Podcast: Dog Training - The Right and Wrong Way to Reward and Punish

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dog training the right way and wrong way to use rewards and punishment

Choke collars, and bark collars may seem like the perfect investment to train your dog to stop unwanted behavior — after all, that's exactly how they are marketed.

But just like those super long prescription drug commercials, the unwanted side effects of these products are often much worse than the original problem.

On today's show, PV's certified dog trainer and behavior consultant, Cathy Madson, teaches us all about aversives, the four quadrants of operant conditioning, and better methods for training your dogs to listen to you.

Play Paws & Play episode Dog Training - The Right and Wrong Way to Reward and Punish
Paws & Play Dog Training - The Right and Wrong Way to Reward and Punish


What are dog training aversives?

Aversives are a term that dog trainers will use to describe punishments, or tools being used to get a dog to stop a certain behavior. Aversive training tools are anything that a dog would find unpleasant and will work to avoid or stop from happening in the first place.

Aversive tools used in dog training would include choke collars, prong collars, shock collars — which are sometimes referred to as E-collars, bark collars, ultra-sonic bark deterrents, and even something like sharking a jar of coins.

Why are people still using aversives?

Part of the problem is that there is no regulation in the dog training industry. Read that again. The dog training industry is totally unregulated and you or I could start my own dog training business tomorrow using whatever methods I felt I knew about, but without anyone there to make sure I had any knowledge at all.

This also means that there is no method of educating "trainers" with better information to replace outdated methods and tools when new studies and practices come out.

Case in point: Check out this article examining studies proving there is no "Alpha Wolf" and our original thoughts on pack leadership were totally misguided. Um, also, dogs are NOT wolves, despite what the food companies are trying to sell you.

Another part of the problem, (possibly the biggest) is that aversives can, and do, work. Most pinch collars will get a dog to stop pulling in the moment. But, it's not necessary, and there are better tools out there, like certain dog harnesses, which will give you more control and are much safer.

Also, what most people don't understand is the use of aversives like choke and pinch collars can, and often does, come with even more problems, like fear aggression or reactivity. Since the dog is unable to connect the dots between why it is getting the prongs to the neck, or choked by its collar, what you end up with is a fearful, reactive dog.

So for example, if your puppy goes to meet someone, but they end up pulling on their leash, which causes a collar correction, they may only associate the correction with the person they are looking at. So what they learn is, when I see this person, bad things happen gives me a reason to be fearful, which ends up turning into aggression.

So forget about that whisperer, because we're here to shout it from the rooftops alongside these experts who say dominance-based dog training can actually lead to dog bites and aggression. Also, using these types of training techniques changes you as a person.

The 4 Quadrants of Operant Conditioning

lili chin 4 quadrants

4 quadrants

Check out this amazing video of a tiger being clicker trained using positive reinforcement for a voluntary blood draw at the Copenhagen Zoo:


Test Your Operant Conditioning Knowledge:

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About the author

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Mia Horberg

Mia Horberg is a Digital Strategist at Preventive Vet, and when she's not working she is watching Jeopardy! with her wife, planting flowers and veggies, and hanging out with her senior rescue pug Mabel Petrillo, and exotic shorthair kitty, Mazel von Schmear Visage. A lover of all animals, Mia is also lucky enough to volunteer at a rescue where she gets to hang out with goats and sheep every week.

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