Are you Accidentally Rewarding your dog for Barking and Reacting?


Negative Reinforcement – What is it?


It’s where the dog handler removes something from the dog’s environment AFTER a desired behaviour in order to make it more likely to occur. It’s a great training technique.


Common examples are releasing pressure on the horse’s reins AFTER it has turned.


Allowing a child to leave the table AFTER the child has eaten all their vegetables.


When teaching a dog to learn to sit, it might need extra encouragement to start with where the handler gently lifts on the collar and pushes on the dog’s bottom. These ‘pressures’ are released AFTER the dog has sat.


These are everyday concepts and situations where the subject learns to carry out the desired behaviour because they like the end result.


But often owners and handlers accidentally use this technique and the result is that unwanted behaviour increases/continues rather than decreases.


Some common examples:


  1. If your dog barks at visitors because their presence makes them wary, then removing the dog from the visitors or ushering the visitors to another room will make the dog more likely to bark. Why?


Because the barking worked.


Dog barked ‘I’m scared/concerned’

Owners ‘removed the scary things from the dog’

Dog got a great result from barking so will more likely do it again.


  1. If your dog is reactive towards dogs, avoiding other dogs when your dog barks and growls also sends the same message to the dog.
  2. If your dog barks at people walking past the window, the pedestrians eventually walk out of sight so the dog feels the barking worked.


In any of these situations, if what you are trying doesn’t seem to be working, this could be a large part of the reason, so you might need to change your approach.


Contact us for help with these or any other problems.