Quick….. Word association:
Pavlov= Bell. Saliva. Conditioning. Reactions.
Skinner= ________…….. (sounds of crickets)……….
Yeah, that’s what most people do too.
B. F. Skinner. Figured out the other conditioning. Not the “ring a bell- make you salivate” of Classical Conditioning fame. But the WAY less understood “Operant Conditioning”.
Obviously, you can read the links and research this stuff, but I’ll try to break it down.
Classic Conditioning changes how you “react”. (pair a song with something scary enough, and they’ll get scared when they hear it)
Operant Conditioning changes how you “act”. (you can teach a mouse to touch a lever to get food, even though cheese is right in front of them)
The tricky part comes into play in the fact that they both have the others effect eventually. Changing how you feel about something effects how you decide to behave. Doing a rewarding behavior enough times will effect how you feel about that behavior.
Uh oh….. I said “reward”. Crap. I opened a can of worms.
The biggest problem in researching/talking about dog training, or behavior modification, is the “operant conditioning quadrants”
It looks like this:
Now, here the Positive and Negative are more about the “blood test” type of thing. As in Positive means that thing is there, and negative means that thing is not there. But everyone gets hung up in the “feeling” definition of those words. As in positive is good, and negative is bad. The problem is in the most used and understood quadrant (+R), it can be used both ways. Giving a treat to encourage a behavior, is “positive” in the “added to” sense, and also “positive” in the “feel good” sense. But that’s where it falls apart. Because +P (spanking a dog for ex), is positive in the scientific “added to” sense, and definitely negative in the “feelings” department.
So, clearly, I don’t think posts out ahead of time. Because what started as an informative post is turning into the friendship shattering discussion of reward/punishment in training!
Good sense tells me not to write this as it is kind of divisive. In dog training (and people training!) which method to use, and how to use them, starts as many fights as politics or religion.
But, since I care more about knowledge than people liking me, I’ll just go ahead and throw this at you.
There is no such thing as “purely positive” in the feel good sense. Everyone just loves to say that. “we use only positive techniques”, We use only reward based training”. There is no such thing.
For there to be light, there must be dark. That Ain’t my rule. That’s nature. Like it or not, you’re using punishment.
Look at the quadrant again. The diagonal is what’s important. If you use +R, you MUST also be using -P! There’s no way around it. When doing purely positive training, you say “sit” and the dog lies down you say “no…. Sit” and the dog lies down you DON”T GIVE THE FOOD! That’s punishment. -P, but punishment all the same. Honestly, it just makes you feel less guilty. Here’s the rub: when you ask a “reward only” person what to do if your dog isn’t that food motivated….. Oh, that’s easy. Train before feeding. Or reduce their food to increase “motivation”. Really? Wow. The thing is, it’s all in your focus and intention. If you tell your kid “get a good grade and mommy will be sooo proud”, “get a bad grade, and I’ll be soo disappointed”. You’ve essentially said the same thing. One just feels better because of your focus and intention.
What about the other diagonal. Yes, if you use +P, you are also using -R. This is the classic “the beating will continue until morale improves” mindset. Look at abused spouses. The reward is not getting pounded. Obviously, this works, but doesn’t build the best relationships. But, we aren’t talking specific examples of the +P concept. We’re talking the concept itself. Which I use all the time. And before you act like I’m an abusive asshole….. Bear in mind….. SO DO YOU.
Yeah, that’s right I said it. You….. With your clicker and hot dogs…… You use +P!!!!!!
Shut, up. Yes you do.
Ever gotten a stern tone and posture, and said “NO” to your dog?
Yep. +P. You added a bad thing, to prevent that action from continuing.
To a dog you were one step from “touching” them.
Dogs warn in this order:
Stillness (the freeze warning)- Pressure (a hard look, lip lifting, or leaning/moving towards you)- Sound (growling)- Touch (muzzle punch, or warning touch)- Attack (try to hurt you)
You froze. Gave pressure. And, made a sound. They stopped to avoid a touch.
You didn’t mean to, but you added (+), the implied threat pf physical violence to stop an action.
See the problem isn’t with the science. The problem is with our understanding.
And our identity. Soft people will “never” use any punishment. And Napoleonic tough guys think reward training is for sissies.
We all use all of them in one form or another.
The issue is do we understand how. Obviously, you want to de-emphisise all Punishments. You CAN”T not use them, but it’s healthier for the relationship if you emphasize the rewarding part of the diagonal that your using.
You should be aware of all your interactions when you teach. Because, you can’t minimize what you don’t realize you’re doing! Understand the quadrants! Understand how they play together. Realize that punishment in your training is a reality you can’t do anything about. Be AWARE of the punishments you use. Try to focus on punishment little as possible.
ALWAYS try to focus on or stay in the R half.
NEVER punish without intending too. That’s irresponsible.
NEVER punish more than is necessary. It makes them not trust you, and it makes you an asshole.
NEVER punish (+ or -) out of frustration/anger. That’s abuse.
Well. There it is. I picked a fight. My only saving grace may be that no one reads this blog. Guess we’ll see.
Feel free to comment. I’ll respond.