Positive reinforcement has always been the preferred method for dog trainers. However, there will be times when it is necessary to let your dog know when they are showing undesirable or incorrect behavior. Of course, we don’t want to use aversive measures or punishment. That is where the dog training discs come in,
Dog training discs are a means of letting your dog know that they are displaying an incorrect behavior without the use of punishment. They are a set of saucer-shaped discs usually made of metal. They are also small enough to fit in pockets. They emit a unique sound that cannot be heard from other objects. They are designed to make the sound only when you want them. They should not make a sound when they are moved around or when inside your pocket.
All You Need to Know About Dog Training Discs
How Do Dog Training Discs Work?
Many believe that dog training discs are made to startle your dog and distract them while doing undesirable behavior. However, its goal is for your dog to associate the sound the discs emits to not getting an expected reward.
You will notice that your dog will not notice the discs at all the first time you use them. One of the most important steps is to introduce the training discs to your dog. By repeating the activity, your dog learns that it’s their own that creates an unusual reaction. As a result, they learn to avoid the behavior. This is called negative reinforcement, which is totally different from punishment.
The Uses of Dog Training Discs
Dog training discs are used to deal with several behavior problems such as barking, jumping up, and aggressive behavior. It is recommended that you limit the usage of the training discs only to behaviors requiring urgent attention.
Introducing the Training Discs to Your Dog
- Get some yummy treats your dog loves.
- Hold the discs fabric loop in your fingers. This will enable you to hold them silently. Once you relax your grip, then shake your wrist, the discs will make a sound.
- Grab a few treats in your other hand.
- Put a treat on the floor and allow your dog to eat it. Do the exercise five times. This will make your dog expect another treat on the floor that they can eat.
- Again, put a treat on the floor and wait for your dog to come closer. When your dog is about to eat the treat, rattle the discs and take the treat away quickly, so your dog is not able to get the treat.
- Expect your dog to be confused. You have to repeat the exercise several times. This way, your dog will associate the sound of the discs with not getting the treat.
- After a few times of repeating the exercise, you will notice that your dog will back away from the treat when you rattle the discs. The situation can stress your dog, so you can expect to see signs of slight anxiety, like lip licking, displacement behaviors, or ears down.
- Repeat the exercise until your dog gets startled by the rattle of the discs and won’t try to eat the treat. It can take around four to five trials, depending on the sensitivity level of your dog.
- Observe your dog because they may go to seek reassurance from another family member. Tell them to praise your dog for avoiding the behavior.
- Remember to keep the training discs out of your dog’s sight when you are using it. This will allow them to associate only the rattling sound with the behavior.
- In the event, your dog ignores the discs, follow the above procedures once more.
Dog Training Disc Tips
- When it comes to dog training discs and other training methods for that matter, consistency is highly important.
- Only use the discs as a way of communicating undesirable behavior.
- The training discs should be used at the exact moment the undesired action is displayed.
- Never throw the discs at your dog.
- Introduce the discs to your dog first.
- When you have two dogs in your home, training discs may be less effective.
- Keep training sessions short – around three to four minutes, and regularly repeat throughout the day.
- Limit the use of the training discs. You should only use them for behaviors needing urgent attention.
Training with the Discs
First Stage: The Recall
The objective of this activity is to teach your dog to come and return to you regardless of the distractions outside and introduce the presence and sound of the discs.
- Allow your dog to have freedom in this exercise.
- Slide the training discs along the floor, and try to get them close to your dog and saying the command “come” urgently and excitingly.
- Expect your dog to stop and take a look at the discs due to curiosity. Immediately, you have to begin to encourage your dog to come back to you with lavish and happy praise. Remember not to haul your dog back.
- Once your dog has returned to you, give them gentle praise that is reassuring.
- Your dog should stay with you with their own free will. After a few moments, clearly say to your dog “good dog, off you go,” then allow freedom again.
- Continue walking and pick up the training discs as you go. Allow your dog to do whatever they want for some minutes, repeating the activity a few times in the span of ten minutes.
Second Stage: The Sit Stay
The objective of this activity is to teach your dog to stay in the sitting position until you say so. This is to establish the fact that you are the one who controls the discs.
Third Stage: The Down Stay
The objective of this exercise is to reinforce the “Sit Stay,” and to teach your dog further that they must stay in a position that you desire.
- Have your dog in the down position then walk away, allowing the leash to extend as you go. Confidently walk away while keeping an eye on your dog.
- When your dog moves, firmly throw the training discs on the floor. Make sure not to hit your dog with the discs and don’t say anything while you are doing the action.
- Your dog will probably walk towards you. You have to gently reassure them and take your dog back to their original position.
- Repeat the exercise until you are confident that your dog will stay when you walk away, pause, and return to them. End the exercise in a positive note by saying, “good dog, off you go.”
Fourth Stage: Walk to Heel
The objective of this activity is to make your dog walk alongside you of their own free will for the reason they feel secure when they do it.
- Position your dog alongside you and say “heel” as you start walking.
