Positive dog training: marks of absence of reinforcement

Currently much talk in circles related to canine education in positive about absence of reinforcement, markings on sea. Its use can raise controversy since are often related to the use of punishment in the education of our the online dog trainer review. The positive punishment, namely belt pulls, strokes by hand, etc., even the punishment positive verbal a unpleasant cry (the typical NO!) is not used in the canine education in positive. Then, what is the difference between NO and the sea?, what we look for when is a sea and what is sought with NO?, what can be the risks of the use of the sea?


The definition most referenced and known sea, and one of the most clear and complete, is offering us “The clash of cultures” of Jean Donaldson (Donaldson, 2003) in which is defined as: “a signal that tells the dog that it has lost a reinforcement or that their chances of reinforcement have been reduced to zero because of behavior that just offer us”

How does this definition into practice?

We do ground a phrase to communicate to the dog that is moving away from the expected behavior; something very similar to the typical “hot-cold” game. Jean Donaldson proposes the use of “Evil” and “Bad luck”, but used others as “non, non” or “ah, ah”. What is important is the way of saying the phrase. Intonation must be as neutral as possible. We must remember, that the goal is not to scare the dog, but help you to change your strategy to get reinforcement.

What is the difference between corrective NO and the sea?

There are several differences; We will highlight two very important:

1. the objective of the sea is to help the dog to search the behavior that takes you to the award. On the other hand, the non-corrective aims to decrease the frequency of the behavior shown by the dog. The sea cannot be used if it is not to reinforce, either the desired behavior or one close to it (working on the basis of successive approximations). If NO corrective. For example, would be a mistake to use the sea when our dog to climb to the Chair and once we get that you down not reward this gesture.

2 not corrective is pronounced in intimidating manner and experiences associated with the verbal signal tend to be positive punishments of style pulls belt, hits with the hand, screaming, etc. The sea never be associated with a positive punishment (appearance of something unpleasant for the dog). Conceptually speaking, the sea would be called negative punishment, i.e., disappearance of something pleasant for the dog. Why Jean Donaldson said that the sea is conditioned negative punishment.

What can be the risks of the use of the sea?

When using the sea is can make mistakes, just like with any other tool for use in training. The main concern of the Guide to the use of the sea must not increase the frustration of the dog because you can’t find the solution to the problem. There are dogs that are unable to manage their emotions, this leads them to distress (negative stress) very high levels that may cause diseases cardiac, gastric, skin, etc. (Scholz and Von Reinhardt, 2007) problems. The responsibility of the guide is to correctly read the signals issued by the dog, helping you to achieve that goal, minimizing stress and avoiding so feared frustration. A set of signals that can appear when using the sea and begin to increase the negative stress levels are:

or carry out movements of displacement when it tries to solve the problem (a perfect “back”) or yawn or drooling or lick your lips or muscles tense

or change of eye color and dilation of the pupils

to tremble or shake off (without being wet)

or bark, whine, howl

or stay still

or lose concentration, giving back or avoiding eye-contact

or use signs of calm to reduce stress. (Rugaas, 2001)

At the time that these signs are beginning to appear should be subtly helped the dog to solve the problem and prevent lose interest or get even blocked. Excessive repetition of the exercise, one demand greater than the apprentice which is capable of supporting, can lead to situations of conflict that might generate problems as chronic stress, anxiety or even the learned helplessness. Another risk is running using the sea is possible offered behavioral inhibition when the dog that works is extremely sensitive. For example, if we mold the collection of an object as a basket by its handle and we use the sea when the dog tries to collect the basket but not by its handle, we can cause a back back in the advance. Finally, to dogs or exercises where motivation is low is not recommended the use of the sea because that can decrease your motivation, further complicating us reach satisfactory results.

Conclusions It must be present always the idea that the sea must be used as an aid for the dog. In any other case, it should not be used, since we can get to turn it into a positive punishment depending on our emotional state. From the point of view of the Guide, you should plan before log on education if it is to use the sea for the financial year to work and if so have clear criteria of use, i.e. under that situation speak the sea. Exactly the same as before starting a training session must be clear criteria reward depending on the degree of advancement of the dog, distractions from the environment, temperature and humidity of the soil, etc.…