At Click 4 Paws we firmly believe that we should always use compassion and understanding when training our dogs. We know that taking a step back and looking at things from the dog’s perspective can really help with all aspects of training. Dogs are more likely to repeat behaviours that have a successful outcome from the dog’s perspective, i.e. they get something that they want or like, and we can use this to our advantage when thinking about training plans for our dogs. There is also a large body of scientific research that shows just how successful positive reinforcement training can be. This doesn’t just mean using treats, if you think about all the things your dog likes you can make a large list from food, toys, to verbal praise, in-fact anything that your dog enjoys or desires can be used as a reward.
One question that we regularly are asked is that if we use rewards to increase behaviours that we desire, then surely, we should use some form of punishment to then to ‘get rid’ of the behaviours that we don’t want?
For a long time, a large percentage of dog training centred around using force, startle or punishment based methods. This meant that if a dog did something that you didn’t like, it was punished in some way for that behaviour with the aim of stopping the dog from doing that behaviour and making it less appealing for the dog to do again in the future. Whilst it is true that these methods would not have survived to still be used in some places today if they did not have a measure of success, there are also several very good reasons why they are not desirable training methods.
The Unexpected Outcome; although the person doing the ‘training’ may know what the punishment is for, there is no guarantee that the dog will make the link that you are expecting. Things happen very quickly, and the dog may have its attention or focus on something else by the time the correction happens, so it can be very easy to cause the dog to have a problem with something that had previously not been an issue, as it makes the link between the punishment and what it has its attention on at that moment.
An Escalation of the Undesired Behaviour; with punishment based behaviour techniques there is always a risk that they can lead to an increase of the behaviour rather than a decrease.
Not in the Presence of my Owner; The dog learns that they always gets punished for doing something when you are present, but when you are not there you cannot punish it, so it will quickly learn that it is ok to do something when you are not around, but not when you are watching.
A Breakdown of Trust; Using punishment methods can and does make dogs warier, can increase anxiety and stress.
Does not Teach the Dog an Alternative Behaviour; When using a punishment based method’s we are punishing the dog for doing things that we don’t like or want. But what we are not doing, is teaching the dog an alternative behaviour or helping it to learn how to cope in a situation where they are uncomfortable. Dogs that are trained using punishment methods can enter a state where they essentially give up, become very quiet and submissive, and watch carefully to see what they must do to avoid the next punishment.
If you are interested to read more about training methods, please read the article's attached below.