WHY WE USE POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT
An aversive is anything your dog finds unpleasant or wants to avoid. Studies have shown associations between aversive training methods and long-term behavior include aggression towards people and other dogs, anxiety, and excitability. In addition, dogs trained using aversive methods have higher elevations in cortisol compared to dogs trained using reward-based methods meaning that they experience more persistent states of stress throughout their day.
These training methods damage the human-animal bond and no evidence supports aversive methods as more effective than reward-based methods in any context. Based on current scientific evidence, the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior recommends that only reward-based training methods are used for all dog training, including the treatment of behavior problems.
Aversive training methods give the illusion of a quick fix which appeals to people because appears it takes less time, commitment, or money to solve the problem. However, while using something that your dog finds aversive to suppress behavior in the moment may appear effect in the long run, these behaviors often persist or intensify.
In observational studies, dogs trained with aversive methods or tools frequently displayed stress-related behaviors during training, including tense body, lower body posture, lip licking, tail lowering, lifting front leg, panting, yawning, and yelping.Seeing a patrol vehicle or getting speeding ticket may slow you down for a short time but inevitably you’ll be speeding along as you had in the past.
Think of a situation where you attempted to remedy your dog’s behavior that backfired or proved unsuccessful. How does your dog respond to you now in similar situations?
TRY IT AT HOME
Video tape 2 short short sessions (<1 minute) with your dog: one where your dog is on leash and one off leash. Give your dog a cue that you have taught them in the past and then wait for them to respond.
When you replay the video what signals did you observe from your dog in response to your request? How did your dog’s behavior differ between the two videos?
Watch the video below
Do you think Holly walked away feeling safe and understanding what was expected? Could this bite have been avoided?
LONG TERM SOLUTIONS
Reward-based training methods have been shown to be more effective than aversive training methods. Multiple studies have shown higher obedience in dogs trained with reward based methods and not only is Positive Reinforcement’ effective but it feels good to be kind and patient with our animals! While well implemented management strategies often result in immediate reduction of stress and struggle it can take time to see consistent behavior change. That’s because new habits take time to form and become imprinted on the individual. The human and the animal must adopt those new habits as part of their identity before change can become permanent.
During a positive reinforcement training program your coach will suggestions about how and when to use rewards as reinforcement in order to increase desirable behavior. Often this includes the use of food due of it role as a ‘Primary Reinforcer’ or something that it intrinsically motivating to dogs.
Food is not the only, nor always the most effective, way to reward your dog for desirable behavior. Remember that ‘reinforcement’ simply means to increase or maintain and ‘positive’ means the addition of something rewarding. In order to reinforce any behavior your dog has to perceive some benefit for performing that action. Either that benefit is the avoidance of pain or stress (which implies that you are the source of pain or stress) or it’s the genuine desire to achieve something pleasurable.
What are some other ways you can give your dogs things they want in exchange for desirable behavior that aren’t food related?
Aversive training associates you, as the teacher, with unpleasant experiences and makes it harder for your dog to learn new tasks. Using aversives in training also implies that undesirable behavior must be expressed first meaning that it is still getting practiced. Therefore, your dog is receiving benefit from that benefit regardless of whether you attempt to ‘correct’ that behavior after the fact. Positive Reinforcement means we are focusing on encouraging more desirable behaviors
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