Got a question yesterday.
“Eric, everyone talks about positive reinforcement. Reward the dog for doing obedience, catch your dog doing something right. Focus on what your dog does good and try to not focus on the bad behavior. That is all good but what do I do if my dog jumps or steals food off the counter?”
Great question and this often confuses people.
Your training is NOT just about all about rewards. There are positive AND negative consequences.
You use a positive consequence when you want your dog to do something you want - sit, down, stay, come, etc.
You apply a negative consequence when you want to STOP a behavior.
The problem is that many trainers think a negative consequence should never be used. On YouTube I get my most negative comments when I talk about this.
I understand why. Like a lot of dog trainers, when I started I was taught how to train dogs using brutal and harsh techniques.
I got my start working with security dogs. I used to work in one of the worst neighborhoods in Hartford, CT and the dogs were successfully used as deterrents.
The trainers were extremely harsh and this is how I was taught.
And like a lot of trainers, I found positive training techniques through great trainers like Dr. Ian Dunbar, Jean Donaldson, Patricia McConnell and more.
Once we saw the error in our ways, we wanted to try and do as much positive training as possible. Like many, I tossed my choke and prong collars in the trash and learned how to train without them.
For a long time I tried to train without ever doing anything negative, but over the years, I’ve learned that it is okay to use negative consequences when you follow certain steps.
So to get back to your original question, you use negative consequences when you want to stop a behavior like jumping or stealing food off the counter. The negative consequences do not hurt or harm the dog and most importantly…..
…..the negative consequence should NOT be associated with you.
I know it all seems a little confusing which is why I spend a lot of time in my dog training classes showing dog owners how to stop certain behaviors.