Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Dog Training & Punishment

For some reason many people would rather "correct" or punish behaviour rather than simply teach an alternative. This was the way dogs were trained over 20 years ago but a lot has changed! So when is punishment approrpriate and what kind of punishment should be used? 
It's important to note that dogs have the mental capacity of an 18 month old child (all dogs) and they do not do things out of spite. They live in the moment and generally follow their instincts. A dog pees on the carpet because in that particular moment it feels good. Later on he might "look" guilty but that would be the dog offering appeasement gestures because he may have learned that when you come home then he gets in trouble. The association between house soiling and your anger is not made. 

There are times when punishment is appropriate. I highly recommend using something called "negative punishment" in dog trainer lingo. The negative stands for taking something away rather than "positive punishment" which means to do something to the dog. 
Negative punishment works by taking away what your dog wants. Here's a few examples:

#1 - your dog jumps on you then you walk away from him (taking yourself away is a form of punishment because your dog wants you).

#2 - your dog nips your child's hand while excited so you remove him from the room and give him a "time out". In this case you are removing social interaction.

#3 - as you approach the dog park your pooch goes crazy in the car. You respond by either waiting in the car and ignoring him until he settles OR driving away. Your dog learns that barking/lunging does not get him access to the park.

When training dogs my motto has always been teach them what you actually want them to do. Therefore if my dog was jumping on me then I would teach him to sit for attention/petting and use negative punishment if I needed to. The combination of teaching them what you want and taking away what they want can ensure great results and a happy, well balanced dog.
If your dog is having trouble learning what you want then you should contact a positive reinforcement trainer in your area for assistance. Some dogs have a hard time learning certain skills or just don't understand. 

So the next time your dog is doing something wrong ask yourself these questions:
Why is my dog doing this? (And don't answer because he's stubborn)
What do I want my dog to do instead? 
What can I take away if he doesn't offer the right behaviour? 

Please contact Where's Your Sit if you have questions about training. Remember to use a force free approach and put your creative thinking cap on to problem solve! 

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