What Is Positive Reinforcement?

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Hey it’s Tenille here from dog matters and today we’re gonna talk about positive reinforcement. Now the other week we did a video about negative reinforcement and I thought I’d go through and do all four quadrants of operant conditioning. Now what that means is all four of the aspects of reward and punishment. And each one I’m going to give its own video. So today we’re talking about positive reinforcement. Now when we’re talking about these quadrants, remember that the positive and negative is not good and bad, it’s plus and minus It’s spoken about in a mathematical sense. So if you see the word positive, it doesn’t necessarily mean this is great, it means we’re adding something to the situation.

And when we talk about the word reinforcement, it means making a behavior stronger. So for positive reinforcement to be affective, you have to be able to see that you’re adding something and that it’s making a behavior stronger. So positive reinforcement means to reward a behavior that the dog or animal is doing. But to be counted as a reward, it has to be seen to make the behavior stronger. So for this to work, the animal has to desire that reward, so it’s their choice whether they find what you are choosing as a reward to be rewarding or not. So what could be counted as positive reinforcement? Well positive reinforcement is the most popular of the four quadrants, one of the most effective, the most fun, and every trainer uses positive reinforcement whether they know it or not. So positive reinforcement or a reward could come in a form of a pet, praise, attention, food, toys, access to resources, access through doors and gates, anything that you’re adding to the situation to make a behavior stronger.

So you’re using it as a reward and you’re adding it in. So we know it’s great, we know all trainers use it. Can we only use positive reinforcement and nothing else? Well, no matter what people may tell you, if they say they only use positive reinforcement, it’s technically incorrect because as soon as you put a leash on the dog, you’re using other quadrants as well. You’re withdrawing the dog from things that they want access to. That’s technically negative punishment because you’re taking away that access to something that they want. It’s also negative reinforcement when the pressure releases from the leash and the dog feels relief from that. So if you’re using any sort of frustrate device, you’re using other quadrants. You might even be using punishment without realizing, it happens a lot of the time. Now when we’re talking about which rewards you choose to use for your positive reinforcement, we’re looking at whether the animal is working for it. Are they putting in effort? Cuz there’s a difference between a dog that will eat anything and take any food that you offer it, and a dog that will put in effort for the food. Or a dog that might chew on a toy sometimes, and a dog that will actually put in the work to get that toy. So make sure you choose a reward that your dog’s actually putting in the work for. Another thing to watch out for is if you say, “I don’t wanna use food, I don’t wanna use toys “and have to carry something around. “The dog should just work for praise.” Have a look at whether your dog is truly putting in effort to get that praise.

Do they really value just praise that much? Or is there something else at play like maybe another thing that they wanna avoid as well. Often dogs that are only trained as praise as the only reward, they’re also working to avoid something that they don’t want, not just get something that they do want. For example, praise as the reward, and it also means whew you’ve avoided a jerk on the leash, and the dog is happy because they’ve avoided the punishment rather than worked to get that praise. Dogs always for something that’s in it for them, either to avoid something they don’t like or gain something that they do like. Kinda like us. While you might not be able to use 100% only positive reinforcement, you should always be using positive reinforcement in your training on purpose, not just by accident because you want the dog to be working happily and have something in it for them and it’s going to also increase your bond and do wonders for your relationship.

So get out there and use positive reinforcement with your dog and make sure you sign up at my.dogmatters for more training information and freebies. And I’ll see you time.

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