Dog training Methods. Positive vs Negative reinforcement

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Dog training Methods. Positive vs Negative reinforcement

Postby k9ruby » Sun Jan 10, 2010 5:08 pm

Having read the vegetarianism thread, I would love to see what people think about dog training methods. Let me say this now, I don't want any flaming or rudeness on this thread, whatever someones opinion is. I would also prefer it if posters could justify their opinions, rather than saying "You're wrong!".

Let me give you a quick introduction. In dog training there are two main types of training: Positive and negative.

Positive may include: clicker training, other positive operant conditioning methods, lure and reward, ignoring behavior when inappropriate, play training, verbal praise, positive non threatening body language, stroking, massage etc

Negative may include: physical force, shouting, shock collars, choke chains, prong collars, spray collars, verbal telling off, rattle bottle, alpha roll etc

I would say I am mainly a positive reinforcer (I use clickers, treats, toys, cuddles, massage, verbal praise etc most of the time) but also include some negative reinforcement when absolutely necessary, and when changing pack structure hasn't worked: ignore, verbal "ah ah", rattle bottle, half check collar, gentle roll if needed (would never use in aggressive situation, just to test puppies response of being held to one side when I stroke its tummy!). We did use a water pistle at one point.

I now have a very well trained and happy 11 year old Labrador that can be trusted with anyone, and has no signs of aggression. He will respond to commands, and will not try and bite if you take a chew off him/put your hand near his feeding bowel. He does not jump up, chew, bark, pull etc. The only thing is he is very greedy :)
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Re: Dog training Methods. Positive vs Negative reinforcement

Postby Steph » Sun Jan 10, 2010 6:43 pm

I am not a dog owner so I am speaking from an uninformed viewpoint really but I definitely do not agree with any physical punishment. When I was staying round at my friends house once, their dog had a shock collar which they activated every time it started barking. Forgive me for my ignorance but I thought barking was an essential form of communication for a dog, just like mewing is for cats. However, you say Archie doesn't bark so it's possible I was misinformed about this. I watched a documentary on BBC IPlayer once about young men who were training their dogs to be as aggressive as possible (the dogs were all from breeds that have a reputation, rightly or wrongly, as being violent and unpredictable and some of them had been obtained illegally as are banned in Britain under the Dangerous Dogs Act). They would kick and punch them to make them agitated and angry so that they would be ready to attack on command. That's just barbaric and I hope the people responsible were jailed after the programme aired as people who can do that to an animal are just sick!
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Re: Dog training Methods. Positive vs Negative reinforcement

Postby k9ruby » Sun Jan 10, 2010 7:02 pm

I am not a dog owner so I am speaking from an uninformed viewpoint really but I definitely do not agree with any physical punishment. When I was staying round at my friends house once, their dog had a shock collar which they activated every time it started barking. Forgive me for my ignorance but I thought barking was an essential form of communication for a dog, just like mewing is for cats. However, you say Archie doesn't bark so it's possible I was misinformed about this. I watched a documentary on BBC IPlayer once about young men who were training their dogs to be as aggressive as possible (the dogs were all from breeds that have a reputation, rightly or wrongly, as being violent and unpredictable and some of them had been obtained illegally as are banned in Britain under the Dangerous Dogs Act). They would kick and punch them to make them agitated and angry so that they would be ready to attack on command. That's just barbaric and I hope the people responsible were jailed after the programme aired as people who can do that to an animal are just sick!


He doesn't. However, I think 70-80% comes from body language: e.g. sumissive stance (belly showing, on side, hind leg lifted), uneasy (yawning, ears pinned back, won't settle), playful (tail wagging, bum in air) etc has to come into it as well :)

I completely agree on the physical punishment thing. The only scenario where I see use for a Shock collar would be if the dog was alive but gave one more chance after everything else hadn't worked before being put down for something like sheep worrying- obviously you would need an experienced trainer to get the timing right, but then such a trainer probably wouldn't need such equipment!

