• Jen LoGreco

Why I choose Positive Reinforcement

If you can influence a life in a positive way vs negatively why would you choose negative. I know if at work all I had was someone following me around telling me "wrong" at everything they didn't want me to do vs trying to explain what is right, I would get frustrated pretty quickly. I find its easier to explain what is right compared to telling animals what they are constantly getting wrong.

Let me put an example to this. Your problem is when you get home your dog jumps up on you. So lets say you modify this behavior through kneeing the dog. Time to break down the behavior. First the dog is jumping on you most likely for your attention. So by kneeing the dog you are trying to translate to him that when you come home you would like him to not jump up on you. So after weeks of doing this you notice when you come home the dog lowers his head and tucks his tail between his legs and cowers away from you. Problemed solved right? The dog no longer jumps up on you. This affectively trained your dog not to jump up on you but negative reinforcement often comes with side affects. In this case the dog fears you when you first come home due to previously being punished. Lets say your okay with your dog not approaching you when you get home. Weeks go by with him not jumping on you. Now you have guest coming over and he jumps on your guest. You tell them to start kneeing him. Problem solved again. Your dog is no longer jumping on strangers that enter the house. What did you really teach him though. Lets think about this from a dogs point of view. A new person enters the house. Great! let me go up and greet them. New person hurt me when I approached. New people aren't good to approach. So now you have a dog that associates people coming into the house as a negative event. Animals don't see in right and wrong but rather good or bad. This meaning they put events in safe or positive category or a dangerous and negative category.

How could training with positive reinforcement changed this. The problem being your dog jumps up on you when you get home because he wants attention. What is the reinforcer to the dog in this behavior? It would be you attention. Here is how I would have solved it. When you come in, put your hands in your pocket and keep you mouth closed. Completely ignore you dog. If he starts jumping on you turn your back towards him until he settles down. Then and only then can you reward him with your attention. Lets take a look at this through a dogs eyes. Human came home. Yay. Let me jump on to get attention. That didn't work. Let me bark to get her attention. That didn't work. Let me stand quietly. That worked! Now weeks of doing this your dog stands quietly knowing that's when he gets attention. You then do this with guest that come over. This keeps you dog on good terms with people entering your house.

Positive reinforcement when done right wont have the side effects negative reinforcement does. Another huge downside to negative reinforcement is the undesired behavior will often continue if the punisher is not present. Real world example being your speeding along the highway. You see a cop up ahead. You slow down. Cops way out of sight, you continue speeding. I'm sure if you were to get money for every mile you went the speed limit, you would do a lot less speeding. This is because the cop is a negative reinforcement while the money would be a positive one.

These rules can be applied to any animal, not just dogs. When I go into a training session I expect nothing out of the animals. Just like you they have their good days and bad. They might not always be in the mood to work, being a trainer you must respect this. Giving the animals a fair chance to work with you is why I use positive reinforcement. I want the animal to look forward to working with me.

Make a foraging box out of items in the house
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