavior – using a clicker - than to correct a bunch of mistakes (while using aversive method) done by your dog.
If you still feel that you want to use both positive reinforcement and aversive methods on your dog, then I think I have done a really bad job. But I am damn sure that once you start reaping the benefits of clicker training or positive reinforcement training you will hardly think of going back to the aversive method. I wish you all the best for your training and happy petting.

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