Once you decide that you need to change or modify your dog’s undesirable behaviors, you also need to determine what kind of training method you want to use – a rewards or punishment-based training program, or a combination of both.
Discipline-based dog training methods more often than not utilize punishments such as inflicting pain, taking away privileges, or other kinds of adverse outcomes if a dog doesn’t behave in the manner the owner wants to.
Rewards-based dog training on the other hand involves withholding rewards for undesirable behaviors and handing out rewards for desired or proper behaviors.
Combining Operant Conditioning and Classical Conditioning Behavioral Techniques
With the discipline-based dog training technique, dogs are trained to avoid or repeat behaviors based on the behavior’s consequence. You can combine operant and classical conditioning for training your dog with the use of rewards.
Rewards-based dog training falls under the classical conditioning model where the goal is to affect behavior through changing underlying stimuli associated with the dog’s natural response. Operant conditioning, on the other hand, goes a step further by rewarding desired behaviors.
This boosts the chances that the dog will repeat the behavior until it’s ingrained in him.
The Problem with Using Punishments for Dog Training
Numerous studies have found that in order to successfully modify behaviors, you need to motivate a dog to change. Unfortunately, traditional dog trainers typically use punishments as motivators. Using punishments only rewards the trainer or punisher.
Any dog training professional in Utah will tell you that punishing could get out of hand very quickly and that there’s a super fine line between abuse and punishment. While punishments really work, it will temporarily stop a dog’s unwanted behavior out of fear for the trainer and punishment.
However, the dog won’t learn a good replacement behavior to take the place of the undesirable behavior. In time, the dog will regress and the undesirable behavior will either come back or be replaced with other undesirable behaviors.
In addition, when using punishments for training, you need to increase the severity and intensity of the punishments since your dog will be desensitized to the punishments you dish out. It’s also crucial to note that punished dogs usually end up being more aggressive over time.
This could make them extremely dangerous to unfamiliar people, especially children.
Why Positive Reinforcement Works Best
Utilizing rewards does not necessitate using force, just a little bit of creativity. For example, you can select an undesirable behavior you want to replace and an acceptable behavior you want to replace it with, like having your dog wait on the floor to get his food instead of jumping up to the table to beg for scraps.
You then reinforce his acceptable behavior with a reward. Doing so will boost the chances that your dog will continually do the acceptable behavior and stop doing the undesirable behavior.
Put simply, rewards-based dog training is all about teaching your dog confidence and good behavior, with the inhibition and fear that punishment-based training brings. It is also backed by sound science and offers a common and more humane language between owners and pets that can help deepen their bond.