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Dog Training Strategies – Two Main Approaches


In this blog post, we’ll collapse the methods of training into two very general classifications – positive and negative reinforcement training. Through this, you will be able to know which type of training dog professionals recommend and the arguments supporting it. Before we start, a big thank you to GSTA for their valuable resource on German Shepherd Training and

First, it is essential to point out to ourselves that dogs are of a completely different species than ourselves and for that reason, our anticipations would possibly not meet the way they behave. In the simplest terms, you can think of dogs’; learning by using trial and error; that is they will behave in a bunch of different approaches and based on the repercussions of those behaviors/actions, they will either increase or decrease the rate of recurrence of those actions. Know it or not, your dog is learning continuously by monitoring its environment and the consequences of its actions and social interactions. Your dog (in particular cases, similar to us), will avoid a behavior that results in  bad consequences or whatever that makes the good consequences disappear.

Also keep in mind that German Shepherds are one of the most intelligent dog and it’s safe to say that you and your dog will have a stronger bond every time your dog sees you as a facilitator to good consequences. Consider this, your dog’s joy really does count on you as the owner. From the freedom to interact with other dogs at parks, taking walks around the neighborhood, or even having a delicious meal, you possess the deciding key! Hence, if you do expose these opportunities for your dog to generate positive experiences, your dog will more likely than not to cooperate with you.

This is the philosophy behind the process of rewarding your dog for great actions and is regarded as positive reinforcement training. The range of tasks you can do to encourage good behavior are countless and consist of almost anything from snacks as well as new toys to spending more time in the dog parks or petting your dog. Positive reinforcement training often works well for the reason that in order for your dog to encounter things that he appreciates/enjoys, he needs to earn them by cooperating with you.  Positive reinforcement training focuses on the “dos” rather than the “don’ts.”

Now, you’re probably curious: What about punishment or what is also known as negative reinforcement? Many dog trainers would concur that penalizing your dog for one thing that he/she did is not going to teach your dog behave in a more favorable or appropriate way. What’s more, punishing your dog is VIOLENT! Not only that, it can also stress the bond both of you share, which can make training your dog much more frustrating than it’s supposed to be. Another unfavorable result of negative reinforcement is that your dog will begin revealing behaviors of submission and fear anytime you – the punisher – are present. And when you’re not present, your dog will return to behaving the very same manner he/she was penalized for. Think of a time when you were younger and your parents advised you “no” to some things; what did you turn out doing?

The youthful me, for one, wouldn’t have given in with ease. Instead, I almost certainly would have continued bugging my parents for the things I desired. I bring this up because I feel like most of us can associate to such scenarios and therefore realize why negative reinforcement training does not (really) get the job done. From previous knowledge, I have seen individuals punishing (let’s not go into detail how) their dogs for digging holes in their house garden which only resulted in more hole digging in the event that there is no one present at home. Let’s be truthful, occasionally dog owners would feel so irritated with the actions of their dogs that they have the tendency to act out of their impulse and punish their dogs. It must be reiterated that punishing your dog, as mentioned, does no good for you and your dog. In such scenarios, it is best to just walk away, calm down, and then set up a positive strategy to deal with your dog’s behavior.

Just before we decide that positive reinforcement training is the way to go, let’s take a step back and really think about when negative reinforcement training can be used in a non-abusive way as a way to train your dog. To better illustrate this, let’s think about something that you like or enjoy; as an example of this, it could be you really enjoy eating seafood. Now, this may possibly seem tremendous, but let’s state that anytime you eat too much seafood at one go, your stomach won’t feel that great afterwards. Occasionally though, you can’t withstand the temptation to stuff yourself with seafood and as a consequence, you experience a diarrhea. Does this make you “wrong”? I believe most people would consent that the answer is undeniably not.

Now, apply a equivalent situation to your dog. Possibly your dog really likes digging holes and even though he is well-trained, there might be occasions where he really wants to dig holes in your backyard.  Likewise, this does not mean your dog is a “bad” dog. At instances such as these, times where your dog demonstrates a particular difficult action, one thing that can be done is utilizing negative reinforcements so that you could divert your dog’s behavior to something that is appropriate to you. Going back to the same example, whenever you see your dog starting to dig holes in your backyard, one could say something like “Eh, Jasper (your dog’s name), come here.” This assists keep your dog’s behavior in check and reminds your dog that the action that he is trying to undertake is a no go. Once again, the aim here is not to threaten your dog, but instead, to assist your dog towards other things that he appreciates which can be earned by means of good behavior (positive reinforcement). Disturbing the behaviors of your dog will not only influence your dog to avoid such behaviors in the foreseeable future, but by doing so in a non-abusive way, you will not induce anxiety into your dog.

So in a nutshell, positive reinforcement training is definitely the way to go; despite the fact that at times, dog owners need to mix it up by incorporating certain types of non-abusive negative reinforcement training.

If you’re a dog owner, what about you? What is or has been working for you?

Hope everyone is having a great weekend!

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