Is negative reinforcement bad for your dog? What is it really? Are you struggling to get your dog to learn the basics and want to try something new? In this article we cover dog training using negative reinforcement – what it is and how do it without punishing your dog.
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Positive Reinforcement vs Negative Reinforcement – What Is It?
Positive reinforcement uses rewards and treats to reward a behavior and reinforce it.
Negative reinforcement removes a negative stimulus to reward a behavior and reinforce it.
Both methods seek to reward behaviors.
One adds a pleasure. One removes a pain.
Both have their place in dog training.
In the excellent video below Richard Heinz demonstrates the results you can get with both methods. He’s known as the dog whisperer of Miami. He’s a high level trainer performs basic dog and puppy training all the way through police and military style protection training.
He uses both positive and negative reinforcement depending on the dog and the end goals of the training.
For negative reinforcement training he uses what he calls remote collars (i.e. shock collars). We have extensive articles on shock collars and the various controversial opinions about them.
Negative reinforcement is also the most common form of training for protection dogs. Why? It’s faster and they respond quicker to commands. That’s what you want from a well trained protection dog.
We side with Richard. Negative reinforcement when used appropriately is a humane and effective way to train dogs.
As a dog owner you must be trained to use this type of training. For most people it may be easier to just use positive reinforcement. This is especially true if you don’t have the patience to learn to be a good dog trainer.
He finds that positive reinforcement is great but it takes more time. Dog’s react slower to respond and perform positively reinforced behaviors (e.g. they take more time to sit when commanded).
With negative reinforcement training, Richard can get dogs to sit, stay, come, etc. very quickly. Their response rate to commands is much faster.
Watch the video below to see examples of both positive and negatively reinforced dog behaviors.
Pay careful attention especially towards the end with Lola, the dog that needed faster training using negative reinforcement. Even with the collar training you can see praise rewards mixed in.
Training isn’t either/or. You can use both positive and negative training. As always, we recommend you get good training on how to train. Our favorite training program is Brain Training.
Examples of Negative Reinforcement
Negative reinforcement takes away a stimulus when a positive behavior happens. The stimulus is usually something the dog doesn’t want (negative). It’s meant to reinforce a behavior.
Negative reinforcement is about taking away a negative to reward your dog for doing a behavior you want to reinforce.
Here are a few examples:
- Pushing the dogs bottom to get them to start sitting. When they sit on their own releasing the pressure.
- Using a shock collar to apply static correction when your dog is outside your yards boundaries. Then when they return turning off the static correction.
- While walking your dog notice if they are scared of other dogs. If they show anxiety at first make them wait. When they display calmer behavior, even the smallest bit, move them away from the other dogs.
Train a Dog to Come When Called – Dog Training With Negative Reinforcement and Shock Collars
The best way to understand dog training through negative reinforcement is with an example.
In this example we’re going to use a shock collar to train a dog to come when called. This method uses negative reinforcement to reinforce a desired behavior (coming back to you).
In this great video, Ty the dog guy, explains how using e collars is like teaching your dog a new language. You have to teach them what the static correction means.
- Learn to use e collars before you train with them! They are great tools but only if you use them correctly.
- Put on the e collar.
- Set it to the lowest static correction level.
- Have your dog on a leash.
- When the walk away gently pull on the leash.
- This is the signal, the trigger. You want them to learn that this means they should come back to you.
- If they continue to pull turn on the static correction.
- Release it when they turn around to face you. Also give them praise.
- That’s a mix of negative and positive reinforcement in the same training and it works well.
- Combine the signal of gently pulling the leash with saying “come”.
- Again if they continue to pull after you pull on the leash and say “come” then turn on the static correction.
- Release it when they come back to you. Give praise.
- Repeat until they learn that gentle pulling and “come” means they should come right back to you without a static correction.
Below we’ll include a few other great videos from Ty on using e collars to train dogs.
How an 8 Year Old Used an E Collar to Train a Dog
How to Train Small Dogs With E Collars