Negative Punishment

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Hey, it’s Tenille here from dog matters and today we’re continuing on with the four quadrants of operant conditioning for training and we’re on the last one now which is negative punishment. So just like all the rest, the word negative doesn’t meant this is the bad kind of punishment, it simply means subtracting. So a mathematical sense negative, you’re taking something away. And then punishment is to decrease a behavior. So you’re taking something away from the dog or withholding something from the dog that they do want to make a behavior lessen. So if you’re taking something away from the dog as punishment, they have to feel like they’ve lost something. So I you take something off them and they don’t care about it, they’re not gonna find that punishing.

So the most common example of negative punishment is withholding a treat. All trainers are using negative punishment in one way or another but especially if they’re using rewards in their training. Because if the dog does the wrong thing, they’re obviously not gonna reward it, they’re gonna withhold, take away the reward from that situation. So that that behavior is not rewarded and not encouraged and make that behavior weaken. Negative punishment like this can cause frustration in the dog but we can actually use that frustration to our advantage a lot of the time. But sometimes that frustration can even lead to aggression. So be careful if you’ve got a feisty dog and you’re withholding something that they want.

Some other examples of negative punishment would be to remove access to something. For example, the dog is enjoying being on the bed but then they do something that you don’t like, so you tell them to get off the bed. They’ve lost their access to something that they like to decrease the behavior that they did that they shouldn’t have done. Another example is a timeout. Removing them from the situation where they were getting attention and putting them in isolation for 30 seconds or so, you’ve removed your attention, your affection, your contact. Everything has stopped and is suddenly really boring and alone. And for a timeout to work affectively, it does have to be really boring. So nothing else to do or entertain themselves with in that area. A nice small area, and they only need to be in there for 30 seconds or so for that to have an effect.

Negative punishment is a great example of how punishment doesn’t necessarily mean the picture that some people might have in their minds where they’re hitting a dog or something like that. However it can be tricky to get right and make it really affective on the dog because the dog has to really feel like they’ve missed out right on that specific that they’ve done the behavior that you’re trying to punish and get to decrease. And sometimes if you’re trying to decrease a behavior, you can take everything away from the dog, but the dog can still find that behavior rewarding in itself. A good example of this one is barking for attention or to get let in. The barking can feel good and they can feel like they’re achieving something.

Plus on the other side of that, people often accidentally reward that sort of thing a lot and the behavior can be so strong that ignoring them, so taking away your attention as punishment, can be very very difficult to be successful with. So if you wanna learn all about both sides of punishment and both sides of reinforcement or reward, make sure you watch all four videos in this series. We’ve got negative reinforcement, negative punishment today, we also had positive reinforcement and positive punishment.

So watch all four to get a really good overview of how each one works and what those terms mean. Also make sure you sign up free at for more free training and information and downloads. And then I’ll see you in the next video. Now get out there and have fun training with your dog.

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