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The Listen Dog Blog

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Why Rewarding Your Dog Is Far More Effective Than Punishing Him

By listendogtraining, Nov 10 2016 12:11PM

The hippocampus is described as the most important part of the limbic system, because it is responsible for emotions and memory, and plays a dramatic role in the capability of a dog to be taught and trained.

For example, dog trainers of the ‘old-school’ variety were firm advocators of training by punishing undesirable behaviour – your dog will obey you if he fears the consequence of disobeying you. However, the modern approach to dog training today has taken a massive shift towards more positive methods, achieving success by encouraging and rewarding the right behaviour, as opposed to punishing the wrong behaviour.

Thanks to the hippocampus, using positive stimulation to develop desirable behaviour means that lessons are linked to favourable emotions, and are therefore more properly fixed in the dog’s brain. For example, every time you give your dog a command, if the behaviour you are commanding him to perform contradicts the behaviour his instincts are compelling him towards, your dog has a decision to make. By offering a reward that your dog considers more valuable than the natural reward he may receive by following his instinct, you are creating a positive association in the dog’s mind with fulfilling said command. By associating a positive emotion to the dog’s memory of this command, you are more likely to cement it in the dog’s mind, and find it successful in practise. So if the particular lesson is an exercise in recall, you could reward your dog for responding to your call with a piece of ham or chicken – a valuable reward in the eyes of a dog, especially if you dog is food-motivated. If this is repeated often enough to create a strong positive association in the dog’s memory, then the dog is much more likely to return to you even when his instincts tell him to do otherwise – if he sees a cat he’d like to chase, for example!

So if you want your dog to really remember something, hijack the way his mind deals with committing information to memory, and ensure he’s feeling good during training. The easiest way? Ditch the punishments and dole out the rewards!

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