If you’ve ever looked into any kind of dog training techniques, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of terms like positive reinforcement, reward based techniques and aversion techniques.
What these basically refer to is offering the dog rewards for positive behavior or giving the dog some form of punishment for negative behavior. Balanced dog training is any technique or method that seeks to combine both of these principles.
This teaches dogs that their actions will either have positive or negative repercussions based on whether those actions are good behavior or bad behavior.
It’s based on a similar set of principles that we teach children at school as they’re growing up. For example, if a child says something mean, they might get a time-out, but if they say something nice, they might get a piece of candy.
Whilst dogs aren’t quite as intelligent as human children, balanced training techniques can be useful in training dogs to behave how you want them to.
In this article, we’ll be taking a look at some balanced training techniques and discussing whether you might want to use it for your dog or avoid them altogether.
Examples Of Positive Reinforcement And Negative Correction Techniques
Naturally, there’s no single technique or method that is simultaneously positive and negative, so balanced training involves a combination of techniques from each category.
Clicker training – This technique works on a simple cause and effect principle. Basically you use a clicker device to produce a clicking sound whenever your dog behaves positively, then reward your dog.
Eventually, your dog will associate the sound of the clicker with the positive experience of being rewarded and behave this way naturally.
Trick training – There are a number of tricks that a dog can be taught to perform, all with varying techniques for doing so.
For example, teaching a dog to ‘shake’ your hand might require some physical prompting until the dog gets the idea, then reinforcing that behavior with a reward until they can eventually perform the trick after a single verbal command.
Treats – Using treats as rewards for good behavior is the most classic positive reinforcement trick in the book.
The method is quite simple, give your dog a small piece of food or specially designed dog treat when they perform a desired action.
Thankfully, when done correctly, this will not turn the dog into a moaning beggar that will constantly ask for food, but will understand what behaviors are positive.
Verbal rewards – This works in a similar way to using treats as rewards and is often most effective when used in conjunction with them.
By using the same verbal cue like ‘good dog’ or simply, ‘yes’, your dog will associate such words with their positive behavior.
As we said, though, this is often best introduced to a dog with the accompaniment of treats.
Ignoring undesirable behavior – Dogs absolutely love having human attention, especially from their owners.
Therefore, by ignoring them when they do something undesirable, you take away their feeling of excitement and force them to understand that such behavior has negative consequences.
Verbal commands – Similar to using verbal commands for positive reinforcement, you can also use words like ‘no’ and ‘bad’ to let your dog know when they’re doing something wrong.
The most important thing about this technique is getting your tone right. Dogs have a hard time distinguishing between human words and syllables but are much better at picking up on your tone of voice.
Negative body language – Again, dogs do not respond to language in the same way humans do. However, they’re actually quite good at reading human body language.
Doing something like folding your arms in front of your dog when they behave poorly indicates to them that they’ve done something wrong.
Taking something away – This can be something as simple as a treat or toy your dog like playing with, but it can be quite effective.
It’s important to create a connection between poor behavior and the treat or toy being taken away so as soon as you see your dog behaving poorly, make sure you remove their beloved item quickly.
This reinforces the connection between their negative actions and the negative consequences.
It should be noted that negative correction should never involve something that harms your dog.
Things like shock collars or extra tight leashes are actually dangerous and very much frowned upon in the dog training community.
The main aim of negative correction is to startle your dog to stop them behaving poorly and to create a connection between poor behavior and negative repercussions.
It’s always better to seek help from a professional dog trainer before resorting to any methods that would harm your dog in any way.
Why Should I Use Balanced Training For My Dog?
Balanced training has been proven to be effective with a lot of dogs. Because it combines a mixture of different training principles, it can be easy to tailor your training techniques to your dog’s specific behaviors.
This makes balanced training very versatile and adaptable, which is why many owners and trainers favor it as a training method. Balanced training works on the basic positive principles of rewarding dogs for good behavior.
This can be done in the form of a treat, toy or any kind of reward that you know your dog enjoys. This creates a connection in your dog’s mind between positive behaviors and positive consequences.
Similarly, to train your dog out of negative behaviors, minor negative corrections such as the ones we discussed earlier in this article can be administered to create connections between poor behavior and negative repercussions.
Ultimately, you should use balanced training if your dog is not responding well to only one form of training, be it positive or negative. Every dog is different, so it can be beneficial in a lot of cases to use a variety of training techniques to produce desired results.
Why Should I Not Use Balanced Training For My Dog?
Some dog owners and even some trainers can misinterpret the administration of negative correction as needing to physically punish their dog.
This is absolutely not the case, so if you suspect that a trainer is using physical punishment or physical correction techniques with their dogs, it’s best to avoid using them.
In general, research has found that negative reinforcement and negative correction techniques are no more effective than positive reinforcement, yet they can cause far more negative consequences.
Through negative correction, dogs become more stressed and more anxious. This occurs not only during training, but can leave them feeling this way even after being trained thoroughly.
This doesn’t mean to say that all negative correction methods are inhumane and cause stress.
As we’ve outlined in this article, there are techniques to train your dog this way that are much safer and will not have any long lasting negative impacts on your dog’s wellbeing.
In general, positive reinforcement and other positive training are more effective and successful in encouraging good behavior in dogs.
If you can enforce all forms of desirable behavior you want in your dog using these methods, avoiding a more ‘balanced’ form of training might be best for you.