Science-Based Dog Training & Positive Reinforcement
We frequently hear these terms, but what do they actually mean? In many circles, "Science-Based" is a code phrase used for "Only All Positive" or "Force Free" training which means "Ignore what you don't like. Reward what you do like." The reason this doesn't work well is because it falls short on reliability when your dog discovers something he wants more than what you can offer. The best dog trainers will instead use all four quadrants of Operant Conditioning to teach your dog, rewarding correct responses and compassionately correcting their mistakes.
To easily understand this jargon, know that Operant Conditioning uses positive & negative reinforcement (+R/-R) and positive & negative punishment (+P/-P). Positive and negative doesn't mean good and bad, nor does punishment mean abuse. Positive means to add something, negative means to remove something, and punishment simply means to stop or correct a behavior. Now if someone uses anger or nastiness, that's abusive and not connected with the concept of punishment.
Now let's view how this fits into training your dog. If your dog offers the behavior you want, you reinforce this by rewarding your dog (+R). If your dog doesn't comply, by withholding the treat and ignoring the unwanted behavior, you are removing the reward to punish the behavior (-P). When you encourage your dog to try again, "come on, you can do it, come on", you are applying social pressure that is removed once your dog offers the desired behavior, removing pressure to reinforce the behavior (-R). Merely saying "nope, that's wrong, try again" or using a gentle but firm pop on the leash, would be adding something to punish the behavior (+P).
Now that you know the basics, one of the best ways to train your dog is to use negative reinforcement followed by positive reinforcement. When you use leash pressure followed by praise and treats, you can teach your dog that an unpleasant feeling announces a nice event is coming, helping your dog learn to change an unwanted behavior into a wanted behavior. For example, you could turn the lights on and off, annoying everyone until you gain their attention, then announce that there is cake in the break room.
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