When I was working with one of my puppy clients the other day, a question came up about rewarding behavior. Since I teach the most positive strategies for changing behavior, we talk a lot about reinforcement and consequences in my visits. It occurred to me that the topic of reward vs positive reinforcement was worth exploring again in my blog.
Have you ever felt like you are being completely ignored by your dog when you ask your dog to do something? It happens between two humans too…and the problem has destroyed relationships. It can be so frustrating, grrr!
Why is this happening? Is it a case of a suddenly very dumb, obstinate, stubborn, bull headed or all of the above irritating animal?
Sometimes, the unexpected happens…and it becomes a good topic for a blog post!
Last week, while working outside with a longtime client, a man came by on a bike. He happens to be a dog lover so he stopped and got off his bike to say hello. Everything seemed fine about that, the girl on the end of the leash had loose body muscles and was moving toward him to say hello back.
Then, IT happened. She got too close for comfort and suddenly barked and backed up. Immediately I asked him to back up and we went into a different mode of training.
If you think teaching your dog novel behaviors is a waste of time, I encourage you to think again. I have five reasons why you may want to spend a few minutes to train some different behaviors.
Just a brief reminder about behavior…teaching using positive reinforcement is not about bribing, and most certainly is not about force. Scientifically speaking, positive reinforcement is a consequence of a behavior that either maintains or strengthens it. As trainers, we are using positive reinforcement to build value for a behavior by pairing it with something the learner values. To be used effectively in teaching new behaviors, that reinforcement should be delivered contingently (meaning ONLY if the behavior occurs) and contiguously (meaning very closely following the behavior.) In this way, you are teaching your student this: WHEN I do THIS, THEN THIS positive outcome will happen.