Positive Punishment vs Negative Punishment


There are many terms that trainers use to talk about the way they train. Even if you aren’t a trainer, if you spend any time with animals, you should know about positive and negative punishments.

People who know me are probably asking why I would even talk about punishment. They know I regularly tell them never to punish an animal because of things issues with timing, how pets perceive the punishment and how it can affect their future behaviors. I still firmly believe your pets should never be hit, jerked, shocked, choked, or whatever other terrible things people can come up with to do to pets under the guise of training.

So what is this about?

Positive Punishment

When we are talking about punishment in relation to animals, we are talking about using stimuli to affect their behavior. Most typically when we think of punishment we are thinking about positive punishment. The word positive can be misleading. Here it means the introduction of a stimulus as the punishment. Examples of positive punishment include: shocking, leash pops, yelling, shaking a can of coins, rubbing a dogs nose in pee, “bopping” the animal on the snout and more. For decades trainers have thought that these techniques combined with dominance theory were the way to address unwanted behavior in pets.

To use shock as an effective dog training method you will need:
A thorough understanding of canine behavior.
A thorough understanding of learning theory.
Impeccable timing.
And if you have those three things, you don’t need a shock collar.
— Dr. Ian Dunbar

Negative Punishment

Again, the name is misleading. We see negative and think bad. Here, negative means subtracting a stimulus from the interaction to get a desired behavior in the future. An example of negative punishment would be to turn away from a dog who is jumping on you. The dog likes affection and interaction and you are removing that option from the dog. We recommend the use of negative punishment along with positive reinforcement (adding a stimulus when a desired behavior is present) to teach any pet good manners while building your relationship and bond.

Keep an eye on this space for a coming post about the power of using negative punishment and positive reinforcement to nurture your relationship with your pets and help them learn the rules of your world.