Common (Dog) Sense

anxiety

What Are You Reinforcing When Training Your Dog?

I have no issue training pups/dogs with food. What I do have an issue with, is people/trainers training frantic dogs with food, or causing them to become frantic!

Don't just look at what you can get a dog to do using food, but understand the deeper emotional and psychological impact your training maybe having on the pup/dog. This awareness should be your number one concern when training your dog.

We need to be very aware of the power of classical conditioning, the conditioning of involuntary unhealthy psychological and physiological states in the pup/dog, whilst using positive reinforcement, whether it be with food, toys or even praise.

I never just look at what the dog is doing for me, I am firstly acutely aware of the dogs current emotional and psychological states. The dogs current state will dictate to me the type of reinforcement I will use to reward a dog for appropriate behaviour, if any.

If I am working with a dog that is frantic, overly anxious, and can't control its impulses, my preferred method to calm the dog during training, and to bring the dog back into a more focused and clear state of mind, and at the same time rewarding appropriate behaviour, is using negative reinforcement. Negative reinforcement is one of the most powerful processes to help bring a dog back into a more balanced state. Negative reinforcement, for those that don't understand, is the process of removing something to encourage an appropriate behaviour. For example we can use leash pressure to cause a level of discomfort at the dogs threshold of discomfort, and then remove the pressure/discomfort when the dog responds appropriately.

Many positive only and force free trainers will inform you that negative reinforcement is cruel because we are causing physical discomfort to the dog, when in fact, I consider training a dog that is in a frantic state, is emotionally unstable, and can't control its impulses, and using positive reinforcement, to be in many cases, abusive, as we are not being aware of the dogs current unhealthy psychological and/or physiological state during training.

Many cases I come across of dogs that are psychologically and/or physiologically unstable, are dog owners that have followed the positive only ideology from when their dog was a pup, and were not being fully aware of the pups psychological state when using a high value reward (such as food, toys, etc) to reward/reinforce appropriate behaviour. We need to be very aware of the power of classical conditioning when training, as we not only can create a conditioned physical response to a command or cue, but can also cause an involuntary unhealthy psychological and/or physiological state in the dog. This is particularly noticeable by me when I have observed puppy owners and trainers that use clicker training methods, that are more concerned with marking a particular response from the pup/dog, than being aware of underlying psychological and physiological states.

We train the dog in front of us. We never have a one method suits all mentality. Positive reinforcement is not always the most appropriate response when teaching a dog to do something, because as I alluded to above, we are always reinforcing more than just the physical response to a command or cue.

 


Font size: +
Subscribe to this blog post Unsubscribe Print

Latest Posts

19 April 2020
Dog Training & Behaviour
I find one of the biggest hurdles to get over when helping dog owners modify unwanted behaviours in their dog, is convincing many of them not to project their own current emotional state onto their dog, especially when trying to modify their dogs beh...
906 Hits
13 February 2020
Dog Training & Behaviour
When dogs have no defined consistent rules and boundaries, have no understanding of respecting personal and social space, and no impulse control, why wouldn't we expect to come across neurotic dogs in a state of continual hyper-arousal and emotional ...
1997 Hits
08 February 2020
Dog Training & Behaviour
Applying discomfort, why is it considered such an evil concept by positive only and force free extremists, when its one of natures most powerful learning principles to help an animal understand what to avoid and to learn boundaries? No animal or soci...
1931 Hits
26 January 2020
Dog Training & Behaviour
No social group can survive without some form of leadership. Without leadership we have chaos. Try and have a successful sports team with no perceived leadership, or weak leadership. Try and run a successful business without there being leadership.Pl...
1280 Hits
29 October 2019
Dog Training & Behaviour
We teach young children behavioural boundaries, such as respecting others personal and social space, and to control their impulses. If we didn't, then we end up with very disrespectful children as they grow. However, not only are we teaching behaviou...
1552 Hits
26 October 2019
Soap Box
I tried to post this on my Facebook page, but due to its length, Facebook wouldn't post it. So here goes... I do expect a backlash, and I am sure it will not be my last word on this.My previous post on rescues (here) certainly brought out a lot of ov...
1597 Hits