Punishment Vs Praise

24 Jul

I don’t know about you, but before i bought Maya into my life, before i even had chosen to bring Maya into my life, i began some research into how to “train” my little newcomer. I found a few books to read, but mostly i spend hours and hours searching the internet and reading different articles, blogs and papers.

So, here’s the thing. I don’t know about you, but i found it all very confusing. Mixing in what i read with what i learnt on my dog behaviour psychology course, what i believed in and what i had grown up with, really made no sense at all.


I’m going to break down some different concepts.


The grandparents method:

If your grandparents, or someone older that you know used to own a dog, or still do, ask them how they went about training it. The chances are they weren’t averse to punishing “bad behaviour”. In the “old days” if a dog was naughty or behaved inappropriately he would receive some form of punishment, often a smack on the rump, a quick tap on the nose or the old tap with a newspaper. I doubt many people would really hurt their dogs, but give a short, sharp shock, just as people would their own children if they misbehaved.

Back in the days of our grandparents, it was acceptable to punish a dog in order to teach him a lesson, just as it was to punish a child. Did it work? Well, it must have done. We don’t hear stories of all older people owning unruly dogs. Somewhere along the line dogs became more and more popular as pets, they became involved in a whole host of “jobs”. This couldn’t have happened if people weren’t able to control their behaviour. So this method must have worked.

Just as opinions changed on bringing up children, opinions changed on training dogs.


My experiences growing up:

This one is a little confusing. We believed in rewards, AND punishment. if our dogs behaved well or did something we asked, they would get some form of reward, even if it was just a cuddle and a well done, or good boy.
This being said, we also gave them a light smack on the bum if they misbehaved (for example our lab would always steal food, and recieve a smack for him) – he continued that behaviour, but i think thats a bit of a lab trait? Food was worth being shouted at or whatever my mum chose to do.

When it comes to house training, i remember the one and only time our year old, new dog peed on the floor. My mum rubbed his nose in it, sent him outside and he never had an indoors accident again. Nowadays you will probably find that you are warned off of that method, and actually in my experience, housebreaking took a lot longer than i had hoped (particularly with Max).

I was also brought up being told that the way to get a dog to walk to heel on the lead is by giving a short, sharp pull on the lead when he pulls to correct the behaviour. I have to say, that never really seemed to make much difference with my puppies now, though it must work because i know of people who swear by it.


Humane reward-based training:

This is the idea that punishment does nothing to teach the dog anything, except for to potential damage its relationship with humans. In this method, bad behaviours are ignored, and good behaviours rewarded. This can also include using tools such as clickers in order to mark the good behaviour, letting the dog know exactly what it did right.

The idea behind this came from Bradshaw who hypothesised that dogs descended from more sociable wolves. The idea of reward based training comes from the idea that dogs learn to and in fact strive to please humans. They will therefore learn best by being told that they are doing something right, something that makes us happy with them.

Here i will say that i use reward based training regularly, and it seems to have worked in teaching my dogs a number of “tricks” in a fairly short space of time. This is a very popular method today, something that i was taught in my course, something that i often see in the media, and something that seems to work.


Cesar Milan:

Firstly, i would like to point out that this is in no way aimed to promote, not slate his methods. A while ago i was very interested in the methods of Cesar Milan, and to some extent, i still am. This being said i have also done further research, gained more experience in my own training and as such, developed my own ideas.

Cesar Milan works on the hypothesis that dogs are descended from wolves, pack animals who have a strict heir achy and need order and balance in order to survive. He says that dogs need a calm and assertive pack leader in order to ensure that they grow up happy, healthy and balanced. This all makes sense, and i agree so far.

His methods however are often criticized, and yet, they seem to work. He is very strict in his actions and though he always points out that he does not hurt the dog in anyway, there are people out there who will argue differently. All in all, i think he goes back to the good old training ideas that our grandparents used, that dogs do not only need to know what they have done right, but what they have done wrong as well.

An idea that i do like is that he stresses that dogs feed off of our own energy. I very much believe this to be true. My dog always seems to know when i am sad, happy or angry. They feed off of our energy and react accordingly. Dogs are our mirrors. If you are not calm and assertive, your dog probably wont take you seriously. Will it become dominant and feel the need to be your leader as Cesar suggests, i dont know.

Confused yet?

Yeah, i was too.

The problem is, i ended up doing SO much research, that i just ended up getting in a muddle and nothing made sense. When i went back to basics and did what I felt was right, things seemed to fall in place and work.
I guess thats what i am trying to say. I dont think there is a right way and a wrong way, but more something in between. You need to do what works best for you and for your dog. That being said, there are things that you should probably not do, but i will leave that for you to figure out.

My biggest tip:
Keep positive and keep things fun for both you and your dog.



2 Responses to “Punishment Vs Praise”

  1. rubytheblacklabrador July 24, 2013 at 10:07 am #

    Good post – now I can see you were so calm in the video. I found Ruby quite easy to train because of the food obsession and she progressed really well at our do training club (which I’ve now stopped going to because I needed a sunday lie-in!) Like you I find that positivity and rewards makes for a happy dog who wants to please you. Having said that I still can’t get her away from dead animals and all kinds of smelly things. Actually I now just ignore her behaviour and reward her when she finally comes – smelling hideous with a grin on her face šŸ™‚

    • taylorr1991 July 24, 2013 at 10:15 am #

      Dogs that are very food orientated are definitely easier to train, i found that with Maya. Max is more difficult because there isnt as much that interests him enough to act as a sort of bribe lol.

      I feel your frustration with the smelly things! Maya is getting much better as i have been working on the “leave it” command forever, but that seems to be the hardest one to learn because the urge to roll in or eat something disgusting is too strong! We used to have a real problem with her picking up and eating tissues when out on walks, but now after praising her when she leaves them alone, and ignoring her when she picks them up, it doesnt happen that often.

      Like you, i am sure that lots of praise makes it more enjoyable for them and therefore makes them more willing to learn new things.

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