“I don’t think that’s punishment!” Or “It’s not violence!” – you often hear that when it comes to the question of what exactly “positive training” should be. At this point there is not always agreement. It is therefore worth taking a closer look at the terms as such.
What is a punishment is clearly defined in the so-called learning theory (also called the learning law). The theory of learning is the same as the law of gravity: it always works when living things change their behavior – even when humans do not intend to do so or do not even know the theory of learning.
As soon as I add something unpleasant or take something pleasant away, I use punishment – from a theoretical point of view. You have to keep in mind that the words “positive”, “negative” and “punishment” do not include a rating – you could just as well say “to” and “away” or “less often”.
Very important to know: Whether something is pleasant or uncomfortable is always decided by the person to whom it happens – in this case, the dog. If my actions make my dog feel uncomfortable, then I’m in the area of punishment, whether I want it or not. This can even happen unintentionally if, for example, I pat my dog well on the head, but he just doesn’t like it.
Positive training prefers the use of positive reinforcement to any other option and will always look for a suitable training path.
To say that only positive reinforcement is used would be wrong: Even if I interrupt the game with my puppy because it gets too wild, I use negative punishment. If I teach my dog to do a bow, if another dog is uncomfortable, I use negative reinforcement.
What positive training tries to avoid is the use of positive punishment.
When it comes to punitive stimuli that people use deliberately – like a line jerk or a bump – I can simply decide not to.
However, I will not always succeed: If I could not know that the dog would find something uncomfortable, or simply accidentally step on the towing line and cause a jerk, I use (unintentionally) positive punishment at this moment.
And even in emergencies, when it comes to averting danger or limiting damage, I may have to do things that are not pleasant for the dog.
So positive training is more of a constant effort to avoid positive punishment and to find ways to change the behavior of dogs by using positive reinforcement.
In contrast to punishment, there are very different definitions of violence, depending, for example, on whether it is viewed from a sociological, legal or philosophical point of view.
However, violence can also be defined as what everyone involved perceives as violence. So there can be a consensus on what a group of people regards as violence.
Among the people who have written positive training on their flags, this consensus is that non-violent training avoids intimidation, fear, fright, pain and (if possible) frustration.