In the world of positive reinforcement (reward-based) dog training, the term “correction” almost seems like a bad word. For many people, it conjures up images of old school trainers that use aversive, physical methods and tools to train and control their dogs. As a matter of fact, many dog training facilities that only use positive reinforcement (+R) techniques never mention anything about giving corrections because it’s often perceived as politically incorrect. But does that mean using any corrections with positive reinforcement training is taboo?
I’m a big believer in positive, reward-based training because it works so well when training dogs on desirable behaviors we want our dogs to repeat. But how do we deal with those undesirable behaviors we want to stop, like when a dog snatches a doughnut off the kitchen counter or grabs tissues out of the bathroom trash can? In those situations, certain types of corrections might be necessary.
A correction is something you do to stop unwanted behavior, but that doesn’t mean it has to be physical. I always cringe when I see someone hitting or alpha rolling their dog and forceful jerking or leash pops can cause some dogs to become leash aggressive. Those types of corrections can also break down the bond of trust between you and your pup. The type of corrections I use with Haley are subtle signals that let her know that I want her to stop whatever she’s doing. Here are some examples.
Using Corrections with Positive Reinforcement
All three of these corrections are non-physical techniques that can be used to stop a behavior without being threatening or undermining the bond of trust you have with your dog. They are technically corrections, but they’re not delivered with anger and they have nothing to do with trying to be dominant or an alpha dog over your pack. They’re more about getting your dog’s attention than anything else.
I often think of the parallels between raising kids and raising dogs. I think it would be impossible to raise well-adjusted kids if you only doled out rewards. Both kids and dogs need occasional discipline and corrections. Mothering dogs instinctually demonstrate this with their puppies long before they arrive in our homes.
Whether you believe in using corrections with positive reinforcement training or not, it’s always important to remember that every dog is different and there’s no one size fits all method of training. The best trainers consider the breed, personality, history and temperament of the individual dog and strive to be as close to the positive end of the training spectrum as possible.
To learn more about the science behind positive and negative reinforcement and punishment, check out this video on operant conditioning.
Also visit Victoria Stilwell’s website to learn more about positive reinforcement training techniques!
What are your thoughts about using corrections along with positive reinforcement dog training?