Training Blog

PASSIVE TRAINING Vs ACTIVE TRAINING

Training, whether it be a dog, cat, child or sports person must be consistent, ongoing and continual. An obvious statement perhaps, but how many people (I’m thinking specifically about dog trainers here) practise the ‘continual’ element. Positive reinforcement is an EXTREMELY powerful MOTIVATOR. For example we can reward our dog for lying quietly in bed; appearing to the outsider, for no apparent reason! We can reinforce the wanted behaviour of lying quietly with a few kind words of ENCOURAGEMENT and a chin rub. Here we reinforced the behaviour passively – we are not actually encouraging a behaviour, rather, waiting for it to happen. This is continual training; we offer rewards at random for a wanted behaviour – not only in ‘formal’ training sessions.

Conversely, we can employ ‘active’ training, in a more formal setting, whereby we set the dog up to succeed, followed by the wanted behaviour, followed by the reward (known as the ABC of training (Antecedent, Behaviour, Consequence). The idea of setting the dog up to SUCCEED cannot be overstated. Failure will not do and we must always end any formal training session on a high note. I also believe that many trainers over rely on food and mechanical aids, ‘clickers’ for example (I’m not suggesting that clickers are a waste of time – they have their place in the correct situation). Better to rely on communication with our dog using EMOTIONS and body language. Dogs are able to pick up on the slightest nuances, ones which humans would not notice in a thousand years!

In Western cultures, men are particularly bad at employing positive reinforcement (R+). Perhaps they consider this unmanly! Punishment seems to come more naturally. This was particularly true in the ‘dark ages’ of the 1940s and 50s educational system. Have you noticed that Donald Trump is hardly ever out of the news nowadays, even in the UK? How often do we see him using R+? It appears he is a great advocate of R- and punishment, building walls and throwing people in jail. Notwithstanding, we live in more enlightened times now and, thanks to extensive research, understand the importance of positive reinforcement!

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