Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Did you know that traditional dog training methods can make your dog aggressive or stressed?

You must be aware that there are mainly two types of dog training methods. One making use of the aversive method or negative reinforcement method or traditional method and the other one based on positive reinforcement like Clicker Training. You can train your dog using any of these methods and both are effective too, there’s no doubt about that, but with the traditional training method you can risk your dog’s mental and physical health. You will understand how only when you know the basic difference between both these methods.

Traditional Training Method
In the traditional training method trainers use aversive or correction methods or negative reinforcement while teaching a behavior or technique and then praise him for getting it right. Here the trainer is forcing the dog to offer a desired behavior and he corrects it every time the dog makes a mistake e.g. shouting, yelling or leash-popping and so on. Here the dog is offering a behavior just to avoid an unpleasant situation (a.k.a. negative reinforcement). And some breeds work hard to calm their trainers down. Eventually the dog develops a fear towards training sessions and the trainer which then gives way to stress and other health problems. Some dogs go into a total shut down.

Positive Reinforcement Training Method
In positive reinforcement training, the trainer waits patiently for the dog to offer a behavior - voluntarily. And when the dog offers that behavior, the trainer marks it (the behavior) with a hand signal or a sound (that of a clicker) or praise and then rewards the dog. This way the trainer is reinforcing a desired behavior. In this training method the dog is motivated towards the training since it is being rewarded for what it does voluntarily. The dog will then love to offer the behavior more frequently to earn the reward and eventually the behavior is reinforced (a.k.a. positive reinforcement). Later on you can associate a cue to that behavior and gradually wean the dog off of the click/treat. Clicker training is the most popular positive training method used on animals and dogs. Where as in negative reinforcement training or traditional training, the trainer has to be always consistent with the corrections or aversive methods or else the dog will make a mistake.

Meaning of ‘Praise’ for the dog in both the training methods
The meaning of praise like “good dog” or “good boy” can mean totally different things for the dogs trained using different methods. Praise or a clicking sound is a conditioned reinforcer in each training method which conveys something specific to the dog.

For a dog that is trained using the traditional method or aversive method, a ‘good dog’ will mean that he’s not going to be yelled or shouted at. Some traditional trainers claim that their dogs work to get praised but in reality they are working hard to avoid an unpleasant action from their handler. Dogs offer a behavior to earn something or to save them from something. So just by praising the dog doesn’t mean that you are training the dog using positive reinforcement.

For a dog that is trained using positive reinforcement, praise has a different meaning. It means that a reward – treat or its favorite toy or a chance to go out for a walk – is on its way. So praising your dog would mean nothing for it if you neither use positive nor negative reinforcement training methods.

Effects of negative reinforcement method or traditional training method on dogs
Improper and extensive use of aversive training method can seriously affect your dog’s health – both mentally and physically. It makes your dog either aggressive or scared or stressed up and can pave way to a number of behavior problems in it. Some dogs just shut down physically and mentally and get wary of trying new things or learning any new techniques or behavior esp. if you want your dog to be a rescue dog or a service dog, negative reinforcement training is highly ineffective.

For e.g. If you are constantly yell or shout at or leash pop your dog for jumping up on strangers then the dog will eventually develop a fear or aggression towards people, and the behavior eventually results aggression which may end up in biting and attacking strangers. This is the end result of your dog associating strangers with something negative with over use of aversive methods.

So it is highly effective, safe and humane to train your dog using positive reinforcement training. And the most popular positive reinforcement training method is Clicker training, which is highly effective and gives quicker results for training as well as corrective behavior problems.

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