Many of my friends own dogs, and turn to me for advice on how to correct negative behavior. There is a constant inquisitiveness about how to attain positive behavior in dogs. Thus, we discuss at great lengths about how positive reinforcement in dog training works. One such discussion focused on what do if your dog tears up the house while you are gone. This conversation taught my friends something new, and I’d like to share it with you too. It should help you understand why negative reinforcement never works, and why positive reinforcement is the training method of choice amongst owners and dog trainers alike.
How a Dog Translates Negative Reinforcement
My friend started the dialogue by describing how every time she leaves the house the dog tears up everything in sight. She comes home from a dinner out with friends and it looks like she returned to a ransacked house with furniture flipped over, pillow stuffing laying all over the place, and her dog the culprit of it all. And to fix the problem she thought coming home and scolding the dog would be adequate. Then she would leave and the same thing would occur again.
Well, scolding or using any negative tactics on your dog does not work. The biggest mistake is you are not correcting the problem immediately after it occurs. A dog will not correlate you coming home and the negative behavior you instill as punishment for tearing up the house. Too much time has passed so the connection is not made. Thus, it does not work. A dog needs to show the correct way to act, provide praise immediately afterwards and the connection between the positive praise and not tearing up the place is made in the canine’s mind. Positive reinforcement always triumphs over negative reactions.