22 August 2017


When training your gundog the one question frequently asked is whether it is always necessary to only use positive reward based reinforcement or if negative reinforcement or reprimand also has its own beneficial effect? 

Firstly to communicate with your dog, timing is essential. You must ask yourself, would rewarding the dog while he is misbehaving allow him to repeat these actions or, if showing the dog no reward it would teach him not to continue the bad behaviour.

Focusing on reward and reprimand first, we all know the very basic ways to reward a dog. These can be verbal praise generally accompanied with soft body language such as being given a food reward, toy retrieve or in some cases a hunting session.

Looking at the basics of negative reinforcement training, it shows that many of the techniques are simply the opposite of reward training i.e. verbal chastisement such as the word ‘no’ with harsh dominate body language and of course withholding a food reward or toy retrieve.

Now lets discuss the training technique of withholding rewards, we do an example of this when teaching target training using the Mullenscote’s hoop system.  The dog is taught that by siting quietly in the hoop he will receive a food treat, as we offer the treat to the dog we teach the handlers to use the word ‘good’. In order for the dog to successfully achieve this food reward and verbal praise he must sit with all four paws inside the hoop and focus on your face. The amount of quality training the dog has had will really shine through and show how easy or hard it is for him to grasp what he should do.

Using negative reinforcement in the same scenario could consist of using the lead to ‘check’ him and firmly insist that he corrects himself properly. Once the dog is sitting in the right position you should say ‘good’ and if preferred, you could chose to reinforce the food reward. This physical method does rely on an unpleasant movement until the dog figures out what is needed from him labelling this technique, as negative correction. 

Try to consider using positive technique one during the first stages of the initial training, as this method teaches the dog to use his brain and figure out how to get the reward himself rather than the second example that could argue the dog is offering this behaviour to avoid correction.

Lets look at a scenario when your dog is distracted by something away from the hoop, this is where compiling the two different techniques together could help lead to an obedient dog. Ensuring the dog understands what he has to do, incorporate your body language, possibly by giving the dog a tap or using the lead technique and making sure he never attempts to go outside of the hoop.

Keep the commands clear and boundaries accurate whilst being consistent in your training and the dog will quickly establish what is understood of him soon enough you will be begin to see progress. 

Chudleys Expert Nutritionists

In conjunction with Howard’s training advice, Chudleys in-house nutritionists suggest:

Chudleys Puppy/Junior provides nutritional support for learning - Young puppies learn rapidly and Chudleys Puppy/Junior contains two key elements for nutritional support for the improvement of learning capacity in puppies.  Increased levels of Omega 3 fatty acids, specifically DHA, from salmon oil and marine algae, are integral to neural and retinal development. 

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