We don’t expect humans to learn without consequences

We don’t expect humans to learn new things without consequences once they have learned them. Why then are there lots of people who think dogs should be trained using only positive reinforcement? They believe in rewards only and no accountability. I can’t tell you how many articles I’ve read where authors instruct readers to seek out a positive reinforcement trainer if you need more help. Sadly most of the time if people are really struggling with their dogs they need more help than this type of limited training can provide. If your human child needed tutoring, would you seek a teacher who wouldn’t tell them when they made a mistake? Someone who would simply give them a reward for each question they got correct? Probably not; in fact you would be hard pressed to find such a person. I have no problem with dog trainers who choose to use only positive methods to train, but I can’t see the logic behind trying to make a balanced approach obsolete and all punishment illegal.

Of course it’s important to use positive reinforcement. It’s a great way to get more of a particular behavior you want the dog to perform. But, positive reinforcement is only one piece of the puzzle when it comes to training. Animals learn through operant conditioning which has four quadrants. I won’t go into detail here, but do some research about these four quadrants to learn more about the two types of reinforcement and the two forms of punishment. If a trainer has the ability to use all four quadrants they can more effectively teach new behaviors and also stop problematic and dangerous behaviors as well.

It truly blows my mind that society would even consider a positive only mentality to teach dogs when we as humans utilize punishment and reinforcement daily in all aspects of our own lives. Don’t be fooled, many of the trainers who claim to only use positive reinforcement actually train their own dogs using a balanced approach behind closed doors. They do tell their dogs no, they just hide it from public knowledge. They also suggest euthanasia quite often when dogs could be helped by balanced trainers.

Again, I use a ton of positive reinforcement when training dogs, but trying to train positive only is like trying to build something intricate with one hand tied behind your back. Why would you do that? It’s going to be much more difficult, some things won’t be possible, it will take three times as long, and the end result will have more flaws. Why would society want to try to push the dog industry in that direction? It makes no sense. Maybe it’s our own human hang ups about the words negative and punishment . Punishment and abuse are not one in the same. We must be careful not to confuse them. When we let society lump punishment and abuse together in all contexts and scenarios we ultimately end up throwing the baby out with the bath water!

Posted in Blog.