May 3, 2017
The use of corrections is a topic that comes up often in dog training. When corrections are used properly, they provide your dog with necessary information to help them succeed. When used incorrectly, it is abuse. Before applying a correction to your dog, it is important to understand what a correction is and when one can be used.
Dog training is based off of the operant conditioning theory of reinforcement and punishment. Reinforcement is anything that increases the probability of a behavior occurring in the future. Punishment is anything that decreases the probability of a behavior occurring in the future. In operant conditioning there is positive and negative reinforcement, and positive and negative punishment. Positive and negative do not mean good and bad, they mean to apply and to remove. Positive reinforcement is to apply something desirable to increase the probability of a behavior occurring in the future, and negative reinforcement is to remove something undesirable to increase the probability of a behavior occurring in the future. Positive punishment is to apply something undesirable to decrease the probability of a behavior occurring in the future, and negative punishment is to remove something desirable to decrease the probability of a behavior occurring in the future. To successfully and reliably train your dog, you must understand and use reinforcement and punishment appropriately.
In order to give your dog a correction, the correction must meet three requirements. First, a correction must be fair. Fair means the dog must know how to do the behavior you want before you can give it a correction. You have to teach your dog what the acceptable behavior is before a correction can be applied. Secondly, a correction must be timely. This means a correction must be given immediately in order for the dog to make the association between the behavior and the correction. Third, a correction must be appropriate. Appropriate means the minimum level of correction necessary to be motivating to your dog. An example is if somebody makes $20,000 per month, a $200 fine for speeding is not very motivating to make them stop speeding. However if somebody only makes $2,000 per month, a $200 fine for speeding is more likely to get them to stop speeding. What motivates one dog may not motivate another. You have to know what level of correction is necessary to motive your particular dog for each behavior. If a correction does not meet one or more of these requirements, it is abuse.
Using corrections in dog training is not abusive if you know how and when to use them correctly in order to modify behavior. It is unfair to ask your dog to do anything without giving them all of the necessary information to succeed. If you would like to learn more about the use of corrections or my 3 Stage Process of Dog Training call or email to schedule your consultation.