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Negative Reinforcement versus Positive Reinforcement

 Negative Reinforcement versus Positive Reinforcement

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When it comes to training a dog, there are two options of reinforcement – negative and positive.  Unfortunately, some people still believe that the most effective means of training a dog is by using negative reinforcement but this has long been proven not only to be unsuccessful, but also harmful.  Studies have been conducted that show the best way to get results with dog training is by using positive reinforcement.

With negative reinforcement, you are using harsh discipline or punishment to show the dog what he did wrong.  This means when the dog does not behave in the manner the owner or handler wants, some type of punishment is given.  Often, tools are used with negative reinforcement to include shock collars, choke collars, and even chemicals.  Now, while using lemon juice is often in the negative reinforcement column, keep in mind that sometimes, this tool is effective, one that does not harm the dog but gets and keeps his attention.  Additionally, any type of hitting, kicking, or pinching the dog is also negative and should never be a part of training.

Now, for positive reinforcement, you are creating a stronger bond between you and the dog.  With this improved relationship, the dog is usually eager to do whatever it takes to please you.  In most cases, a dog will respond more favorably by using positive reinforcement than he would with negative reinforcement.  For instance, when your dog does something you have commanded him to do (sit, lie down, or come), and you provide him with verbal praise, petting, and a small treat, he becomes excited and eager to do it again.

Most often, a dog will go out of his way to do the right thing if he knows that the outcome will be something good from his beloved owner.  What you see with positive reinforcement is a dog showing more urges to please.  After all, they are creatures of nature, loving physical and emotional attention and approval.  Each time your dog is offered positive reinforcement for a job well done, he is more inclined to repeat the behavior.

Keep in mind, in rare occasions, a swat on the butt or nose may be needed to get your dog’s attention.  Let us say your dog was snapping.  Obviously, you need to show him that you are the alpha and that this type of behavior is completely, unacceptable.  However, by making positive reinforcement the traditional form of training, you should seldom have to rely on anything negative to get the desired results.  A little bit of attention and praise, coupled with a small treat will go a long way in training a dog.