by Zazie Todd, PhD, for Companion Animal Psychology
It’s amazing what we can do when we use rewards to train our companion animals. Here are some reasons to give it a try.
Positive reinforcement is recommended by professional organizations
Many professional organizations have spoken out against the use of punishment in dog training because the scientific evidence shows that it carries risks.For example, Dogs Trust recommend the use of rewards in dog training. “In order to be effective and to gain the best results, all training should be based around positive rewards. Positive reward training works because if you reward your dog with something he wants as soon as he does what you ask, he is far more likely to do it again.”In their advice on finding a dog trainer, the American Veterinary Society for Animal Behaviour says “AVSAB endorses training methods which allow animals to work for things (e.g., food, play, affection) that motivate them rather than techniques that focus on using fear or pain to punish them for undesirable behaviors. Look for a trainer who uses primarily or only reward-based training with treats, toys, and play. Avoid any trainer who advocates methods of physical force that can harm your pet such as hanging dogs by their collars or hitting them with their hands,feet, or leashes.”Some organizations (such as the Pet Professional Guild and the APDT (UK)) and some dog training schools (such as the Academy for Dog Trainers, Karen Pryor Academy and the Victoria Stilwell Academy)have a code of practice that requires their members to use kind, humane methods instead of aversive techniques.
People report better results with positive reinforcement
Several studies have found that people who use positive reinforcement to train their dogs report a better-behaved dog than those who use aversive techniques.In a study by Blackwell et al (2008), the dogs of people who used only positive reinforcement training were less likely to have behaviour problems. They suggested this could be because dogs don’t associate punishment with their behaviour, but instead with the owner or the context, and hence may become fearful and anxious.
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