Positive Only? Or Not?... Why I'm Not...

I DON'T KNOW A SINGLE DOG TRAINER (PROFESSIONAL OR OTHERWISE) WHO IS TRULY POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT ONLY

Hold on, don't freak out yet... stick with me on this one... I promise you'll learn something.

"Positive Only" and "Positive Reinforcement Only" dog training is currently the MOST TALKED ABOUT and LEAST UNDERSTOOD Method out there by the public and even some of those calling themselves dog trainers.

So first, let's talk about the terms "Positive" and "Negative" as relates to dog training. When we hear these words, we automatically think:

Positive = Good & Negative = Bad

... but that's not the case here!

Scientifically, the words Positive and Negative when it comes to behavior and learning theory mean the same thing they do in math class. So in actuality:

POSITIVE = adding something to the situation

NEGATIVE = taking something away from the situation

There's two other words that are a part of the equation too: Reinforcement and Punishment.

Again, here we automatically attach our emotions and english class definitions to these words, so we automatically think Reinforcement = good and Punishment = bad...

and again, we'd be wrong. We have to remember math and science people came up with

these terms!

So, scientifically speaking:

REINFORCEMENT = doing something that will INCREASE the likelihood a behavior will be repeated.

PUNISHMENT = doing something that will DECREASE the likelihood that a behavior will be repeated.

Let's Recap:

POSITIVE = Adding Something NEGATIVE = Subtracting Something

REINFORCEMENT = Behavior Increases PUNISHMENT = Behavior Decreases

So what does this mean in terms of dog training?

Well when you combine the four words together, we have 4 different types of interactions possible with our dogs. They're known as the Four Quadrants.

POSITVIE REINFORCEMENT, NEGATIVE REINFORCEMENT,

POSITIVE PUNISHMENT, NEGATIVE PUNISHMENT

Hold on, don't go applying your emotional thoughts about the words just yet. If we applied what we (anyone unfamiliar with learning theory, meaning most people) thought they mean then:

Positive Reinforcement and Positive Punishment must be good, and

Negative Reinforcement and Negative Punishment must be bad...

It's not that simple though. Stay with me, I know this can get a bit confusing...

Remember:

POSITIVE = Adding Something NEGATIVE = Subtracting Something

REINFORCEMENT = Behavior Increases PUNISHMENT = Behavior Decreases

So lets put together our scienfific definitions of the words to get to what they really mean:

POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT: ADDING something to the dog's environment/situation that will INCREASE the likelihood a behavior will be repeated.

NEGATIVE REINFORCEMENT: SUBTRACTING something from the dog's environment/ situation that will DECREASE the likelihood a behavior will be repeated.

POSITIVE PUNISHMENT: ADDING something to the dog's environment/situation that will DECREASE the likelihood a behavior will be repeated

NEGATIVE PUNISHMENT: SUBTRACTING something to the dog's environment/situation that will DECREASE the likelihood a behavior will be repeated

Ok wait, what?

POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT = Adding Something to Increase the behavior

let's think about this in terms of our dogs.