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Positive Reinforcement Only Dog Training Is Dead and Here's Why

Updated: Mar 31, 2023

Positive Reinforcement Only vs. Balanced Dog Training

A dog patiently paiting for a trear

To create a more obedient dog, we need to teach our dog what he is doing right, but also what he is doing wrong. Just like dogs, humans learn to avoid certain behaviors like driving on the wrong side of the road through a system of consequences (or Punishment) and repeat behaviors like showing up to work because we get paid, through a system of rewards (Reinforcement). I want you to imagine you are observing a someone's child in a store that is kicking, screaming, and damaging items in the store while their parent is smiling and begging the child to stop the bad behavior. Do you think the child would stop what they are doing and start behaving in a more acceptable manner? In my experience, this does not work. There are no consequences in place to hold the child accountable so of course the child is more likely to repeat unwanted behaviors. This concept can also be applied to dog behavior.

1970's positive reinforcement dog training

In the past few years, the classic way of training a dog, which only uses positive reinforcement, has become less popular. This has led to the rise of a more balanced approach to dog training which combines positive reinforcement and corrections. This technique was first popularized in the 1970s by animal behaviorists who believed rewards were an effective way to shape desired behaviors. These rewards, such as treats and praise, are used to encourage the dog to do what is wanted. While this strategy can be successful in teaching the basic commands, it can be a limiting approach. By only using positive reinforcement, the dog doesn't understand what is expected of him and can become frustrated, confused and develop bad behaviors such as aggression, destruction and disobedience.

A more efficient way to teach a dog is with a balanced method which uses both rewards and corrections. This way, the dog can learn right from wrong and understand the results of his actions. Additionally, this type of training builds the dog's trust as he knows he will be rewarded for good behavior and corrected for bad behavior.

Does it Work?

Using balanced training techniques to train your dog is one of the best ways to reduce unwanted behaviors. Balanced training techniques involve reinforcing desired behaviors by offering rewards such as treats or praise while at the same time providing corrective action when undesired behaviors are observed. This method of training is beneficial because it encourages positive behavior and discourages negative behavior. By providing consistent reinforcement, your dog will learn that certain behaviors are rewarded and that certain behaviors are not desirable. This type of training will help reduce unwanted behaviors in your dog while also teaching them to become obedient and loyal companions.

What is the Likelihood of a Behavior Being Repeated?

By using positive reinforcement to reward desired behaviors and corrections for undesired behaviors, this type of training can significantly reduce the frequency of unwanted behavior in dogs. Examples of balanced dog training include:

  1. Rewarding desired behaviors with treats, verbal praise, or positive physical attention.

  2. Using verbal commands, physical corrections, or distraction techniques to redirect the dog from undesirable behaviors.

  3. Providing clear expectations and consistent boundaries to help the dog understand and follow the rules.


It's Time We Adapt to a More Efficient Method of Dog Training

Happy dog on top of a mountain with it's owner

Ultimately, the classic, positive reinforcement-based dog training is being replaced by a balanced approach which uses rewards and corrections. This approach is more successful as it helps to teach the dog the difference between right and wrong, as well as what behavior is expected of him. It also helps to build his confidence by showing him that he will get rewards for good behavior and corrections for bad behavior.


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