- Whenever your dog extends the leash forward, throw the training discs on the ground behind them and don’t say anything.
- Stop and then pick up the training discs. In a reassuring tone, say to your dog, “there’s a good dog, heel.”
- Repeat the exercise until your dog gets that when they stay with you, the discs won’t arrive.
Note: At first, don’t expect your dog to heel for too long. You can do ten to fifteen paces at the beginning, before releasing them. Remember not to repeat the exercise too much.
Training Your Dog Further
Your dog needs to undergo basic training if you wish to enjoy every moment with your dog. It will also prevent dogs from inflicting themselves on other people who are not really into dogs.
You can either use the training discs with voice commands or not.
Using the training discs with a voice command:
- To stop your dog from barking, you can use “quiet.”
- To stop general disobedience when at home, you can use “no.”
- To stop aggression towards other dogs, you can use “leave.”
Using the training discs without voice command:
This is where your dog’s own actions will create the sound.
- To stop your dog from stealing food when you are not around, you can tie the discs to a bait that is conveniently placed and leave. When your dog tries to get the bait, the discs will rattle.
- To stop your dog from jumping up visitors, you can throw the discs on the floor behind the dog. Tell your visitor to only stroke your dog when all four feet are on the ground.
- To stop your dog from charging at the door when they hear a noise outside, you can throw the discs in front of them before they reach the door.
Common Behavior Problems and Remedies
- Aggression (towards other dogs or people)
Firmly throw the training discs behind or in front of your dog at the moment they show signs of aggressive behavior.
- Barking at home
Allow your dog to provide a normal protective warning and then say “quiet,” and shake or throw the training discs.
- Barking in the car
You can throw the discs over your shoulder, stop the car and pick up the discs, then drive on.
- Chasing for fun
Throw the training discs behind your dog. You can also get a friend to ride, jog, or cycle, and they will be the ones to throw the discs as your dog approaches.
Throw the discs near your dog only if you catch them in the act.
- Food Induced Issues (scavenging, possessive growling, or stealing)
You can say the “leave” command enforced with the training discs. If your dog is growling, you can throw the discs near them or into the bowl. Take their food away and praise them. You can replace the food after.
- Picking up dangerous of valuable articles
You can firmly give the “leave” command and throw the discs in front of your dog. Do this only when you catch your dog in the act of picking up the article.
- General disobedience
Give the “no” command before rattling or throwing the discs.
- Attacking the letterbox and destroying anything pushed through it
Ask help from a friend to put some paper through the letterbox. You can allow your dog to rush to it and then throw the discs near them or at the door.
- Over-exuberance with visitors
If the behavior is persistent, you can allow your visitor to control the discs and remain friendly.
Negative Reinforcement in Dog Training
Since using dog, training discs is considered as a method of negative reinforcement. Let us explore essential information about negative reinforcement.
Some trainers see negative reinforcement as a “necessary evil’ in dog training. Although positive reinforcement is the preferred training strategy, there will be times when negative reinforcement is necessary.
Negative Reinforcement is Not Correcting a Dog or Stopping Their Bad Behavior
Contrary to what others believe, negative reinforcement is not the act of correcting a dog. They think that positive reinforcement is teaching a dog what they should do by using rewards. On the other hand, they believe that negative reinforcement is the opposite – teaching dogs what they must not do by using corrections. However, this is not the case.
Negative reinforcement is not stopping the bad behavior. People are often confused because they think that negative means unpleasant or bad, and positive means happy or good. In dog training, the terms negative and positive are mathematical terms. They refer to subtraction and addition, respectively.
Let us define each word for you to understand the concept better.
- Negative – the events that take place around the dog, which is typically a result of action taken by the trainer.
- Reinforcement – the effect of the event on the dog
How the dog is affected will depend on how they experience or perceive the event.
Now, let’s elaborate on the first word – Negative.
It’s all about addition and subtraction, as said earlier. Negative means something is taken away. It refers to what is occurring around the dog and the repercussion of their behavior. The trainer will then try to control those consequences.
Negative Means Taking Something Away
Sometimes, trainers would take away something from their dog as a consequence of the dog’s behavior. A ball or a treat might be taken away. The trainer may also take away the chance of the dog to play with another dog by restraining or removing the dog.
A dog trainer may also take away something that is painful, unpleasant, or scary.
These consequences are negative. However, some of them are good (such as removal of something painful), and some are unpleasant from your dog’s point of view. It is not the dog’s effect that the trainer is concerned with when using the word “negative.”
Reinforcement is related to the effect of what occurred to the dog. It is about how the event is perceived by the dog.
Reinforcement is something that will increase a dog’s behavior or make its frequency rise.
Reinforcement must be something that is valued or appreciated by the dog to be able for that to happen. It has to be something that the dog really wants or likes.
Examples of things that can be utilized for reinforcement are games, treats, and the opportunity to play with you or other dogs. It also includes the ending of something unpleasant, such as discomfort, pain or fear.
This is Negative Reinforcement
Negative reinforcement is where the trainer or handler takes away something that will strengthen and increase the behavior he is teaching.
