Monday, September 2, 2013

Reinforcement versus punishment

In my experience, people don’t often understand the subtle nuances between dog training associated with operant conditioning—based on the research of B.F. Skinner. (In truth, I’ve struggled with them myself.) So, to clarify, here’s a quick-and-dirty explanation of reinforcement versus punishment:

Reinforcement: Adding or removing something to increase the likelihood of a behavior recurring.

Positive – Adding something pleasant/desirable, like giving a dog a treat for sitting when you ask her to. When the dog sits, she is reinforced by receiving a treat.  

Negative – Decreasing something that is unpleasant/undesirable, like releasing tension on a collar when a dog walks calmly at your side. When the dog walks calmly, she is reinforced by no longer having tension on the leash. 

Punishment: Adding or removing something to decrease the likelihood of a behavior recurring. 

Positive – Adding something that is unpleasant/undesirable, like applying pressure to a head collar when a dog pulls or lunges. When the dog pulls, he experiences pressure around his snout similar to the correction dogs give one another when they play too roughly.

Negative – Decreasing something that is pleasant/desirable, like withholding your dog’s food bowl until he waits calmly for it. When the dog barks or lunges for his food, he doesn’t get fed. 

Of the above, negative reinforcement is the trickiest to understand, I think, and also the one least likely to show up naturally (without following positive punishment). Increasingly, trainers are moving toward methods that motivate the dog to engage in desirable behavior, noticing the behavior they want and reinforcing that. 

Whenever possible, I work with positive or motivational training, and in the rare cases when I’m trying to extinguish a behavior that hasn’t responded to other strategies, I may add positive punishment and with a lot of forethought. For example, I do use head collars, and I make a soft hissing noise when my dog barks excitedly for extended periods of time. Her initial startle reaction allows me to redirect her to a more desirable behavior that I can reward instead.

I wouldn't expect every person working with his or her own family dog(s) to fully grasp all of these concepts, but I do think that grappling with them, engaging in thoughtful conversations, and analyzing your own training methods and beliefs will help you make informed decisions when engaging with desirable and undesirable behaviors in your own home. 

13 comments:

  1. Valuable information, Thanks for sharing useful information.
    Doggonit Obedience

    ReplyDelete
  2. COLLECTIBULLDOGS is the first website of its kind in the world. Created eight years ago and already exhibited this truly is a one of a kind site, we don’t have any sales so there are no obligations and we offer guest blogging and link exchanges as well as a free ebook and PDF. So grab a cuppa put your feet up and come and see what’s been created and why it’s so special.

    if you want more just look here "Collectibulldogs"

    ReplyDelete

  3. Very good information is given in this blog...Everyone likes to have pets, if you want to keep it,
    then we are the best pet's shop and best breeders in Dehradun,Uttarakhand(India).

    ReplyDelete
  4. Car Islamabad Airport is suggested in the business as a champion among the most worshiped auto rental organizations for its best quality vehicles that are sufficiently kept up and controlled by the mindful and prepared escorts. Islamabad Rent a Car Islamabad rent a car Various guests who visit Islamabad from inside the nation or the remote voyagers investigating the eminence of capital city of Pakistan convey various substance memories with them of the quality organizations they get from the affiliation.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Show your dad love by give him a gift on this father's day and wish him father day very well.
    nice post thanks for share!
    Happy Father's Day Status Quotes SON

    ReplyDelete
  6. Very good informative content like it Namcars

    ReplyDelete
  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Quality portable dog grooming table height adjustable designed for professional groomers, including electric & hydraulic table.

    ReplyDelete