Anyone who has adopted a puppy knows it can be a handful. There are many ways to correct negative behaviors and promote positive ones, but in recent years antique "aversive" training has been outstripped by reward-based reinforcement training, and new research suggests that there are many benefits.
Aversive training is for many people an almost instinctive reaction to a dog that behaves badly. You see your puppy biting on furniture and yelling. The puppy stops what they've been doing and eventually learns to fear the consequences of these negative actions. It may work, but it may have unwanted side effects.
A study that focuses on stress reactions in puppies that have been trained using either aversion or positive reinforcement methods. Using a sample size of 92 dogs from seven different training schools that used one of the two training methods, the researchers determined the number of stress-related behaviors of each dog during and after the training session.
They found that dogs trained by the disgusting method exhibited significantly more stressful behavior ̵
This is a significant finding in itself, but the researchers passed the additional sampling set of stress hormone levels of each animal during their observations. In dogs that were trained by the aversive method, the levels of the stress hormone cortisol were increased during training.
An additional experiment set the task for dogs to search for a bowl containing treats in a room. The dogs were trained to know that when the bowl was on one side of the room, there was a treat, but that the bowl was empty if it was on the other side of the room.
The bowl was then randomly placed in the room to see how the dogs would react. Toddlers who withstood a workout with disgust were much more pessimistic and avoided the bowl at a faster rate than those who were trained with a reward-based method. Researchers interpret this as more stressed dogs with depressive thinking.
If nothing else, this study shows that rewards-based training has some significant advantages over the older method and is something to consider if you have recently met a new puppy in your home.