Sunday, 4 March 2012

4 Quadrants of Operant Conditioning

Positive Reinforcement – We increase the chance of a desired behaviour happening again by rewarding it. The dog soon learns that in order to earn his reward, he just has to repeat that desired behaviour.

E.g. when the dog sits in front of us, we say “yes” in a happy tone and reward that with a treat. Marking the behaviour with a “yes” and rewarding the dog with a treat will increase the chances of that behaviour happening again. This is a strong way to enhance the bond/relationship with your dog whilst training. Rewarding all the desired behaviours is a great way to help you and your dog feel great about training, and increases the desire to train and learn new things. When we use positive reinforcement dogs learn to think more and look to offer us behaviours in order to be rewarded. This gives the dog confidence in the learning program.

Positive Punishment – We decrease the chance of an undesirable behaviour happening again by adding a punishment that the dog dislikes (an aversive). The dog learns that if he repeats this behaviour, it may be paired with an aversive.

E.g. the dog Jumps up at us, so we smack it on the end of the nose!! The dog learns that if he jumps up at us, this may be paired with a smack on the nose, and so decides against jumping up.

This method of training, will eventually break down the bond/relationship between dog and handler and if used regularly will not only stop the dog enjoying training, but may, if the dog becomes fearful lead to aggression. Dogs may become tolerant of this method, making it ineffective in changing the behaviour, yet still affecting your relationship. Unlike positive reinforcement, dogs here learn not to trust their handler, and look to suppress behaviours in case a punishment was to follow.

Negative Reinforcement – The dog’s behaviour makes something undesirable go away.

E.g. in order to increase the chances of a sit, we lift the lead, choking the dog, and remove when sitting. The dog will sit because he doesn’t like the choking when lifting the lead. Like the punishment method dogs just want bad stuff to go away. They will however pair you with the “bad Stuff” and this will break down the bond/relationship you have with them.

Negative Punishment – We decrease the chances of an undesirable behaviour happening again by removing a motivator (something the dog wants)

E.g. the dog jumps up to get our attention (something the dog wants), so we turn our back (removing ourselves) in order to reduce the behaviour happening again. This type of punishment is a non-force method and can include removal of a treat, a toy, a person or even a privilege. This is a non-aversive method of providing a consequence for an unwanted behaviour. This type of punishment is best paired with positive reinforcement, which quickly teaches the dog rights and wrongs. In the example above, if we rewarded the sit on the floor with a treat or our attention (positive reinforcement) then we would not only look to extinguish the unwanted jumping up, but also increase the chances of the sit on the floor.
Jeff Sasse (2010)

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