In the world of dog training, there has lately been a debate over the use of once popular negative reinforcement or aversive dog training methods in general. But, is it really as bad as it’s generally considered? Not really!
If used the right way, negative reinforcement can offer great benefits in training a dog without having any negative impact on the dog’s psychology and behavior. The use of wrong techniques or their wrong implementation can, however, have negative impacts on your pet’s personality as well as on the bond that you two share.
But, What Does Negative Reinforcement Really Mean in Dog Training?
Before we discuss if negative reinforcement dog training methods are good or bad, it’s important to clarify what negative reinforcement really means. This is because a significantly large number of dog owners consider negative reinforcement the same as punishment. But, these are actually two different methods of training.
Negative reinforcement is a dog training method that involves reinforcing a behavior by removing or avoiding to use something that is unpleasant for your pet.
Punishment, on the other hand, is used to decrease or stop an unwanted behavior.
How Is Negative Reinforcement Used in Dog Training?
There are several negative reinforcement techniques that are used to encourage certain behaviors. Here are a couple of examples to help you develop a better understanding:
- An example of negative reinforcement is when you tell your dog to sit and he doesn’t follow your command, you push your dog’s bottom to make him sit. Once the dog sits, you release the force or pressure. In this scenario, you are reinforcing the behavior, i.e., teaching your dog to sit, by removing the pressure, which is unpleasant for the dog.
- Another example of negative reinforcement can be the use of a dog collar that applies pressure on the dog’s neck, on its own, when he pulls the leash. The pressure is released as soon as the dog stops pulling.
Is Negative Reinforcement the Right Method of Dog Training?
While there is no denying the effectiveness of negative reinforcement in dog training, there are risks involved. Since the method requires using something unpleasant at first so it can later be removed to inculcate the desired behavior, one has to be very careful. The use of strong aversive methods, such as electric shock given via collar or fence, can have negative impacts on your dog’s psychology. It can lead to fear or anxiety. The wrong implementation of negative reinforcement methods can even have the opposite effects and can even lead to aggression.
So, Negative Reinforcement is Bad, Right?
If you know when and how to use negative reinforcement in dog training, it can be useful. Otherwise, it can make things worse.
Most dog training experts agree that negative reinforcement as useful a dog training method as positive reinforcement. It all depends on how one uses it. In general, it is believed that negative reinforcement techniques can be most effective when they’re used as the gentle reminder for certain behaviors that were earlier taught via positive reinforcement. They can particularly come in handy under distracting conditions.
The use of negative reinforcement to train your dog is a tricky approach. If not done right, it can lead to negative or opposing effects. However, when used the right way, it can be an effective method for encouraging certain behaviors. You should not only know the right time and methods for negative reinforcement, but should also know when and where to stop. You shouldn’t put your dog under stress. Due to the complicated nature of negative reinforcement, it should better be left to professional dog trainers.