Dog training is an essential part of owning a dog and can be started at any age. Training builds confidence, provides mental stimulation and improves the bond between you and the dog. Dogs that are more timid and fearful can benefit the most from training.
There are two types of training: discipline-based training and positive reinforcement training. There is a continued debate about which training method is more effective for teaching dogs to properly behave. Ana Catarina Vieira de Castro and a team of researchers at the University of Porto in Portugal recently published a study that examined how the different training methods affect a dog’s emotional attachment to their owner.
The study examined 34 dogs from six different dog training schools. Three of the schools used positive reinforcement methods, while the other three used various discipline methods of training.
The study tested the dog’s attachment to their owners by putting each dog through a variety of different situations. The study explains, “The presence and absence of the owner and a stranger in a room with the dog was manipulated over different episodes. Dogs’ behavior was then analyzed for attachment-related behaviors: contact-maintenance, separation-distress and secure-base effect, as well as following upon separation and greeting upon reunion.”
The study found that dogs trained using positive reinforcement only methods had a more secure attachment to their owner. They also found that dogs trained with reward-based methods were more playful in the presence of their owner than the stranger and that they greeted their owner more enthusiastically than the stranger.
In an Psychology Today article about the study, Dr. Stanley Coren, PhD, DSc, FRSC, explains that these dog training methods create a form of classical conditioning, where “A few repetitions of ‘stimulus — event — emotion’ and we end up with a situation where the stimulus itself triggers the emotion.”
So when discipline-based training is used, Dr. Cohen explains, “The sight of you, or your hand, or the training leash and collar immediately followed by pain or discomfort will ultimately come to be associated with negative feelings and avoidance.”
In conclusion, if you are trying to build a strong, positive relationship with your dog, it is best to use the positive reinforcement and reward training methods. Give your pup some love!