Escape conditioning occurs when the dog hears a sound or some warning that an unpleasant event is about to occur. This type of conditioning sometimes occurs without our intervention. For example, sometimes when the stove is on, it sets off a heat alarm in the kitchen. The dog will leave the kitchen when it sees you turning on the stove, because it wants to escape from the shrill warning of the heat alarm. This type of conditioning can be put to use in training if an undesirable action is preceded by a sound to let the dog know a correction is coming. Escape conditioning is like a warning.
Another form of conditioning is escape conditioning. In escape conditioning, something unpleasant, like an ear pinch is used until the dog complies, then the unpleasant stimuli is removed. I am not a fan of this. I always go with the idea, what you do to train a dog should be no different than teaching a child. I wouldn’t want to teach a child by pinching his or her ear. I stick with the positive training methods.
Negative reinforcement is not always the same as punishment. Negative reinforcement is used to get a dog to do something more often, punishment is used to get a dog to quit doing something. We don’t use punishment in dog training, but it is unavoidable completely. Sometimes a dog does something and we just have to react. Hopefully that doesn’t include hitting or kicking the dog. The dog will lose confidence and respect for you if you do that. It is better for a dog to respect you than to fear you. Dogs want to do right because of their love for you and their packing instinct. That should be enough.
Negative reinforcement is when a stimulus is removed. Positive reinforcement is when a stimulus is used. An example of a negative reinforcement is when a dog will react to a stimulus to prevent it. Let’s say you are playing with the dog, but it isn’t playing fair. Maybe you are throwing a ball and it won’t let you pick up the ball. If you quit and sit down. That is a negative stimulus. The dog wants to play and you quit, because he wasn’t playing fair.
Here is a quick summary about the three main reinforcers and the best tip for each:
Praise, three minutes of exaggerated praise using a high pitched voice.
Toy, this should be a favorite toy dedicated to work only.
Treat, this should be something soft, that the dog loves and can eat fast and get back to work.
(These reinforcers are the ones we use for training working dogs, dogs who are finding people, objects etc., they are strong reinforcers and work best when kept simple, without deviation, like mentioned above).
If a treat or a toy doesn’t seem to be getting the desired results as a positive reinforcer, try something different.
What you think is a positive reinforcement might not be to a dog. A toy has to be a toy the dog doesn’t routinely play with. Praise has to be connected to something more positive, like a treat.
Using positive reinforcement not only teaches new skills, it reinforces existing skills and makes a dog better at skills already learned.