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I am the Dog Trainer Girl. A wife to a wonderful husband, momma to 2 boys, one that is a mini-me and makes me call my dad and appologize on a regular basis. I am owned by a Corgi named Yadi. I'm a Baseball girl, who likes bats, ball and bases on my diamonds. Go Cardinals!!!

Friday, March 29, 2019

Dangers of Using Aversive Training Methods

Four Quadrants

Dog training requires a basic understanding of what reinforcements and punishments are and how they work.  Your dog being the learner is the only one that can decide what is rewarding to them, as well as what is aversive to them.  
The most basic definition of Punishment is something that lessens the likelihood of a behavior from happening.  In dog training we use 4 quadrants to look at actions and decide if they are positive or negative to our dogs, to understand how learning works. 
The four quadrants can be difficult to understand but you have to learn how to look at them correctly.  Positive simply means that we add something, Negative means that we take something away. 
Reinforcements are something that the learner desires and deems worth working for.  A Punishment is something the learner deems is worth avoiding.  
Positive Reinforcement is where we add something the dog wants to work for in order to increase the likelihood of a behavior occurring.
Negative Punishment is where we take away something that the dog wants in order to decrease the likelihood of a behavior occurring.  
Positive Punishment (yes, I know that sounds crazy) is where we add something the dog finds aversive to reduce the likelihood of a behavior occurring.
Negative Reinforcement is where we take away something the dog finds aversive to increase the likelihood of a behavior occurring.  
Is your head spinning yet?
Now Let’s look at why it’s important to understand this.  
One of the most common aversive training methods used is a spray bottle of water.  While it is true that if we can interrupt an unwanted behavior and redirect our dogs to a behavior that we can instead reward that it will help teach them better behavior.  Punishments can go wrong if you don’t understand what it is you are trying to do.   
Take barking for example.  Your dog is barking at something, let’s say it’s the mail/ups man and he has come to drop off a package.  You ask your dog to stop barking and they ignore you because in the past when they have barked at the delivery guy has always left when your dog barked at him.  So, in your dog’s mind barking works to make the visitor go away.  A trainer looks at this situation and sees that your dog is being reinforced for his barking because it causes the delivery guy to go away, thus making it a self-rewarding behavior.
Dog chasing Mailman
Now say you come in with a squirt bottle and you spray your dog with water because he is barking at the delivery guy.  Your dog does not understand that his barking does not influence what the delivery guy is going to do, one way or the other.  Now, this could go a couple of different ways.  For it to work at all the punishment you give (the spray bottle) must suppress the barking.  If not then it will not work, if you have to spray your dog even twice then it will not work.  At best your dog learns not to bark as long as the bottle is in your hands.  This is one of the most common issues with aversive training techniques.  You see a dog associates everything they see and hear with what is happening to their bodies.  What your dog is learning is that If I bark while mom has the bottle in her hand, I will get sprayed, but if mom isn’t here then it’s safe for me to bark.  This inconsistency is why aversive methods do not work.  If your dog has even the slightest bit of anxiety or nervousness your dog could start to associate you with them getting squirted with the water bottle.  If your dog becomes afraid of this then they could start aggressing towards you when you hold things in your hand that makes think you are going to spray them.  Worse yet is if they associate that fear of being sprayed with other people that come to your home, or in general and become fearful or aggressive towards them.  
The negative fallout of using this type of aversive methods it is far-reaching, even to the point of causing your dog to become fearful of baths or even grooming.  Don’t forget the fact that your dog’s eyes are very sensitive and if you accidentally spray them in the face on a stream you could damage their eyes.  
A better way of teaching your dogs not to bark, ask yourself 3 questions.
  1. Why is my dog barking
  2. What does my dog get out of the barking
  3. How does my dog interpret my reaction to his barking
Once you can answer these questions then you can better figure out how to train a better reaction to the problem.  There are cues such as “Leave it” where you and teach your dog to turn their attention away from whatever they are focused on and focus on you instead so that you may give them instruction.  You may also need to desensitize your dog to the sound of your doorbell or of people knocking on your door.  The important thing is that once you know why your dog is barking you can fix the issue without doing anything that could cause lasting harm.
For more information on how to prevent barking or to train the “Leave it” to your dog, feel free to contact me at dogtrainergirl@michellehilldogtraining.com

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