Is there a correct method of educating the dog
Dog lovers know what an ambitious task is to train their pets well. It takes a lot of patience, perseverance and the right approach. And even if we apply these things most of the time, it certainly sometimes happens that we lose our nerves and get angry at the dogs when they don't listen. But how does that affect them and do we not traumatize them?
In general, there has long been a dispute over what is the best approach to dog training, with two main understandings. One school relies on the so-called negative approach that mainly implements punishment (such as raising a tone or hitting) or a violent approach (e.g. the use of an electric collar) in training. The other school, more modern, emphasizes on positive training techniques and is based on encouragement through praise and rewards of the animal, and it is believed that this builds a better relationship between the owner and his pet.
Recently, scientific evidence has been accumulating in support of positive learning, but the topic remains a hot spot for discussion. It is also the focus of a recent study showing that a negative approach can have both short-term and long-term effects on the psychological health of our pets [ref. 1].
Why encourage our pets
In short, scientists from the Portuguese University of Porto compared the behavior of a sample of nearly 100 dogs trained at different schools in the city. 42 of them come from schools applying positive training techniques, 22 from mixed groups applying some negative methods, and 28 of them who rely entirely on them.
Video footage of the dogs was made to assess their stress-related behavioural responses such as sneering and licking, as well as their general condition - for example, whether they were relaxed or tense. The researchers also collected samples of dogs' saliva at different periods before and after a training session in which they measured levels of the hormone cortisol. It is known that levels of this hormone significantly increase under physical or mental stress. The article said: 'The results showed that dogs in the negative group showed stress-related behaviours were more often stressed and their breathing was choppy and fast, as well as showed higher levels of cortisol after exercise compared to dogs in the other group.' Animals trained by applying positive techniques, giving rewards and incentives look much more relaxed and have significantly less of the stress hormone cortisol in the saliva.
In addition to the aforementioned short-term effects of both types of training, the researchers set a goal in the study to assess both long-term ones. This is achieved by placing the so-called cognitive (behavioral) task of delusion outside the context of their learning environment. 79 of the dogs took part in this phase of the study, which was conducted in an unfamiliar room for all animals.
The task consists in the following: First, dogs get the opportunity to get acquainted with the room within 10 minutes. The task requires dogs to link the location of a panic to whether or not there is a tasty reward inside. If the panic is in one part of the room, it always has a reward inside, if it's in the other - it's empty (each bowl is flavored with sausage flavor, so as not to be the smell leading). The rapid rush is interpreted as a "positive expectation" on the part of the animal to find a reward, while the slow speed means it is rather "pessimistic" about whether there will be a sausage in the pan.
The result of this task is hardly surprising - the more negatively the dog was trained, the slower it approaches the panic.