That thing about illegal dog breeds makes me angry- it makes me think how crappy humans can be.
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Re: Dog training Methods. Positive vs Negative reinforcement

Postby Cynamon » Sun Jan 10, 2010 10:53 pm

I think when we had dogs, we always used a bit of both. I remember walking one of our dogs with a choke chain, we didn't randomly pull on it or anything, but it helped to learn the heel command (I was only about 8 at the time so I don't remember everything) but I do know there were a lot of things like being given a big fuss when they did something right and a treat, I think my mum did smack one of our dogs a couple of times when he tried to bite someone, but that's the only time I remember a smack.

He was a pretty well behaved dog though. He got over the biting thing which happened when he was young. He always had issues with people in uniforms though, we never figured out why.
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Re: Dog training Methods. Positive vs Negative reinforcement

Postby Remus » Mon Jan 11, 2010 12:25 am

I don't know much about dogs myself, I only had my dog, Paddy when I was young. I specialise in cats, whenever I've tried to walk a dog, it's been him/her walking me instead of me walking them! :lol: However, I did do positive and negative reinforcement in Animal Behaviour along with + and - punishment. Apologizes if I use the + and - symbols, it's just a lot faster, I probably won't though!

I totally agree with Steph on the whole physical punishment is completely wrong. Things like shock collars are just awful and only should be used as a last ditch attempt before the dog has to put down. What anger me is that it always these dogs that are on the Dangerous Dog Act. It's not their fault their aggressive, it's the people who have made them that way. And then of course, we get this stories of dogs mauling children because the people have stupidly left the child alone with a dog who is now aggressive because of the physical punishment that he/she has been recieving and then their reputation as a breed goes down even more. One of our tutors, Rachel has this rottweiler called Calum who we had to work with in Animal Health to do some pretend first aid. He is a really softy, he is just really a cute, soppy dog. We had no problems with him, he would let us take his temperature and bandage him etc.

I am not keen on choke chains just because of our tutor, Beth tells us awful stories about them. Apparently the police and the army are the worst for using these and they are fine if you don't pull on them but of course, the police and army want to make the dogs quite fiery so often pull on them and constantly pulling using choke chains can lead to neck and throat injuries to the dog.

I personally like the idea of negative punishment where you take the dog's favourite toy or treat of them until they behaviour and then you give it back until they get the idea. I personally have used positive punishment on my kitten, Dylan. He was quite curious about the christmas tree and first time we left him downstairs on the nighttime, he wrecked it so we introduced a small water gun so everytime he went near the tree we squirt him with a little bit of water which of course, he didn't like and eventually he got the idea.
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Re: Dog training Methods. Positive vs Negative reinforcement

Postby Cynamon » Mon Jan 11, 2010 10:44 am

I don't agree with choke chains being used when a dog is going to be fired up and constantly pulling at them, like the police and things like Remus said. It didn't cause any problems with our dog though. But then he didn't really pull at it much once he figured out it didn't choke if he stopped pulling and trying to drag us along. We needed something like that though, because he could be quite aggressive when he was a puppy.

He grew out of it though and we didn't have the choke chain all his life, I think we stopped using it when he was about 1 or 2, and he figured out long before that how to not make it pull, I think it was only used out of habit in the end.
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Re: Dog training Methods. Positive vs Negative reinforcement

Postby k9ruby » Mon Jan 11, 2010 5:37 pm

I totally agree with Steph on the whole physical punishment is completely wrong. Things like shock collars are just awful and only should be used as a last ditch attempt before the dog has to put down. What anger me is that it always these dogs that are on the Dangerous Dog Act. It's not their fault their aggressive, it's the people who have made them that way. And then of course, we get this stories of dogs mauling children because the people have stupidly left the child alone with a dog who is now aggressive because of the physical punishment that he/she has been recieving and then their reputation as a breed goes down even more. One of our tutors, Rachel has this rottweiler called Calum who we had to work with in Animal Health to do some pretend first aid. He is a really softy, he is just really a cute, soppy dog. We had no problems with him, he would let us take his temperature and bandage him etc.

I am not keen on choke chains just because of our tutor, Beth tells us awful stories about them. Apparently the police and the army are the worst for using these and they are fine if you don't pull on them but of course, the police and army want to make the dogs quite fiery so often pull on them and constantly pulling using choke chains can lead to neck and throat injuries to the dog.


