WHAT IS POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT?
Positive Reinforcement is the process of getting someone or something to do something because they want to do it, not because they have to do it.
When you reward behaviours that are good, you're saying "wow! That was awesome! You should do that again!".
Everyone loves feeling good and doing good things, so naturally, it's a common move to carry on and do more of these great feeling things.
BUT WHAT ABOUT WHEN SOMETHING BAD HAPPENS?
When a behaviour emerges that you don't like (Tigger jumping all over you at the door), you can use a method called Negative Punishment. Remove yourself from his attention as a form of saying, "Hey, that's not cool".
It's "Negative" because you're taking something away (yourself), as opposed to "Positive", which means to add something: a treat for example. It's a "Punishment" because you're trying to diminish the behaviour, as opposed to "Reinforcement", which is to strengthen.
These 2 methods (but mostly just Positive Reinforcement) are the way to create an awesome relationship with your dog: one born of respect, mutual understanding, and compassion.
Everyone has their own journey that defines when and how they find information. Regarding Positive Reinforcement, mine was an epiphany.
At this stage, I had read a couple of training books and taken some online courses. One of the books was on puppy training and the other on general dog training. They taught what I thought at the time were solid principles. Be in charge. Authority. Dominance. Alpha. When your dog steps out of line, administer a brief, sharp correction. That will teach them what they did was wrong and they should avoid doing that in future.
Seems straightforward and fair, right?
Well yeah. This was the leading methodology for a long time. If you think about it, until recent decades most dogs were kept for utilitarian purposes: herding, hunting, shepherding, etc. Back then, our grandparents or parents were commonly very straightforward. Everything served a purpose and that was that.
While I'm sure there was plenty of love to be had for dogs, they served in a very real sense as a labourer, and they were treated as such. Concepts such as compassion, patience and understanding weren't exactly on the forefront of most people's minds.
It's only come recently that we discovered how capable dogs actually are, and what a gem they are in creating amazing bonded relationships with humans.
When you look at the history, it's simple: they've spent about 15,000 years adapting to live with us. Everything they do, even down to how they've evolved, has been shaped by humans. Check out my page on a short history of canines for the full story.
So, if they've spent all this time adapting to humans, what do they have to show for it? Apart from altered genetics to better suit us..?
I'll tell you what it is: their ability to read us. Out of any animal in the world, they can best read human gestures and intent, even more so than our closest relatives, the Bonobo.
This means they're hard wired to humans, and they're hard wired to learn.
And what's the best way to teach someone a behaviour?
Yes, Positive Reinforcement! There we go.
Now, another explanation. Why is it so much better than any other training method out there? I'll ask a quick question and all will be clear.
How would you ask a toddler to carry out a small task?
Would you make him do something through force, or by threatening him with something undesirable? (you won't be aloud to eat pudding!) Or would you rather convince him to want to do something, in exchange for something wonderful!? (a delicious chocolate chip cookie!).
"Benny, you better take your truck back to your room right now, or you won't be allowed pudding".
"Hey Benny! Would you rather carry your toy truck back to your room, or roll it?? I bet if you rolled it, it would go pretty fast! If you can zoom it ALL the way down to your room, we'll eat pudding right after!"
I get to play with my truck in a fun new way, then we get to eat pudding??
And that lovely people, is Positive Reinforcement. Encourage your dog (or 3 year old child, same deal), to want to do something, and you'll see results like never before ;)
Click below if you're keen to see how I'll put this in action and help you sort out any dog behaviour problems you're currently facing!