Positive Dog Training: What You Should Know
Educating the dog is a fundamental part of its development and directly affects the coexistence between humans and animals. That’s why more and more people are choosing to use positive training for their dogs.
But what does this form of training consist of? Why is it better than traditional methods? If you’re looking to learn more about this topic, here are some tips for getting started with positive training as safely as possible.
What is positive training?
The first thing you should know is that there is no operational definition for positive training. In fact, it is a philosophy of dog education that seeks to be as ethical as possible. Its foundations are to avoid the dog’s stress and suffering during the entire process.
To do this, positive training uses techniques that avoid positive punishment, such as hitting, screaming, or using problematic accessories such as choking or shock collars. In short, it starts from the idea that inducing fear in the dog does not help teach the animal what to do and what not to do, but only reduces the incidence of the behavior when the tutor is present.
Techniques used in positive training
Even if positive punishment techniques are frowned upon, it is impossible not to use punishment itself or to avoid exposing the dog entirely to aversive stimuli. The aim in all cases is to eliminate any form of abuse from the educational process.
There are several widespread techniques for positive education that stem from very basic patterns of behavior modification. Below you can find the most common ones.
This technique aims to maintain or increase the frequency of a behavior through a pleasant stimulus: we are talking about the usual reward. An example of this is congratulating the dog or giving him a treat when you call him and he obeys. This way, the animal will be more receptive to coming to you at future times, as it anticipates that you will reward it.
Negative punishment in positive training
This form of punishment avoids violence and the presentation of aversive stimuli, as it consists in removing something positive for the dog when one wants to reduce or extinguish certain behavior. A good example is to stop playing – which would be a positive situation – every time the dog starts biting.
extinction of behavior
To perform this technique, it is necessary that there is a prior reinforcement for the behavior that you want to eliminate, as it consists in letting the behavior extinguish itself in the absence of reward.
Imagine that you adopted a dog that was rewarded whenever it climbed on someone’s leg. If you want to use extinction so that the animal doesn’t do it anymore, stop congratulating it and, over time, the dog will stop reproducing the behavior, as it will not receive a reward for it.
This technique is very useful when reinforcement and negative punishment have no effect. It consists of asking the dog to perform an action that prevents him from reproducing the behavior that he wants to eliminate. It is also useful for controlling the focus of attention in dogs that become obsessed or overly nervous.
A good example is asking the dog to follow you when you want to attack someone. That way, if he obeys the command, he cannot run towards the target of his aggression.
Counterconditioning and desensitization
These two techniques are complementary and are used to alter the emotional value of a stimulus. Let’s look at them separately:
- Counterconditioning: This strategy consists of undoing a conditioning by associating the stimulus – which is linked to a negative emotion – to a reward. For example, if a dog is afraid of cars, he can be congratulated every time he walks by one.
- Desensitization: With this strategy, the objective is to reduce the intensity of the response generated by a stimulus. It is mainly used in phobias, as the dog is gradually exposed to the source of its fear until it stops responding in an intense way.
In general, as they are procedures that require time to become effective, they are combined within the same treatment. In this way, the process is accelerated and new learnings are better established.
Positive training is a relatively new trend and is constantly evolving, as it seeks new strategies to improve the quality of life of dogs that live with humans. So it’s important to keep up to date if you want to adopt this style of education.
While punishment may seem faster and more effective, positive training seems to produce stronger long-term results. It takes work and patience, but it’s the best way to ensure that you and your dog enjoy each other’s company in a healthy, stable and happy way.