Well, I mean dog trainers who are educated in the positive-reinforcement training, not just someone who thinks they know about the positive-reinforcement training.
Because they are trained to:
- Watch for, praise, and celebrate the slightest sign of moving toward the right thing. We never say “Well, you did try, but just not enough” or “You did try but didn’t complete.” Every inch of progress you make, we notice. No more having to desperately seek acknowledgement and validation for your efforts. No more having to convince your partner that you have been trying even if it hasn’t worked yet.
- Control the emotions. We are never frustrated with you not doing what we want you to do right this second. If we can hide our emotions from dogs, you won’t detect it.
- Take ownership. If you’re not doing what we want you to do, we know that the cause is us – we are not communicating or motivating right.
- Lead and instill confidence in our leadership. Dogs’s noses can smell our stress. So, no matter how bad our day may have been, we enter that door to our home as the leader. The dog’s survival (food, safety, and purpose for life) is dependent on humans, and the dog needs to know they are safe under our leadership.
- Not punish. We don’t yell, yank on the leash, or send them to a long time-out/silent treatment. We do not use fear as a motivator.
- Communicate clearly. We are consistent in our request, and our feedback will be yes/no.
- Do not take it for granted. You do the same desired action 200 times, and the 201st one will be appreciated just as equally as the first 200. We might ask you to do something else because you’re doing an undesirable action. We do not resent you for doing an undesirable action 2 seconds ago; we instead appreciate that you did this other desirable action just now.
- Consider trust to be earned, not given for free. That means executing all of the above every minute of every day.
Why do we not use fear? Keep in mind – in the end, a happy relationship is not about causing a desired action. It’s about sitting next to a happy, motivated, peaceful companion while you can stand them also.
In the end, a happy relationship is not about causing a desired action. It’s about sitting next to a happy, motivated, peaceful companion
There are four methods in conditioning. Seeing they all work to produce desired actions, it is up to you to choose what method you’ll apply.
If you’re curious, read on.
In conditioning terms, “positive” means a presence of your action. “Negative” means absence of your action. Reinforcement to reinforce a desired action. Punishment to punish an undesired action. So it looks like this.
Positive reinforcement – presence of a reward for a desired action.
Positive punishment – presence of a punishment for an undesired action.
Easy so far… now it gets tricky.
Negative reinforcement – absence of aka you remove punishment to reinforce an action the dog just did – as a result of a desired action.
Negative punishment – absence of (aka you remove) reward as a result of an undesired action (in order to punish it).
Thinking of myself, “I got yelled at because I didn’t do my chores” is positive punishment. “Oh gosh, let’s do the chores because otherwise I’ll get yelled at” is negative reinforcement. They don’t leave me feeling happy and peaceful, do they? I remember – as a child and as an adult – if I corrected my actions as a result of positive punishment or negative reinforcement, it left me feeling icky. I’m either getting punished or trying to avoid punishment – my focus is on the memory of that unpleasant experience.
It’s fear. That amygdala response (the primitive, neck-tightening kind of fear).
“I got compliments because I did the chores without being reminded!” is positive reinforcement. “I wanted ice cream, but mom said only after I finish my homework” is negative punishment (unless I see “ice cream” as a right, not a privilege – that’s whole another topic, isn’t it). Not both are cheerful, but there is no fear. My amygdala stays quiet.
You might be wondering why I said “5. Not punish” and still condone negative punishment. That is because, in negative punishment, my (and my dog’s) focus is on getting that reward eventually. It’s about repeating that pleasant experience.
When we are frustrated or angry from not immediately seeing the fruits of our labour, we naturally want to release that emotion. We often justify that they deserve the punishment. “But he left the sock on the floor!!!” where the intensity of that anger is just not justified by a sock. It is difficult to convince people that, while it may work to stop the undesired action, it does not cultivate a peaceful and happy relationship based on trust and support unless they are educated in positive reinforcement.
That’s why we should all date dog trainers who already know.