Trust in your relationship with your dogs is a fairly complex construct. It does not simply “happen” but must be built and added to one positive interaction at a time. In this way we are continually making deposits into the trust account in much the same way as we make deposits into a bank account. We also make withdrawals from this trust account with negative interactions such as force, punishment and threats, and with each negative interaction the balance in our account is reduced until the account is overdrawn resulting in a “bankrupt” relationship.
We know that there are basically two ways to teach a dog to sit. The one way is to provide positive reinforcement every time the dog sits by either giving him a treat or throwing a ball (remembering that it is the dog that decides whether the reinforcer is desirable or not). Every such positive interaction with your dog would result in a deposit into the trust account. The other way is to train the behaviour with negative reinforcement by applying force in the form of an aversive. Pushing down on the dog’s rear end until he sits is a form of negative reinforcement. The dog sits down to avoid the pressure of your hand on his rear end. This would be a withdrawal from the trust account.
The other way to make deposits into your trust account is to give your dog control thus providing the opportunity to have choices, make decisions, take action and in so doing learn from the consequences of his actions. Very often if the dog comes when he is called, he is immediately grabbed and leashed thus taking away all control from him to choose to stay with you in order to be positively reinforced. Each time you grab and leash you take the control away from him and also make withdrawals from the trust account. Allowing your dog to make these choices will result in huge deposits in your trust account. Of course, goes without saying that if you fail to reinforce the right choices no learning will take place and you will be back to grabbing and leashing.
I’ve been keeping a mental “cash book” of my Trust Account with my dogs and have been more and more aware that even though the withdrawals are tiny, they add up very fast, eating away at the balance that has been built up over time. It’s made me realise also that the best way to get rid of an undesirable behaviour is to train an incompatible behaviour using positive reinforcement. So instead of punishing the undesirable behaviour and bankrupting my trust account I’m actually making more and more deposits, and at the same time getting rid of the undesirable behaviour. It’s a win-win situation.