Let's get a little geeky today and talk about Operant Conditioning.
Operant Conditioning is a learning process through which the strength of a behavior is modified by reinforcement or punishment, developed by B.F. Skinner (https://www.simplypsychology.org/operant-conditioning.html).
There are 4 quadrants of Operant Conditioning - but this does NOT mean that we should be using all 4. Let's break it down.
R = REINFORCEMENT (increases behavior)
P = PUNISHMENT (decreases behavior)
+ = TO ADD SOMETHING
- = TO REMOVE/DELAY SOMETHING
R+ (positive reinforcement) *recommended
Adding something to increase a behavior. Ex) give the dog a treat when he walks with a loose leash.
*this teaches the dog that when he's walking nicely, he will get treats
P- (negative punishment) *recommended
Removing or delaying something to decrease a behavior. Ex) delay (stop) walking forward when the dog pulls on leash.
*this teaches the dog that if he pulls on his leash, the walk can't resume. Once he loosens that leash and walks nicely again, he can move forward and resume his walk.
P+ (positive punishment) *not recommended
Adding something to decrease a behavior. Ex) pressing the button on the shock collar (or leash popping on a prong collar, choke chain, even a flat buckle collar) to stop the dog from pulling on leash.
*this teaches the dog that if he pulls, it hurts, hence stopping the behavior.
R- (negative reinforcement) *not recommended
Removing or delaying something to increase a behavior. Ex) delaying pressing the button on the shock collar (or leash popping) while the dog is walking loose leash
*this teaches the dog that if he walks loose leash, it won't hurt.
Now let's talk about how using ALL 4 of these quadrants to teach loose leash walking (for example) is not recommended by professionals. It's actually very simple.
Behavior that is reinforced is more likely to continue. Behavior that is punished may weaken or go away, but at the risk of negative behavior fallout. Period.
These risks include: (referencing Terrie Hayward M.Ed, CSAT, CPD-KA, ACDBC, KPA-CT from her book A Training Guide to Using Your Time Wisely to Communicate Effectively)
"Aggression: because punishment is not pleasant, there often can be aggression towards the punisher
Apathy: since every move the animal makes runs the risk of incurring punishment, the animal becomes apathetic - lacking interest, emotion, concern, or feeling about learning and he may just give up
Escape/avoidance: here, the learner attempts to escape or avoid the punishment and, often times, also the person dolling out the punishment
Generalized fear: in this case, the animal comes to fear things they may associate with the situation, behavior, or the person connected with the punishment"
Now what happens when ALL 4 quadrants are used at once (aka balanced training)?? When I pull it hurts. When I walk nice I get a treat.... oh but I really want to go see that other dog (ZAP!) Damn, new dogs hurt!! Next time, I'm going to get him before he gets me! (Now we have leash reactivity and a negative conditioned emotional response to other dogs). This is just one example - the most common one that I see over and over again. Remember too, that when the punisher (handler and/or collar) is gone, the behavior comes back. These methods don't actually teach the dog anything other than what hurts and what doesn't.
How many people slow down when they see a police car on the highway? When the punisher is present, the behavior is suppressed. Period. This is the science behind behavior. This is not opinion, pseudoscience or, as Dr Karen Overall calls it, "voodoo" ;-)
So, next time you're out for a walk, remember that you AND your dog are both learning all the time, via both classical and operant conditioning! Carry that treat pouch! Reinforce the things you like! It will make for a much nicer walk and much nicer relationship between you and your dog.
If you need help preventing leash concerns or even undoing them, please contact a force free, educated professional to help you.