Negative Reinforcement In Dog Training

Negative Reinforcement In Dog Training: What Is It?

Negative reinforcement in dog training refers to any form of punishment or correction used with dogs. This type of discipline is usually reserved for those who are not experienced enough to use positive reinforcement methods. Some common forms of negative punishment include:

Scratching (Kicking) the dog’s rear end, especially when it barks at you.

Shaking the dog by holding its leash tightly while shaking your hand.

Wagging one’s finger in front of the dog’s face.

Pinching the dog behind the ears.

The above mentioned techniques may seem harsh and unpleasant to some people, but they have been proven effective in increasing obedience skills and improving behavior problems such as aggression, fearfulness, hyperactivity and many others.

How Does Negative Reinforcement Work?

It is believed that negative reinforcement works because it creates a reward, which then increases the animal’s desire to perform the desired action again. If the animal performs the desired action after receiving a treat, it will continue doing so until it receives another treat. For example if you give your dog a tasty bone, he’ll want to eat more of them in order to get even better treats.

These techniques are a little more complicated when it comes to dogs, which is why you shouldn’t just jump into one of these methods until you’ve had proper guidance from a professional dog trainer.

The Pros and Cons of Using Negative Reinforcement

Negative reinforcement methods in dog training are not as popular as positive ones. This is probably because the majority of people would rather reward their dogs for doing something good instead of hurting them for doing something wrong.

There are some benefits and downsides to using this method of training. Some of the most prominent ones are listed below.


They Get Quicker Results: These methods have a better chance of correcting unwanted behavior in a shorter period of time.

They Get Better Compliance: Since the animal is being punished when it disobeys, it will try harder to obey your commands so that it doesn’t get hurt again.


Negative Reinforcement In Dog Training - Picture

They Get Quicker Results: While this is a good thing for correcting certain unwanted behavior, it’s a bad thing in the sense that it’s teaching the animal to fear you. This means that if you ever have to show the animal what you’re capable of, it will be too afraid to disobey out of the fear of being hurt again.

They Get Better Compliance: While this is a good thing for training, it’s not such a good thing when it comes to your relationship with the animal. If you’re constantly hurting the animal every time it does something wrong, then it’s going to be very afraid of you and it will most likely comply out of fear rather than respect or any other positive emotion.

How to Use Negative Reinforcement in Dog Training

Before you start training your dog using a negative reinforcement system, you need to speak with your veterinarian or an animal behaviorist because there’s a possibility that your pet may be suffering from a medical condition such as low blood sugar or a nervous disorder. If this is the case then the problems will need to be treated before you begin any training.

There are many different types of negative reinforcements that can be used to teach your pet not to perform an unwanted behavior. The main thing you need to remember is that the technique you choose should be a good fit for your pet and the problem behavior you’re wanting to correct. Some of the most common techniques are listed below.

Use a Spray Bottle: One of the most common tools used by pet owners who practice this technique is a simple spray bottle. Before you begin training, you need to fill it with water, but make sure that the water is cold or warm. You never want to use hot water because it can scald your pet’s skin and cause a great deal of pain and possibly severe burns.

Once you have the spray bottle filled with water, you’re ready to train. Whenever your pet does something you don’t want it to do, such as urinating or defecating indoors, immediately grab the spray bottle and take aim. Most pets will be so surprised that they won’t even realize they’ve done anything wrong at first, but they’ll soon realize it when you begin spraying them with cold water.

The main thing you need to remember when using this technique is to always make sure you’re prepared. You don’t want to be standing there with your spray bottle waiting for your pet to perform an unwanted behavior and then have nothing to act on, so make sure you have the bottle in hand and ready to go before you start watching your pet.

This method is very effective, especially when used in combination with some of the other techniques listed here.

Negative Reinforcement In Dog Training - Picture

Use an Air Gun: This is another common tool that is used in training pets using a negative reinforcement system. It’s very similar to the spray bottle method, except instead of spraying your pet with water, you shoot it with small metal pellets. These typically come in a tin container that you can carry with you.

Note: While these pellets are fairly small and unlikely to cause any severe physical damage if they hit your pet, there is still a possibility that they could. Also, keep in mind that if you ever have to use this while out and about, people may get the wrong idea and think that you’re using a gun.

It’s best to use this method at home when nobody else is around so you don’t end up scaring the daylights out of anyone or causing any panic.

Sources & references used in this article:

Dog training methods: their use, effectiveness and interaction with behaviour and welfare by EF Hiby, NJ Rooney… – … -POTTERS BAR THEN …, 2004 –

Barriers to the adoption of humane dog training methods by Z Todd – Journal of Veterinary Behavior, 2018 – Elsevier

The effects of using aversive training methods in dogs—A review by G Ziv – Journal of veterinary behavior, 2017 – Elsevier

The relationship between training methods and the occurrence of behavior problems, as reported by owners, in a population of domestic dogs by EJ Blackwell, C Twells, A Seawright… – Journal of Veterinary …, 2008 – Elsevier

Training dogs and training humans: Symbolic interaction and dog training by JB Greenebaum – Anthrozoös, 2010 – Taylor & Francis

Effects of 2 training methods on stress-related behaviors of the dog (Canis familiaris) and on the dog–owner relationship by S Deldalle, F Gaunet – Journal of veterinary behavior, 2014 – Elsevier

Training deer to avoid sites through negative reinforcement by DL Nolte, KC Vercauteren, KR Perry… – USDA National …, 2003 –