I am a passionate positive reinforcement, or reward-based dog trainer, motivating dogs to do things because they are rewarded for it rather than doing things because they are scared of the consequences
Many people do not understand positive reinforcement based training but more worryingly, people purposefully misrepresent it to justify the use of punitive techniques on their dogs, and to earn a living from punishing others.
Five of the most common myths are:
1. We ignore bad behaviour – okay there is a lot to unpack here. Firstly, what is bad behaviour? Do they mean normal dog behaviour which is inappropriate? Instead of ignoring it we tend to either prevent it from happening or teach the dog to do something else instead – much better than punishing a dog when they don’t know they are doing something wrong.
2. We are permissive – I think this is one of the true misunderstandings, especially when it comes to getting rid of unwanted behaviours. However, we not only reinforce wanted behaviours, but we use management to ensure that unwanted behaviours do not pay off for the dog. It takes a bit of thought and planning but it works in the end.
3. We believe that nothing bad should ever happen in a dog’s life and we try and protect our dogs from all aversive – well this is just not true, it’s impossible and not actually ideal as we want our dogs to be resilient. But we don’t want to apply aversive to our dogs to stop behaviours – just as we wouldn’t with our children.
4. We use punishment we just don’t know it – so this is a technical one… punishment is used to reduce a behaviour. I use negative punishment on occasion, which means taking something nice away to reduce a behaviour. So I might take my attention away if the dog is doing something I’m not keen on but I wouldn’t apply an aversive like a choke collar to stop a dog doing something.
5. I’ll always have to carry treats – this isn’t true, once a dog has learnt a behaviour you won’t always have to carry treats but also is this such a hardship. I like to pay my dog for working hard for me.
If given two options, to give a treat or to give a yank on a choke chain – I know which I would rather do!
About Kimberley ...
Kimberley Grundy is a canine behaviourist and trainer, based in Yorkshire. She has practised for more than ten years and has two masters degrees – one in animal behaviour and welfare,
the other in psychology.