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The Pitfalls of Punishment

This is a place to gain some understanding of dog behavior and to assist people in training their dogs and dealing with common behavior problems, regardless of the method(s) used. This can cover the spectrum from non-aversive to traditional methods of dog training. There are many ways to train a dog. Please avoid aggressive responses, and counter ideas and opinions with which you don't agree with friendly and helpful advice. Please refrain from submitting posts that promote off-topic discussions. Keep in mind that you may be receiving advice from other dog owners and lovers... not professionals. If you have a major problem, always seek the advice of a trainer or behaviorist!

  
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Mocha Bear- (Mokie),- VGG, KPA,

CEO of Rewarding- Behaviors Dog- Training
 
 
Barked: Mon Feb 4, '08 1:41pm PST 
Punishment comes up so often on this forum.

Pat Miller has a list of 12 pitfalls to punishment-oriented training methods:

12 Pitfalls of Positive Punishment

1. You can cause physical pain/damage to your dog.
2. It is difficult to gauge the appropriate intensity.
3. The dog can develop a "punishment callous".
4. The behavior may return when punishment stops.
5. It is difficult to have perfect timing.
6. It is difficult to be perfectly consistent.
7. It can suppress desired behaviors; inhibit offered behaviors.
8. It doesn't teach the dog what to do.
9. The suppressive effect of the punisher is limited to the presence of the discriminative stimuli.
10. It is rewarding to the punisher.
11. It can damage the dog's confidence, trust in the trainer, relationship between dog and human.
12. Violence begets violence.

—Pat Miller, CPDT and author of "The Power of Positive Dog Training"

I'd love to hear everyone's thoughts on this list. I think it's a great, succinct explanation of the damage that a reliance on punishment can cause in a training relationship.
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Takoda

708199
 
 
Barked: Mon Feb 4, '08 2:18pm PST 
I think it is a terrific overview to the consequences of using punishment based dog training. I would have liked to see included however, the fact that many "positive reinforcement" trainers still use punishment methods with the same results, but calls it positive training because they praise the dog at the end.. It can be VERY confusing to dog owners who are looking for a good honest trainer.

There is also the flip side to this coin that hasn't been written about very much at all. The fact that pure positive reinforcement has its own list of consequences, and in the end it just as effective as traditional methods. ie: dogs do not retain information/ training any faster than tradiotional/punishment based methods.

The dog training community is slowing finding that middle ground for dogs, so I am really looking forward to the next couple of decades as we continue to learn more together!
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ARCHMX Asher RL1X RL2X RL3X RL

we will dance in- the ring without- words
 
 
Barked: Mon Feb 4, '08 2:51pm PST 
Takota, I agree that their are many "positive" trainers who use punishment. That is why it is so important to sit in on some classes before you sign a contract.

"dogs do not retain information/ training any faster than tradiotional/punishment based methods."

I would challenge that statement. It depends on the skill of the trainer.

As to the other pitfalls of positive reinforcement training, it would be interesting if you would list them for discussion.

Even if you want to call the outcome of positive and traditional training equal (speed, retention, ect), then isn't it always prudent to put kindness first?

Mocha, I think this is a good list. I would add that some of these results are subtle. They are not readily apparent. If a dog starts to shut down, he will still respond to commands as he should. One may think, as I did, that this is a perfectly trained dog without realizing the damage being done to the handler/dog relationship.
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Takoda

708198
 
 
Barked: Mon Feb 4, '08 3:44pm PST 
>>>>

I agree, it does depend on the skill on the trainer, but I've also seen mindful traditional trainers that could train circles around +reinforcement trainers, and of course the other way around. That is why my observations have led me to beleive that either way, the majority (or bell curve if you will) learning curves run at about the same rate.
>>>>>>>
-Over excitablility (dogs arent open to learning if they are scared ie: tradional methods or excited ie: + reinforcment)
-The positive reinforcment way of potty training (treats and praise) often interferes with progress
-Lack of true self control
-Accidental over-conditioning to focusing on treats. (focusing on treats become semi-compulsive)

Just to name a few things

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ARCHMX Asher RL1X RL2X RL3X RL

we will dance in- the ring without- words
 
 
Barked: Mon Feb 4, '08 4:25pm PST 
1) Over excitablility (dogs arent open to learning if they are scared ie: tradional methods or excited ie: + reinforcment)

If a dog is over excited in R+, you need to go to a lower value reinforcer.

