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Negative reinforcement in dog training: what is it?


In dog training there is positive reinforcement and negative reinforcement. Both methods are concerned with the fact that the behavior of a dog has certain consequences - the dog should learn that his actions result in something and act accordingly. Negative amplifiers help the four-legged friend to adopt a certain behavior. If dogs do not wait or retrieve too early and then simply take the ball away, this is also a form of negative reinforcement - Shutterstock / Peter Mayer photos

With the positive reinforcement, a desired dog behavior is followed by a pleasant consequence for the fur nose: the dog sits down with the command "sit" - the dog gets a treat. Negative reinforcement, on the other hand, means that something unpleasant, a negative stimulus that you impose, is removed and the dog sees: This is how I have to act so that it is pleasant. Read more in the following.

Negative reinforcement: an explanation

The best way to explain negative reinforcement is with an example. The basic thing is: a negative stimulus for your woof is removed. Desired dog behavior is followed by the disappearance of an unpleasant event, signal or behavior on your part. If you want to teach your four-legged friend about the command "space", you can press him lightly on his back or back to ask him to lie down. For the dog, pressing is a negative, unpleasant stimulus. If your dog lies down and you stop pushing it down, you remove the negative stimulus and your dog feels better. Lying down here is the negatively reinforced behavior.

Negative enhancers in dog training

There are numerous variations of negative amplifiers, such as the hand on the back in the example. The voice too, such as vocalizations like a loud "Aus!" or clearing your throat can be negative amplifiers. Likewise, various signals that you convey through gestures and facial expressions. For example, your dog can recognize facial expressions and mood: If you look at him sinisterly, this can be a negative amplifier.

Example: You are sitting at dinner and your dog longs to put his snout on the table. Then you punish him with a scowl and a tense posture. Your dog interprets this as uncomfortable and wants you to relax again. If he walks away from the table, loosen your gloomy face and relax again - the dog then interprets this as good and will at best stay away from the dining table from now on to avoid your evil eye. They have thus negatively strengthened the dog's desired behavior.

Positive reinforcement in dog training: what does it bring?

Opinions about positive reinforcement in dog training vary widely. While…

Negative reinforcement is not a punishment

You should not confuse negative reinforcement with punishment. A negative amplifier acts as a reward in a certain way and leads to a build-up of behavior. It is important that the negative enhancer is not performed in the form of pain or brutal behavior. Spiked collars, for example, that do not pull the behavior on a leash, negatively reinforce by hurting your dog when tugging and similar methods are of course absolutely taboo in dog training. At best you will find a good balance between positive and negative reinforcement and otherwise pay attention to loving consequence.


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