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4 Quadrants of Dog Training PART 2

Welcome back! Hopefully you have already read part one of this series and learned a little bit about operant conditioning and the four quadrants of dog training! If you haven't, you can check it out here:

We are going to start by discussing 2 of the quadrants, defining them and giving a few examples to help you understand them! This post is going to be all about the 2 types of reinforcement - consequences that increases a behavior.

When speaking in terms of reinforcement, we use the terms "negative" and "positive". Most people assume that "negative" means bad and "positive means good but that is not the case in this scenario! When thinking about the 4 Quadrants, I want you to think of negative and positive as math terms. Positive meaning the addition of something and negative meaning the subtraction of something.

So putting it all together:

Positive Reinforcement is increasing a behavior by adding something desirable! Super simple! This is the main quadrant pet owners begin to use when training their dogs!

Negative Reinforcement is increasing a behavior by removing (subtracting) something your dog finds unpleasant. This one gets a little trickier for people to understand! We will elaborate more and give examples further down in this post.

Positive Reinforcement

Positive Reinforcement isn't something we need to talk too much about because most people are already aware of this quadrant when it comes to dog training. This is the quadrant where you use things your dog loves to increase a behavior. This quadrant is super important when teaching your dog new commands and behaviors and developing a good bond with your dog! You can use treats, physical affection, verbal praise, attention, toys, etc.

Just make sure that it is something your dog values! It is only positive if your dog enjoys it and it increases the behavior! For example: Many people assume that verbal praise is always considered positive reinforcement BUT some dogs don't like high pitched praise and it makes them nervous.

Keep in mind that positive reinforcement can increase undesirable behaviors if you aren't careful. For instance: Petting/touching your dog when he jumps on you will increase the behavior of jumping. While this may seem obvious to some, this is just one small example of what many pet owners do inadvertently. So be careful about what behaviors you are reinforcing!

During evaluations and lessons, I always bring training treats with me! When looking for a training treat, you want something that is small (pea size) and low calorie. This is because we feed A LOT of them at high rates sometimes. You want something that won't make your dog full or gain weight and something small enough that your dog can eat within seconds. You can use ANY treat your dog loves. My favorite brand is Zuke's Mini Naturals. I like Zuke's because they are small, come in many flavors, and they are the perfect consistency. They don't crumble and they aren't too hard either. You can get these at almost any pet store but they are definitely way cheaper on Amazon!

Negative Reinforcement

Now we are on to negative reinforcement. Remember, negative doesn't mean bad. It refers to removing something to increase/strengthen/reinforce a behavior. When talking about negative reinforcement, the thing you are removing should be something your dog finds unpleasant or aversive.

For example: Teaching your dog that upwards leash pressure is removed when he/she sits. Your dog finds the leash pressure slightly unpleasant and learns that you remove it when he sits. The removal of the leash pressure reinforces the "sit" behavior! Your dog will quickly learn to turn the pressure off by sitting, or to avoid the pressure all together by responding when you say "sit" the first time.

Another example is for those that of you that do E-collar training. You teach your dog how to turn off/avoid the unpleasant stimulation by performing a certain behavior. Teaching your dog how to remove the unpleasant sensation will reinforce the behavior you are working on! If you want to learn more about E-collar/low level stimulation training give us a call!

Negative reinforcement doesn't just apply to dog training. An example of this is something you may encounter in your daily life - using a car horn.

How is this negative reinforcement?

Well, lets say there is an annoying car (unpleasant stimulus) in front of you and you blast your horn. Blasting your car horn removes the annoying car (most likely) therefore reinforcing the action of blasting your car horn! Simple!

Negative Reinforcement is one of the most misunderstood quadrants of Operant Conditioning but is used quite often in your everyday life! Feel free to reach out if you want to learn more about it.

Long Story Short

1. Reinforcement increases a behavior

2. Positive Reinforcement is adding something pleasant in order to increase a behavior.

3. Negative Reinforcement is taking away/subtracting something unpleasant in order to increase a behavior.

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