2) The positive reinforcment way of potty training (treats and praise) often interferes with progress

I read your post on this and just have not experienced that problem. I housetrain about a dozen dogs a year, including PM releases who are acclimated to living in their own filth. Could the problem here be a timing issue? I don't reinforce until the dog is done pottying.

3) Lack of true self control

I'm not sure what you mean by this. I find that R+ allows me to teach dogs self control. the new trick we are teaching Ash is to leave a piece of food on his paw until I give him the cue to take it. Since I often use liver/chicken/hamburger for training, I think this displays excellent self control.

4) Accidental over-conditioning to focusing on treats. (focusing on treats become semi-compulsive)"

Again, this comes down to an issue with the trainer, not the method. If properly applied, the result is a dog who will work for reinforcers other than food ie praise, toys ect or for a more slot machine schedule of reinforcers.

The issue you have listed are from poor training technique. The pitfalls Mocha listed are inherent to punishment.
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Khola- CDX, CGC

R plus and- paitence what a- shocking idea
 
 
Barked: Mon Feb 4, '08 6:00pm PST 
-Over excitablility (dogs arent open to learning if they are scared ie: tradional methods or excited ie: + reinforcment)
---dogs can learn in any number of circumstances. If a dog is overly excited in a situation maybe it is the handler/trainer who is putting the dog in an unfair position that the dog is not ready for yet and the dog is in a survival mode. Or, as was already stated by Asher, it is possible that the reward offered is too high.... and is driving the dog to be rewarded for being overly excited by the reward (if that makes sense)

-The positive reinforcment way of potty training (treats and praise) often interferes with progress
--- I do not understand how this is so. I also do not understand how prwunishing a dog for eliminating, and then not telling it what to do can not be counterproductive itself. If dogs are urinating outside only a small amount only to get a reward for it.... they are still being properly trained. In this instance, it takes proper use of a reinforcement to build up the criteria for the behaivor the dog is offering.

-Lack of true self control
--- I am also confused by this statement. I find that my students and dogs have more self control because they are choosing to give the correct behavior and are not being told to do a behavior. This, I would determine would be the anthesis of "true self control". My own dog is a sight hound, but knows that if he chooses to offer a sit response when he becomes excited about a squirrel or other small animal, that he may or may not be rewarded for it... and will choose self control in hopes that there will be a payoff.... but this is just like anything in life, human or animal.

-Accidental over-conditioning to focusing on treats. (focusing on treats become semi-compulsive)
--- This again, is a sign of a trainer who is missing the mark. I don't believe in throwing the baby out with the bathwater, and citing bad trainers is doing just that in this case. If +R techniques are properly taught then they include fading the lures and treats so that they are not relied upon.
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Natasha

>Go- ahead- run...
 
 
Barked: Mon Feb 4, '08 6:24pm PST 
I partially agree with the statements....

1. You can cause physical pain/damage to your dog.
-I find the operative word is "CAN" not "does".
2. It is difficult to gauge the appropriate intensity.
-I don't think it's any harder than finding the appropriate reinforcer.
3. The dog can develop a "punishment callous".
- Maybe if you continue to yank on a dog yes but during normal training no.
4. The behavior may return when punishment stops.
-Well I can say the same thing for positive reinforcement. The minute the treats stop so does the behavior.
5. It is difficult to have perfect timing.
-No more difficult than learning the timing on a clicker.
6. It is difficult to be perfectly consistent.
-Same as above.
7. It can suppress desired behaviors; inhibit offered behaviors.
-If done improperly yes but if I reinforce at the wrong time in pure positive reinforcement I could end up in the same position.
8. It doesn't teach the dog what to do.
-I think it's been established that extinction works it's just not the best approach. BTW reinforcers plus corrections absolutely do teach the dog what to do and there are plenty of dogs to prove it.
9. The suppressive effect of the punisher is limited to the presence of the discriminative stimuli.
-I believe we can same the same thing for positive reinforcement. I have seen plenty of dogs that won't do a thing without a treat bag present.
10. It is rewarding to the punisher.
-Not really sure what they mean with this one so I am not going to assume.
11. It can damage the dog's confidence, trust in the trainer, relationship between dog and human.
-If done improperly maybe but if done correctly 110% false. Again plenty of dogs to prove that one wrong.
12. Violence begets violence
-Maybe in the human world but I highly doubt that a dog trained using corrections is going to turn violent. Abused (and I mean physcially abused dogs) may turn violent but that has nothing to do with dog training.

