Positive Vs. Negative Dog Training: Key Concepts For Dog Owners

If you’re a dog owner, chances are you’ve put a lot of time and energy into choosing your dog. And whether you have a puppy from a reputable breeder or have adopted an older dog from the shelter, we can bet you’ve spent some time training your dog, or at least thinking about it. 

All dogs need training and socialization in order to be happy and healthy members of society. But there are many types of training and a multitude of opinions on the best methods of dog training.

We know sorting it all out can get confusing, so Beverly Hills Veterinary Associates is sharing the basics of two common dog training methodologies: positive reinforcement training and negative reinforcement training.

Positive Reinforcement Dog Training

Otherwise known as rewards-based training, positive reinforcement training focuses on teaching and rewarding desired behavior, rather than punishing undesirable behavior. In dogs, it’s important to use a reward that your individual dog really desires – for some, that means a tasty treat and for others it might be playing ball or receiving a special toy. 

Positive reinforcement dog training can be used by any family member – including children and the elderly – to elicit the desired response. It is a great way to teach basic obedience commands such as sit, stay, down, and come. It can also be used to create a desirable behavior in place of an undesirable one. 

To do this, choose the behavior you want to reinforce, and the unwanted behavior you want it to replace. When your dog begs at the table, for example, positive reinforcement training would teach him to lie on a designated mat instead, using rewards for going to the mat. It may take time, but it works!

Science says that rewards-based training elicits few stress behaviors and more looking at the pet owner than negative reinforcement or discipline based training. It’s scientifically sound for lasting behavior changes, provides a common language between pet owner and pet, and strengthens the human-animal bond.

Negative Reinforcement Dog Training

In negative reinforcement, a negative stimulus is received when a desired behavior occurs. A classic example is pushing down on a dog’s back end to get them to sit, and removing the pressure once the dog is in the sitting position. The dog eventually learns to sit on spoken command in order to avoid being pushed down on. 

The problem with negative reinforcement is that dogs get desensitized over time. So any discipline or punishment that is used will need to escalate over time as well in order to elicit the same response from the dog – something many pet owners are not comfortable with. 

Dogs who have been trained with punishment or negative reinforcement have also been shown in scientific studies to display more aggression, making them more dangerous for children and unfamiliar adults to interact with. 

Dogs that are disciplined might temporarily inhibit their behavior to avoid an undesired consequence, but they don’t learn better behavior to take the unwanted behavior’s place. Studies show that dogs trained with discipline exhibit more stress behaviors (lip licking, yawning) and look at their owners less than dogs trained with positive reinforcement. 

Dog Training for Your Dog

With so many dog training methods out there, it can often be confusing to try and decide on one. Whatever method you choose, make sure your dog trainer is a certified professional dog trainer. Your team at Beverly Hills Veterinary Associates is ready and willing to walk you through your decision to find out what works best for your individual dog. Please don’t hesitate to call us if you have any questions.