Purely Positive Reinforcement training VS Balanced Training

Purely Positive Reinforcement Training VS Balanced Training

leash pulling

Purely Positive Training

Balanced Dog Training

Purely Positive dog training theoretically does not use any form of punishment to train a dog unlike balanced dog training which uses punishment as well as positive reinforcement, sounds perfect right? But what if a dog does something wrong? Purely positive trainers will redirect the dog to do something more desirable. This is fairly easy when dealing with puppies. However, there will always be situations where some form of punishment is needed, even if that punishment is simply restricting a dog from getting something. If you don’t allow a dog to do something you are punishing it by way of not allowing it to access what it wants.

It is difficult to think that a purely positive dog trainer does not use any form of punishment, even the smallest form of punishment like being on a leash. This is where this theory of dog training starts falling apart. 

It is important to note that there was a study done by Dr Fogle in his book ‘The Dog’s Mind’ where puppies that were raised under non-punishment conditions were later impossible to train. 

Let’s start with punishment. There are two types of punishment according to B.F. Skinner and his operant conditioning theory.

Positive punishment is when we add an aversive stimuli as a result of bad behaviour. As an example, using an electric collar on your dog so when he chases the cat, he gets a shock.

Negative Punishment is when something nice is taken away to reduce a certain behaviour. As an example. Using a choke chain to take your dog for a walk, the pleasure of a comfortable unrestricted walk is taken away as soon as the dog starts pulling because the choke chain gets tight around the dog’s neck.

It can be confusing to many what sort of punishment is going on and what punishment is ok and what is not. There are varying degrees of punishment, and many people take it to extremes.

With punishment, the consequence needs to be directly related to the action.

Balanced dog training uses both positive reinforcement training and punishment to train dogs.

Purely positive dog training theoretically only uses positive reinforcement training and nothing else.

So Which Direction is the right one?

Many modern dog trainers are starting to claim they are purely positive reinforcement trainers. In theory, like communism, its a good idea. However, we cannot go through life without dealing with the consequences of our actions. I am by no means saying that prong collars, electric collars and the like are necessary if you want to train your dog. But if you have to deal with bad behaviour the dog needs to learn that what it is doing is wrong and the only way you can do that is through punishment. Here is a list (not comprehensive) of ways you can punish a dog:

  • Verbal reprimand
  • Withhold something the dog wants
  • Physical correction
  • Stop walking while your dog pulls on the leash
  • Taking away what your dog is chewing on
  • Smacking your dog (not recommended)
  • Correcting your dog with a leash and collar
  • Muzzling your dog
  • Aversive collars (not recommended)

There are ways and means to get your dog listening, being obedient and preventing bad behaviour without inhumane training tools. 

Here is a list of ways you can positively reinforce your dogs behaviour:

  • Treats
  • Verbal Praise
  • Physical affection

What we are saying here is this:

Never punish your dog without showing it the correct thing to do. Always match the punishment with the offence. Reward good behaviour!

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