The bottom line for me is that with any training there can be pitfalls but that is why we all need a little help when we start out. None of us came out of the womb training dogs we all had to learn for someone.....some trainers are better to learn from then others. do your homework before selecting a trainer and use the methods that work best for your dog. Some of my dogs are pure positive and others are correction+reinforcers....different dogs = different methods and open minds bring success.

Happy Training!
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Indy

There is no such- thing as the- alpha.
 
 
Barked: Mon Feb 4, '08 7:05pm PST 
Great list, and I agree with most of the points.

Frankly, I'm tired of hearing the "different methods for different dogs" excuse for using punishments/corrections. I don't mean to be abrasive or offensive to anyone, but yes, while training methods will differ a bit between dogs-- why does that mean one should consider the use of pain in training? The last time I checked most dogs(and most animals) all had the ability to learn using the same framework.

That, and the "it works for us" mentality gets me. Call me one-sided, close-minded, ignorant, limiting, etc., but I cannot see a real reason to use pain in training(other than an immediate life or death situation obviously).
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skip

If I have it- wrong someone- will tell me
 
 
Barked: Mon Feb 4, '08 7:17pm PST 
It was written

"""""""""" Punishment comes up so often on this forum.

Pat Miller has a list of 12 pitfalls to punishment-oriented training methods:

12 Pitfalls of Positive Punishment

1. You can cause physical pain/damage to your dog.
2. It is difficult to gauge the appropriate intensity.
3. The dog can develop a "punishment callous".
4. The behavior may return when punishment stops.
5. It is difficult to have perfect timing.
6. It is difficult to be perfectly consistent.
7. It can suppress desired behaviors; inhibit offered behaviors.
8. It doesn't teach the dog what to do.
9. The suppressive effect of the punisher is limited to the presence of the discriminative stimuli.
10. It is rewarding to the punisher.
11. It can damage the dog's confidence, trust in the trainer, relationship between dog and human.
12. Violence begets violence. """""""""""""""
_______________________________________________

As a advocate of positive reinforcement I have some issues with the verbeige in the use of words that seem to speak of absolutes to which I believe are or can be misleading and inaccurate in some or many cases. I have observed various reactions to positive punishment and have found no absolutes other than that in most cases the most commonly used ones result in presenting a discomforting or painful stimuli which often results in some form of stress for the dog.

For some/many who use punishment, shutting down or reducing the desire to experiment is exactly what is desired regardless of any of the other effects. In addition some people like the idea of setting a boundary by the use of punishments or corrections that result in conditioning a boundary regardless of the possibilities to collateral negative backlash conditioning.

I think that is why correction based training remains so popular and is reflexed too by those who have not been exposed too or have not had success with the alternatives. It is after all a fact that any method can fail if not processed approriately which may differ from one experience to another.


My revised redention would go like this.

12 Pitfalls of Positive Punishment

1. positive punishment can and often results in discomfort or pain to the dog and can cause physical or pyscological injury to the dog.

2. It is difficult to gauge the appropriate intensity.
3. The dog can develop a "punishment callous".
4. The behavior may return when punishment stops.
5. It is difficult to have perfect timing.
6. It is difficult to be perfectly consistent.
7. It can suppress desired behaviors; inhibit offered behaviors.
8. It doesn't teach the dog what to do.
9. The suppressive effect of the punisher can be limited to the presence of the discriminative stimuli.
10. Obtaining the desired result is rewarding to the punisher.
11. It can damage the dog's confidence, trust in the trainer, relationship between dog and human.
12. Violence can beget violence.


My argument with "most" forms of punishment is based on the fact that regardless of the results that can result in gaining a resolution there should be no reason to start with aversive positive punishment untill the alternatives have been exhausted when considering the *POSSIBLE* pitfalls. This means getting professional expert help and taking the time that might be required to get it right.

That is my slant without getting too caught up in the word twisting verbeige that can and often does turn into a highly back and forth sparring match.





wink

Edited by author Mon Feb 4, '08 7:30pm PST

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skip

If I have it- wrong someone- will tell me
 
 
Barked: Mon Feb 4, '08 7:35pm PST 
oops I meant to say physiological damage.

dog
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