Over the past 2 years, I’ve helped many positive-reinforcement dog trainers with their marketing. In that process, I’ve learned a lot about learning theory and why we should use positive reinforcement with dogs. Then, I realized the same concept applies to humans…
Positive reinforcement methodology in dog training means we never use force, fear, or intimidation to produce results.
No shock collars. No pinch collars. No choke collars.
Instead, we reward the behaviors we like and (broadly speaking), ignore the behaviors we do not want to be repeated.
Positive-reinforcement, force-free training builds a mutual relationship between the human trainer and the four-legged trainee. It allows dogs to have the freedom of personality and individuality, while teaching both dogs and humans to be respected and respectful.
It also produces the best results out of all dog training methods?
Now why shouldn’t you just put a shock collar or vibrator around your dog’s neck and shock them every time they misbehave until they learn? Or maybe just yell at them and shame them until they stop doing the undesirable behavior? Isn’t that easier for the owner? Maybe…
But here’s what happens…
It breaks trust between the trainer and the dog. The dog ends up living in constant fear, because he doesn’t know when he’s going to feel pain again next. He also feels out of control as to when it’s going to feel pain.
This also means the dog will only do the minimum amount of “work” (ie: desired behavior, trick, etc) to NOT get shocked.
Let me be clear: using pain, fear of punishment, and shame are destroying your dog and your relationship with your dog.
Okay, let’s apply this to humans.
You have a 115-year-old son named Charlie. Charlie brings home a report card with mostly C’s. You tell him he’s a terrible kid and student for making C’s. He should be making A’s. You ground him for 3 months. Now, Charlie goes and does the minimum amount of work to get to a B in fear of feeling pain and shame for not doing better. Will Charlie do all the work required to get an A? Probably not. Is Charlie going to want a long-term relationship after high school with someone who constantly uses pain, punishment, and shame to get what you want out of him? Doubtful.
Now let’s say instead of telling Charlie how he should have done better, you tell him how proud you are of him and encourage him to do better. The next semester, Charlie comes home with mostly A’s.
Pain, fear, and shame are terrible motivators.
Your friend is late. Again. 5 minutes. 10 minutes. 15 minutes. Finally, she pulls up at the restaurant, and you’re ticked off. “Sarah, why are you always late?”
She apologizes and y’all go get a table.
After you order, you bring up Sarah’s lateness again. “Sarah, you’re always 15 minutes late. You should really be on time.” Sarah feels so much shame and wonders why she’s still friends with someone who makes her feel bad about herself.
The next time you go out to lunch with Sarah, she’s 10 minutes late. Why? Because you shamed her when she was 15 minutes late and now she’s doing the minimum required to not be shamed for being 15 minutes late… by instead being 10 minutes late. The last thing she wants is to be yelled at again in front of everyone at the restaurant.
You decide to take a different route. “Hey Sarah, I love spending time with you. Could you work on trying to be on time? Perhaps you could try setting your clocks a few minutes early to help.”
The next time you see Sarah, she’s 2 minutes early.
“Sarah, thanks for being on time. I really appreciate it.”
Sarah’s never late again.
Here’s the truth…
Whether you’re creating a relationship with a dog or another human, you have 2 options…
You can shame them into submission and make the fear of pain and punishment to get to compliance.
You can show kindness, love, compassion, and empowerment to reinforce the actions or behaviors that you do like.
Which will you choose?