How Negative Reinforcement Works
Trainers won’t wait around for something that is unpleasant to occur to their dogs, then address it by removing that unpleasant thing to reinforce desirable behavior.
What trainers do is apply to the dog the unpleasant thing in the first place, in order to remove that unpleasant something under controlled conditions.
Trainers or handlers will apply something painful to the dog, such as a toe hitch or ear pinch, and end the pain when the dog obeys the command. Tools can also be used such as training discs and shock collars.
What Negative Reinforcement Requires of You as a Trainer
For you to use negative reinforcement technique, you are required to let your dog know when they have done an undesirable action or behavior. Different levels of negative reinforcement are used at different occasions. For instance, taking a treat or toy away from your dog is negative reinforcement. Choosing to ignore your dog when they are seeking for attention is negative reinforcement, as well. So is redirection or using physical force like using a leader collar, prong collar, or shock collar.
The Don’ts of Negative Reinforcement
- Never harm your dog physically.
- Do not scream or yell at your dog.
- Don’t use negative reinforcement when you are angry or frustrated with your dog. It is not the right time to use the method.
Pros and Cons of Negative Reinforcement
- It is effective if done properly
It is effective without any major consequences. As long as you are consistent and have clear rules, you will have a well-behaved and well-balanced dog.
- It can be abused
This method is not recommended for dog owners who have issues with controlling their anger. They have the tendency to go too far and end up hurting their dog when they become frustrated in training them. We all know that training a dog is challenging and can be frustrating at times. If you are the type that is having a hard time controlling your emotions, then this method is not for you.
- It can create negative associations
If not utilized correctly, your dog can associate negative reinforcement with punishment. That is why it’s crucial that you use your tools properly at all times.
Other Methods that Use Negative Reinforcement
The Dog Training Collar
Some people see the dog training collar as something that is negative for a dog. Contrary to the belief of some, using training collars can supplement a positive training experience for you and your dog.
Popular Types of Training Collars
Some of them are controversial, some are acceptable. Each type has its own use. The key is to be aware of how to use them properly for them to be effective.
- The Pinch Collar
The pinch collar is also known as the prong collar. It is a metal collar that’s composed of different links that can be shortened or expanded by adding or removing links. The links have a set of prongs that rest against the skin of the dog. It can be used to teach your dog not to pull, how to heel, not to pick up certain items, and not to mind the distractions while walking.
It is controversial because it can cause pain for the dog when it is not used correctly, especially on smaller dogs. However, when used correctly, it can be really effective, especially with strong and large dogs.
- The Choke Collar
A choke collar looks like a thick silver chain, and it doesn’t have prongs like the pinch collar. This type of collar works in direct connection to the leash’s amount of tension. The choke collar works by choking the dog by pulling tightly.
The choke collar is used to maintain composure outside the house with aggressive dogs. This type of collar can be helpful with larger or aggressive dogs. Note that it shouldn’t be used with small dog breeds.
- The Martingale Collar
The martingale collar works practically the same way as the choke collar. The difference is that a nylon or soft fabric creates the pull instead of a metal chain. With martingale collars, dogs will be less likely to choke rather than choke collars.
- Electric Shock Collar
The shock collar has been initially used in the 1960s in training hunting dogs. Nowadays, this type of collar is used to curb different undesirable behaviors – from food aggression to excessive barking. Shock collars aren’t intended to use as punishment, rather as a deterrent to unwanted behavior.
The collar will administer a shock that can get the dog’s attention and stop specific behaviors. However, this type of collar is a subject of controversy when it comes to the dog training world. Studies have been released that using a shock collar can have negative psychological effects on a dog. That is why trainers are opting for safer and more humane options.
- Citronella Dog Collar
This type of collar has been gaining popularity ever since the release of studies showing the negative effects of electric shock collars.
The citronella dog collar is a spray dog collar. The collar works by spraying citronella in your dog’s face when it senses through a microphone that they are barking. The citronella will cause discomfort to your dog, causing them to stop barking.
- Gentle Leader and Easy Walk Harness
Both types can help train your dog against undesirable behavior. Note that they are not identical products. The harness is for training dogs not to pull on a leash. The gentle leader head collar can prevent lunging, excessive barking, and jumping.
The Rattle Bottle
The rattle bottle is also called the shake can. It creates a noise when shaken that can startle your dog and stop whatever undesirable behavior they are doing. It shares practically the same method with the training discs, which is associating the sound with an undesirable action or behavior.
Can positive and negative reinforcements be combined in training a dog?
Yes, both types can be used to make sure that your dog understands certain commands. Ideally, you will use positive reinforcement to teach your dog the correct behavior, then negative reinforcement when only needed to teach your dog to obey under distracting situations.
What is really the best training method for dogs?
There is no best training method for all. Dogs are different. One may react positively to a particular method and another may not. No training method is perfect for all dogs.
Dog training discs can be useful when you know how to use them properly. When you use tools for dog training, you have to do your research, because using them the wrong way will make them ineffective.