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A firm pat to reinforce behavior?

882 Views 10 Replies 4 Participants Last post by  CptJack
I was just curious about something. I am a believer in not abusing animals. When I see an animal that has been abused I really want to abuse the owner. That being said, I've never seen anything wrong with/abusive about a small tap along with a tone to deter from chewing on something or climbing on furniture. In packs the alpha will nip at a pup who gets out of line. This would be the equivalent. Something that does not bring out fear, but respect. I do realize that much can be taught through positive reinforcement. This drives most of my training. For instance, I would not "pat" a pup for using the bathroom in the house. I'm more at fault for not keeping up with when and how much she eats than she is. So any thoughts?
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Basic learning theory says that if you are using punishment to stop behavior it must be adequately aversive to the animal that it avoids the action in the future. That says that if it is not some degree of painful or frightening or otherwise distressing - ie: unpleasant - for the dog, then it will not work. The more reinforcing the behavior you are trying to stop, the stronger the punishment must be to stop it. All of this varies based on individual dogs. I have one dog I could whack over the head with a 2X4 and he'd just think it was a game, and another if I look at slightly sideways and mildly say 'no' will melt into a puddle of sorry.

And ALL of that out of the way, alphas don't exist in dog packs and in wolf packs 'alpha' is actually 'parent' (natural packs are an adult and their various age offspring and the man who put out alpha theory based on the unnatural behavior of captive wolves RETRACTED IT) so none of that has a thing to do with anything. And even if it did, I'm not a dog and my dogs are well aware I'm not a dog. I don't need to discipline them like a wolf or other dog would. I have hands, treats, access to anything they get comes from me, and a higher order brain with which to problem solve.

And yes, I absolutely tend to think that anyone relying on positive punishment as anything approaching a regular part of MOST training is someone who simply lacks the skill or knowledge to adequately problem solve. Not always, not all situations, but far and away most. Doesn't mean I think they're abusive or the dog's suffering, but my opinion of their training skill goes WAY down when I hear 'it doesn't hurt them/it's the only way you get respect/it's necessary' and they're talking about pet or sports stuff (or really probably 98% of skills dogs need)? I absolutely assume they're a really terrible trainer.

Not abusive. Just not any good at training dogs.
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My preference is to lure the dog off the furniture while saying 'down' and then giving them the treat when they're on the floor - for getting them off. Eventually they learn 'off' as a command and you can just use that to move them. For keeping them off, heavily rewarding the dog for using a dog bed or mat is enormously helpful. You can search 'matwork or go to mat' on youtube and get some great videos. It eventually makes their default hanging out on their spot on the floor, and obviously you don't have to forever keep taking them back and feeding them there. It's just Their Spot.

You do have to be present and your dog may still 'sneak up' onto the furniture if you're not there, but honestly that's even more likely using punishment. So if you're worried about that, just crate or remove access via closing a door or whatever.
Also, in my original post I didn't say that I use "positive punishment" in most of my training. I said I used positive reinforcement, such as giving a treat for doing good, in most of my training.
I know. That wasn't pointed directly at you, just at what I think when I see someone who does. You really don't need it in most dog training, you really don't. The best way you can figure out how to use positive reinforcement/rewards is to reframe your questions/what you want in your own mind.

When you think 'I want to stop the dog from getting on the furniture' the natural inclination is to think 'and teach him that getting on the furniture is bad, and that means making being on the furniture unpleasant'. If you turn that into 'I want the dog to stay on the floor/sleep on his own bed (instead of being on the furniture)' the natural mental process turns more toward things like 'How can I want him WANT to be on the bed' and that leds to positive/reward based solutions.

There's almost nothing you can't turn that direction and once you do probably 98% of the 'need' to use methods unpleasant for the dog goes away, naturally.
Got it! I'll put the advice to good use. Thanks!
Any time; I'm glad to help!
Cpt Jack - I agree with what you're saying, except the interchanging of OFF & DOWN? I'm not sure if you meant you use Off or what?
I use the word "Off" while luring the dog off the sofa. (Down is saved for laying down).
You're right, I did use both words there. Pick one OP. Off, Down, Pickle, Kumquat - as long as it's consistent (which I wasn't in the post) the dog'll figure it out.
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