When we at kona’s touch talk about positive dog training, we mean we are dedicated to gentle, peaceful dog training. We create and maintain a trusting, respectful relationship with our canine best friends. It’s that simple. We will not hurt or intimidate any dog in the name of training.
At kona’s touch, we advocate force-free training. Whatever you call it, the goal is to foster a kind and gentle environment with our dogs. Positive training is a phrase that is overused, becoming controversial and misunderstood. Let me explain what we at kona’s touch mean by “positive training”.
We train using operant conditioning, classical conditioning and management of undesirable behavior. Based on the works of behaviorist B.F Skinner, operant conditioning is the scientific term for how animals and humans learn. This theory is based on the four quadrants of learning using reinforcement and punishment (see chart below). We only concentrate on the quadrants we can use peacefully. That doesn’t mean we are spoiling and letting our dogs go through life with no consequences. There are many ways to use this science with gentle methods.
Operant conditioning can be combined with physiologist Ivan Pavlov’s work on classical conditioning to help address behavior issues. These methods along with our years of experience on management and family training provide the foundation for exceptional learning. We can help shape our dogs into model citizens who can maneuver through our households, families and society with ease and safety. We teach our dogs a way to communicate with us, understand our language and we offer them the ability to think and make good safe choices for themselves.
Here’s real-life examples for each method:
R+ or Positive Reinforcement
Addition of reinforcement increases the desired behavior
- Spot sits. Spot gets a treat. Spot is more likely to sit again.
R- or Negative Reinforcement
Removal of something aversive increases the desired behavior
- You sit in your car. The seatbelt alarm goes off. It drives you crazy. You buckle the seat belt. The obnoxious alarm stops.
P+ or Positive Punishment
Addition of punishment decreases an unwanted behavior
- Spot barks. You jerk the choke collar around his neck. Spot stops barking.
P- or Negative Punishment
Removal of something rewarding decreases an unwanted behavior
- Spot barks at you. You go into another room and close the door. Spot stops barking. You come back into the room.
- Spot barks at you. You direct Spot to go into his crate for a timeout. Spot’s barking decreases.
There are many trainers using positive terms who are not hands-off, reward-based, gentle trainers. “Balanced” trainers use all four of the operant conditioning options, therefore claiming that they are “positive trainers”. Be careful of trainers who call themselves “positive” they may be using positive punishment. Also, some classical conditioning techniques shown on TV (including “flooding” and aversive behavior training) are not suitable nor acceptable in a truly positive dog trainer’s toolbox. It’s becoming a word battle and a marketing scheme, but make sure trainers are telling the truth about their particular style of training. There is no magic; pain and fear is pain and fear.
One thing about punishment. It is very clear why some dogs are so out of control in their environment. When dogs are trained with punishment (and believe me, when you are told that prongs don’t hurt or electric shock is just a tingle, that is not true), they almost always shut down. When dogs are hurt or scared or confused, they don’t have much of a chance to think and, therefore, learn to make good decisions.
At kona’s touch, we use gentle, peaceful methods to train. We only use cotton or leather flat collars or harnesses. We do not use nor advocate the use of choke, prong or any chain collars. We do not use nor advocate the use of any electronic shock containment systems or collars. We do not use nor recommend any techniques using fear, intimidation or pain in our training or any recommendations we make.
The bottom line: We will never consciously hurt a dog in the name of training.
We at kona’s touch will be happy to help you switch from “Old Fashioned Training” to gentle, peaceful methods.
Your dog will love you for it.