The Science Behind Reward Based Training
Why is training important?
Welcoming a new dog into our home is a really exciting time, and in the first few weeks it is easy to get swept up by their cuteness and adorable antics. But as the dog grows, their behaviours can cause problems, and in some sad cases, lead to dogs being abandoned. It is estimated that there are over 100,000 stray dogs in the UK each year, and even more across rescue centres.
As owners, we all want what’s best for our dogs, and a big part of that is gaining each other’s trust and learning to communicate effectively. Whether your dog is a young pup or an older rescue dog, training enables you to understand each other and build a lifelong bond.
How can I train my dog?
Dog training can be done in a number of ways. The easiest and often most successful way is to work with a qualified and experienced trainer who can teach you and your dog some key skills and techniques to help you improve on behaviours.
You can book into group sessions, opt for a one-to-one training programme or choose a mixture of both, depending on your dog’s needs.
How long will it take to train my dog?
Training your dog is an ongoing process. That doesn’t mean that you will be attending training classes for years to come. It simply means that you need to build regular and consistent communication techniques into your daily dialogue with your dog.
Dogs generally pick up commands quite quickly, but some deeper rooted behaviours may need more patience and support to overcome.
Positive vs Negative Training Techniques
Positive reinforcement is a scientifically proven training method where the trainer or owner uses reward-based methods, providing a positive learning experience and stimulating environment. Research findings suggest that dogs trained in this way are more obedient, less aggressive and generally much happier.
So, put simply, if the owner or trainer uses positive reinforcement techniques, then the dog gets rewarded for doing something well – normally in the form of a treat, fuss or a game.
In positive training, desirable behaviours are rewarded whilst undesirable behaviours are not rewarded/have no consequence. This is different to punishment and does not mean that dogs will start ‘misbehaving’ more because they are not being punished for undesirable behaviours.
Learning theory tells us that behaviours that consistently lead to nothing (no reward), are most likely to become extinct as they have no benefit to the animal.
However, if the owner or trainer uses negative or aversive techniques, the dog is punished when an unwanted behaviour occurs.
In effect, the dog may be scared into stopping that particular behaviour through pain or fear, but each time the command is issued it will trigger a negative association in the dog.
On the surface, it may look like the required result has been achieved, but deep down this method is creating a range of other stress-related reactions that may eventually manifest themselves into other behaviours.
In terms of dog-training, both our scientific understanding and practical application methods have developed significantly over recent years. As trainers, we understand the difference between positive and negative reinforcement techniques and can tailor our training to be a wholly positive experience.
The University of Pennsylvania carried out a study over a year to demonstrate the impact of aversive training methods on dogs. The survey assessed dog owners who used aversive or negative methods, and the findings showed that most animals continued to demonstrate aggressive behaviour under these techniques. The research also found that non-aversive or positive techniques resulted in very few aggressive responses and led to positive outcomes.
The BCSCPA published a review in December 2018 which considered a wide range of research around the impact of positive versus negative training techniques. The results from these research groups demonstrated the significant difference between both techniques. For example, a survey of 3897 dogs by Casey et al (2014) showed that dogs who were trained using negative techniques had a greater risk of aggression to other dogs or humans, including family members.
A study of 50 dogs by Deldalle & Gaunet (2014) demonstrated that dogs who had been trained using negative reinforcement techniques, displayed more signs of stress when being asked to sit, than those who had been trained using positive reinforcement.
There are many other studies that display similar results, therefore reinforcing the importance of reward-based training compared to negative techniques.
All Positive Dog Services
Rick van Eggermond owns All Positive Dog Services, a professional dog training service which focuses on reward-based techniques.
Rick has extensive experience of working with dogs, including as a dog trainer at Battersea Dog and Cats Home where he worked with around 1,000 dogs, a Higher Education Lecturer, a Victoria Stilwell Academy Mentor and working with rescue centres in the Netherlands to redevelop their assessment and rehoming procedures.
“Here at All Positive Dog Services, our philosophy is to provide owners with a range of reward-based training techniques that build the foundations of a happy relationship.
All too often, dogs end up in rescue centres simply because owners are not equipped to understand and overcome certain behaviours. Our aim is to support dogs and owners to build a life-long companionship through effective communication and understanding.
Our training methods are based purely on scientifically proven positive reinforcement techniques, which provide the dog with the tools to make their own decisions based on positive association.
We find that dogs and owners learn better when they’re having fun, so our sessions are delivered in an interactive way and we encourage our clients to take some time out each day to keep up with the training techniques we teach.
Training doesn’t have to be a full-time job, but it’s important to keep interacting with your dog regularly so that the work you do together in training doesn’t lose momentum. There are plenty of opportunities every day, for example while you’re waiting for the kettle to boil or dinner to cook you can practice a range of cues – all dogs are keen to learn and eager to please.”
All Positive Dog Services – Dog Training in Leominster
If you want to learn reward-based training techniques, we offer a variety of classes, workshops and services in Hereford, Leominster and the surrounding areas including:
- Puppy Play and Learn
- Puppy Packages
- Training Level 1-4
- Nosetastic Scent Class
- Specialist Workshops:
- You and Your Dog
- Young Trainer
- Loose Lead
- Fun Agility
- Behaviour Consultations
- Training Services
- One-to-one Training
Book Your Place
If you’re in the Leominster or Hereford area and you and your dog need help to overcome behaviours, you can book in with Rick today. To find out more about All Positive Dog Services you can visit their webpage or Facebook page, or call 07811 584533.
To find dog trainers in your local area you can search The Canine Directory.
Makowska IJ 2018 Review of dog training methods; welfare, learning ability and current standards. BP SPCA, Vancouver, Canada
University of Pennsylvania. “If You’re Aggressive, Your Dog Will Be Too, Says Veterinary Study.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 February 2009.
Victoria Stilwell 2014 The Truth Behind Positive Training https://positively.com/press/the-truth-behind-positive-training