There is a time and a place for both positive and negative reinforcement. Generally we focus on positive reinforcement to help build the confidence of the puppy and create a relaxed and happy environment.
If your puppy is doing what you want, give him/her a reward. The most important factor with successful positive reinforcement is finding something your puppy will be motivated to work toward. It can be anything, but most commonly it’s a small tasty treat. For positive reinforcement to be effective, it must be immediate. It works better if you give a command first, or if the puppy does the behavior with no prompting, give a command right after the desired activity is performed.
This has its place and that place is only if you catch the puppy in the act. This is the only time a punishment will be effective. The goal of the punishment is to be just bad enough to stop the behavior but not bad enough to cause fear. This is very important for urinations and bowel movements. If the punishment is too severe, some puppies will think you never want them to go and will only go when you are not there, which usually entails sneaking off and going in the house. We recommend a soda can with pennies in it, shaken or thrown close to the puppy. If it is a urinary accident, once they are distracted, take them outside and let them finish, then give them a reward. They will learn quickly that if they do their business inside, bad things happen; but if they do their business outside, then good things happen.
Check out our Puppy Obedience classes to get your pet started on the road to learning!