Positive reinforcement is something we get asked about in Northern Virginia, a lot! People are always told about the magic of positive reinforcement. While it is an effective tool, unfortunately there are many occasions where it is not as effective as you would like. For instance, a lot of the self-rewarding habits that your dog has can be very difficult to break simply through the use of positive reinforcement. No matter how much you try to offer treats or praise, you find that these are habits that you just cannot break your dog of. But there is hope for you.
Self-rewarding habits are problems because the habit itself is more rewarding to the dog than any praise or treats that you could offer him. If positive reinforcement is going to work, it needs to be better than the reward they get from doing the act you are trying to stop. If there is nothing better to offer your dog, then you really need to consider some of those negative reinforcement training methods that you have been told are so bad for your dog. I have never seen an amazingly obedient dog with distractions that was trained solely through the use of positive reinforcement.
The concept of negative reinforcement is to offer your dog an undesirable stimulus that inspires the dog to stop by complying with your wishes. To put this into an example that you can understand, maybe you are trying to teach your dog the command “come”. If positive reinforcement was not working, you can consider putting your dog on a leash and lightly pulling on it when he does not come when called. Eventually, the dog will get annoyed enough that he will listen. From here, you offer a treat as positive reinforcement. After a while of this technique, your dog will listen to your “come” command. Combining negative and positive reinforcement will make a huge difference in training your dog.
Some people who are opposed to negative reinforcement view this as beating your dog until it becomes submissive. The reality is you are just annoying your dog into complying, not causing any actual pain to him. While there are some methods of training that do cause very small amounts of pain, for the most part the discomfort is kept as low as possible to ensure that learning is going to be accomplished.
There are some things to remember about this technique. It should never be used on puppies under the age of 4-5 month. You really need to know if your dog is ready for it. If you notice it is very bothersome to your dog, you need to stop. Remember to follow up with positive reinforcement to keep your dog happy. When your dog is trained properly, you both are going to have an amazing life together.
If you want a dog that is reliable in any and all situations, contact Off Leash K9 Training!