Just like humans, dogs are keen on striving for perfection. Yet achieving that perfect behavior is ultimately up to how the owner decides to train their dog: via positive reinforcement or negative reinforcement.

Although most dog training these days — both in a large group setting and one-on-on training — is a mix of both techniques, it is important to understand the fundamentals, benefits, and drawbacks of both.

Positive Reinforcement

This type of dog training rewards the good behaviors the dog is doing. The dog trainer or owner will almost never reprimand the dog for bad behavior, but will instead keep tell the dog to perform a certain behavior. A reward, such as a treat or a verbal phrase, will only be given if that good behavior is displayed.

The idea is that after a relatively short amount of time, the dog will be conditioned to understand that a good behavior warrants a reward. The benefits of positive reinforcement for dog training are such that the dog will learn good behaviors faster than with negative reinforcement and the good habits will generally never be forgotten.

Negative Reinforcement

This method of training is often shunned as inhumane by many pet lovers. A term originally coined by B.F. Skinner, this reinforcement technique seeks to banish bad behavior by punishing the dog for performing the incorrect trick or behavior.

For dog trainers, this method is also termed the “Alpha Dog” technique. The trainer or the owner will assert themselves by negative reinforcement by using techniques such as subjecting the dog to large doses of a stimuli they don’t like, a firm tap on the nose, or holding the mouth shut. This shows the dog that the owner is boss and they are the subordinate.

Though the dog will quickly realize the bad habits and seek out to correct the behavior, this method is generally frowned upon as unhelpful for members of a family that may not be aggressive enough to dish out negative reinforcement.

Happy Medium

Personal dog trainers have generally been trying to find a more gray area when it comes to successfully training a dog. This will include rewards for good habits, such as sitting when told, while there will be slight reprimands for negative behavior such as leash pulling or stealing food from the counter tops.

It is best to look into dog training classes in order to understand what types of methods work for your dog and your family. Classes such as what Canine College offers are dynamic and will always cater towards specific breeds, ages, and personalities of the dogs.

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