Each experienced pet owner probably has their own theory about what method of training and discipline works best. Some ascribe to only positive reinforcement, while others believe in using the “velvet glove in an iron hand” approach of firmness and discipline. While certain aspects of strong discipline might have their place, most dog behaviorists and training professionals agree that positive reinforcement training is the most successful way to get good behavior from a pet. Here is a summary of two of the major training strategies and how they work.
Disciplining a dog with force and harshness has been considered one of the more effective methods of canine training. This discipline-based training teaches animals that there are consequences for certain actions by removing privileges, using minor pain (like pinching the toes, using a shock collar, or swatting a dog’s nose or rump) to let them know which actions are acceptable and which ones are not. This method mimics what happens in a dog/wolf pack in the wild, which is why this kind of approach is sometimes referred to as “Alpha-Dog” training. There is one leader in a pack, and all other members fall subservient to the pack leader. If one does something amiss, transgresses a rule, or challenges a boundary, the alpha dog will swiftly remind the offender who is in charge. Since domestic dogs tend to see people as a part of their pack, training them to submit to the authority of the pack leader (you), does not seem too far-fetched a concept.
Behaviorists have noted this could be problematic for certain breeds who revolt with aggression against any infliction of pain or discipline. Because of this, the use of positive reinforcement has been a more desirable method among 5the majority of trainers.
Positive Reinforcement Training
Positive reinforcement helps dogs learn that certain actions give them rewards, while other actions cause them to be ignored. The method is based on the psychological principle that people and creatures respond better to praise and rewards than they do to negativity, punishment or pain. It helps dogs learn that if they do certain things they will get praise and affirmation, a delicious treat, or a chance to play their favorite toy. Here is a glimpse at how positive reinforcement training functions:
If a dog sits, he gets a pet and a treat. If he comes on command, the same thing happens. But if the dog is distracted, obeys too late, or isn’t able to focus, then the treat simply does not come. This method helps the dog associate obedience and quick responses to the desired item of choice he is interested in, be it treat or toy.
Some dogs are more motivated by food than others, and those that aren’t can be offered lots of petting, praise, or playtime with other pets, and toys. But when they fail to obey commands, then the pets do not receive the rewards, and are either interrupted from the action (i.e. if they are urinating on the floor) or ignored (i.e. when they fail to sit while waiting for their food). Like discipline training or “alpha dog” training, this method may not have the same efficacy on all breeds equally, but it is still currently the most popular training technique that trainers use.