Canine Conundrums – Reinforcement or Aversives?
Reinforcement or Aversives
Dogs are not born understanding our language. They learn it by association. Picking up your dog’s leash, means a walk is imminent.
Picking up your dog’s food bowl, means dinner is imminent. So the word ‘sit’ should mean that sitting is imminent.
If you want a certain behaviour to be reliable, make it pleasant for your dog. Then repeat it daily – the behaviour with this pleasant experience.
A dog who is punished for eliminating in the house associates the elimination with their person and equates this to a bad experience. It should be diametrically opposite. When his person says “Go potty” there should be relief and a good feeling of safety.
The best way to prevent your dog from doing something, is to make it unavailable to them. This means that bins, food and exits should be unavailable until your dog has learned not to engage with these items. If your dog is allowed access to the exit from your garden and is always running out the gate, punishing him will not stop him only under circumstances which are right for that punishment. The same applies to the bin and food.
Aversives often don’t work, because, either you are not at home or not close enough to your dog when opportunity presents itself or the aversive is not the right ‘strength or does not have the desired effect on your dog.
When you bring your dog home, decide what is most important for him to do or not do and build a good habit for that behaviour, then move on to teaching him other things. This should be done as an exercise or lesson and all lessons should be fun. If it’s fun and your technique and timing are good, you will see your dog learning quickly. If he does not, call for professional assistance.