Friday, March 15, 2013

Positive Reinforcement vs. Positive Thinking (And Why Pollyanna Would've Sucked at Dog Training)

The kind of dog training I do, and that I teach, goes by many names. Some call it "science-based" training, or "clicker training," or "progressive reinforcement training" (the latter term even has an entire branded manifesto). Most commonly, it is called "positive reinforcement training." That's fine with me, but the fact is that many people don't hear anything past the word "positive." The word so often stops people and sends them away. Hello, are you still reading this?...Positive, in the world of animal behavior, means adding something. Reinforcement means making something more likely to occur. So, "positive reinforcement" just means adding something to the equation to encourage that a behavior will happen again. We encourage the behaviors we like, and, by limiting the possible choices the animal has to make and using good timing and rewards, we can end up eradicating a lot of the stuff we don't like.
Of course, positive reinforcement isn't always used wisely. You can easily positively reinforce stuff that isn't nice -- stuff you don't like. more

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