I completely agree that physical punishment is wrong. However, I have 11 years experience of dog ownership, and around 9 years of advanced dog training (I was chosen to be a Demo Dog handler at the age of 12-13 at my local dog training club- I was the first junior handler to make it all the way to their most advanced classes in obedience and the trainer wanted me to attend the other classes as well to show it how it was done :) I remember being so chuffed at the time...got a special fleece and everything lol). So I can happily say I have seen a wide variety of training methods, having attended five dog training schools myself- the first one I dropped out of because I remember in Archies puppy class I remember the trainer yelling "choke him! choke him!" when he went to sniff another dog. They could of happily taught positive reinforcement methods and got a much better result. Although I am not proud to say it, I am a ex choke user after one of dads friends (ex dog handler) persuaded him to give it a go- it didn't work, and now we have had to deal with a collapsed vocal cord which I would not be surprised to be due to inexperienced choke chain use.

The only time choke chains become acceptable is if no other positive/lesser negative methods have worked, and when the dog is at risk of injuring itself or its owner- i.e. chasing cars. I'm not saying anyone should try and fix it on their own- this should only be used in extreme circumstances when all else fails. Personally I see choke chains the step below electric collars.

They should always be put in a 'P' shape, the tail facing your left leg- put on the wrong way round you are asking for trouble. They should NEVER be used on puppies below a year old- their bodies are still developing. They should NOT be used on toy or terrier breeds- their throats are extremely delicate. They should also NOT be used on breeds where breathing is an issue because of bad breeding over generations making them prone to throat problems- e.g. bulldogs. They should NOT be used on short haired dogs, and the weight of the chain should be given consideration. The dog should be given a warning clunky sound and then checked quickly.

Again, they should only be used with an experienced trainer with correct timing when all else fails. Other alternatives could be half checks (used them on myself over my hands )- MUCH less harsh then the full blown thing, as this style of collar has a minimum space and almost impossible to put on incorrectly. Even better are things like haltis- dogs can't pull with their noses, although a emergency collar clip should always be used just in case they fall off, and you still have some control. You could consider a harness (I use one with Archie due to him not having any pressure on his neck) , or even better correct heel-work training in the first place.

Remus, I agree with you regarding Breed Specific Legislation. The current legislation is way, way too vague and badly layed out. The legislation also has the flaw that it also targets bull breed 'types'- scary it is, a VERY badly bred lab with incorrect coat colours could fit it.

I agree with your point about the fact that the 'illegal' dog breeds are only dangerous because humans have made them so- I have a friend who had his dog nicked and we both know, sick as it is, because he is a bull breed type, he is probably being used in illegal dog fighting rings.

However, like kids, it is up to the owners how the dog turns out. I used to go dog training where a frail 76 year old rottie owner - she had two of them, told me if she falls over, one will get underneath her to help her up, whilst the other will stay by here side and stand firmly next to her to offer support as she gets up. She hadn't trained them to do this- they just know sometimes she needs help getting up! They were HUGE softies- I placed my arm in their mouths knowing with all my mind they wouldn't do anything.
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Re: Dog training Methods. Positive vs Negative reinforcement

Postby C » Sat Feb 20, 2010 5:45 pm

I'm definitely all for positive reinforcement, I think negative reinforcement can be so cruel... in saying that, I have, on occasion got exasperated with animals I have and done things I've regretted out of frustration.

PS. I know this is irrelevant but when I saw the title of this thread, I just knew it would be you who started it, Ruby.
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Re: Dog training Methods. Positive vs Negative reinforcement

Postby k9ruby » Mon Feb 22, 2010 5:03 pm

C wrote:I'm definitely all for positive reinforcement, I think negative reinforcement can be so cruel... in saying that, I have, on occasion got exasperated with animals I have and done things I've regretted out of frustration.

PS. I know this is irrelevant but when I saw the title of this thread, I just knew it would be you who started it, Ruby.


Hehehe :) No surprises there then :)
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