Explanation for Purely Positive, R+, and Punishment Training

Note: R+ is a symbol for positive reinforcement.

Sometimes people will try to deter others away from positive reinforcement training by claiming there is no purely positive training, or it does not work.

This is really a non-argument, though. Behaviors can be trained with errorless learning, where the behavior is broken down into enough parts that the animal is reinforced (or rewarded) only for correct behaviors until it is shaped into the final behavior.

So that would be purely positive training that does work, but it’s also not part of the majority of positive reinforcement trainers’ plans.

There’s nothing wrong with withholding or removing rewards for incorrect responses in order to punish (i.e. decrease) behavior, while using it in conjunction with rewards (meaning the dog won’t get frustrated because he’s set up to succeed the majority of the time). It’s not punish, punish, punish, punish, etc., but rather reward-reward-no reward-reward and more along those lines.

It allows dogs to learn when they perform the correct behavior they receive a reward (helping them understand it was correct), and when they do not perform the correct behavior they receive no reward (allowing them to understand it wasn’t correct, and to try something else).

And this is the way most trainers shape behavior, by rewarding the desirable behaviors among those offered by the dog, and ignoring the unwanted ones (meaning we don’t have to set it up in an errorless learning type of situation, because that simply wastes time – dogs can handle experiencing no reward for trying incorrect behaviors).

Clearly, though, there is an blatant difference between removing/withholding rewards for incorrect behavior, and directly punishing dogs with harsh physical corrections (with leash jerks, special sharp collars or ones that cut-off the dog’s airway, or shock them at whatever level). Both of these categories of consequences are intended to decrease unwanted behavior, but they are obviously not equal. The latter group compromises dog’s welfare and should not be used. It’s also not necessary when we have the other easy to implement option available as a training technique.

If you haven’t switched over to positive reinforcement/reward-based training, go ahead and start today. Your dogs will love you for it.

By Dan Raymer

Book Review: Doggie Language

Title: Doggie Language: A Dog Lover’s Guide To Understanding Your Best Friend by Lili Chin

This little book in physical size and shortness (about 125 pages), is packed with useful information about dog behavior and body language. The best part forms from the author’s speciality: dog illustrations. The pictures are colorful and cute, but most importantly they are accurate in detail, displaying correct postures and the resulting communication derived from them. It also includes several different dog breed illustrations, noting what differences to pay attention to like tail carriage.

I could have done without a couple of the captions (for example, “Lol” and “You dumb”), but that’s a minor point among all of the key concepts the book presents.

Would I recommend to:

Dog Owners? Yes!

Dog Professionals? Yes!

By Dan Raymer

Raymer Family Dog Training: Online Animal Training Classes

We are currently updating our website, and the way we will offer animal training classes moving forward. Some pages may temporarily be inaccessible. If you are interested in enrolling in training classes once they are launched again, you can contact us as normal. Thank you for your patience during this time.

Update March 3, 2021:

Our online dog and puppy training class is now accepting enrollments again (with one year of access). At this time we no longer have monthly memberships available, but may again in the future. Stay-tuned and subscribe to email notifications for updates. Thanks!

– Dan Raymer

Dog Christmas Gift Ideas

Here’s a list of some dog items that your friends and family (or even yourself) may find useful for dog training.

Leashes:

A 6-foot traditional length, or try a 10 or 15-foot leash if you have safe areas to allow your dog more room to roam on walks.

Harness:

The Seattle Balance harness (by Lori Stevens, a professional dog trainer) remains one of the top quality harnesses. It includes attachments on the back, and front for reduced pulling.

Clickers:

The i-click is great for indoors and handling comfortably. The box clicker may be less ergonomic to handle, but produces a louder sound, which provides utility for outdoor training depending on your distance from your dog or other ambient sounds.

Target Stick:

Target training is fun to implement and can apply to many different training scenarios. The Treat&Train box comes with a target (see below).

Treat&Train:

This is an ingenious device created by the late Dr. Sophia Yin, a veterinarian and animal trainer. Its basic function is to dispense treats either on demand with a controller, or on different pre-settings: such as set amounts of time (e.g., every 10 seconds), or on a variable rate (e.g., on average every 10 seconds). It provides many different strategies for training.

I have occasionally used the Treat&Train as a slow feeder to dispense my dog’s normal kibble meal. Rather than her eating it in a few seconds out of a bowl, she gets the food dispensed in different amounts of time, so it acts like an enrichment puzzle toy. Because of its design, this product is a bit pricey at about $100. It also needs a separate purchase of batteries.

Treats:

These are always a great choice of gift, and dogs will love them. Look for softer treats in smaller sizes or easy to break apart treats for training. In addition, there are even Advent calendars for dogs now that provide a treat a day for December 1st-25th.

Treat Pouch:

The Doggone Good treat pouch is excellent for holding treats and clickers. The magnet that closes the pouch works better than the treat bags with hinges, which rust over time.

Puzzle Toys:

Some quality enrichment toys include:

  • Kongs
  • Squirrel Dude
  • Twist-n-Treat
  • Kong Wobbler
  • Nina Ottosson puzzles
  • Tug-a-Jug
  • Buster Cube
  • Kong Satellite
  • Snuffle Mats
  • Green Interactive Feeder

By Dan Raymer