Dogs (and other animals, including ourselves) learn through operant conditioning. There are other mechanisms but operant conditioning is the one that is involved when you’re trying to teach your dog a certain behavior.
The following is a breakdown which will help one to understand by explaining the different terms with regards to this:
- Reinforcement: An action designed to increase the frequency a behaviour
- Punishment: An action designed to decrease the frequency of a behaviour
- Positive: Presence of a stimulus
- Negative: Absence of a stimulus
These terms can form four different combinations:
- Positive reinforcement: Present a stimulus to increase the frequency of a behaviour (e.g. give a treat when the dog sits on command)
- Negative reinforcement: Remove a stimulus to increase the frequency of a behaviour (e.g. The mailman goes away after the dog barks at it)
- Positive punishment: Present a stimulus to decrease the frequency of a behaviour (e.g. hit the dog when it’s urinated on the carpet)
- Negative punishment: Remove a stimulus to decrease the frequency of a behaviour (e.g. leave the room when the dog jumps up on you)
So you have four basic techniques with which you can train your dog to perform or stop performing certain behaviors.
According to research and science, positive reinforcement outperforms any of the other techniques and is even better than combining any or all of the techniques listed above.
But regardless of which one is most effective, the real question should be: What relationship do you want to have with your dog?
Positive punishment and negative reinforcement involve making the dog at the very least uncomfortable if not outright hurting him. Neither will make your dog happy, nor will it help to build trust between you and your dog if you’re a source of unpleasantness. Furthermore, these techniques only let the dog know what you don’t want it to do.
Positive reinforcement, on the other hand, basically ensures that your dog thinks that “only good things come from you”. It helps to build trust and love between you and your dog and will make your dog a very happy one.
It’s not always obvious how to teach certain behaviors using positive reinforcement (for example, when the objective is to stop a behavior) but just ask a question about whatever problem you’re facing and feel free to practice positive reinforcement techniques consistently.
Useful methods to discipline dogs are ones that will teach the dog. Dog’s are intelligent animals, but they have an intelligence similar to the level of young children (<=4 years); so they cannot understand elaborate consequences, they respond to simple cause and effect whether it be positive or negative reinforcement.
To reiterate, the best and most effective way to discipline and train a dog is to proactively utilize positive reinforcement methods.