Discussing Negative Reinforcement Responsibly

R- captionI didn’t give today’s post a cute title, because this situation makes me very, very sad.

There are some strange claims going around the dog training community. They are not being made by shock trainers, although I am sure they appreciate them. Instead I am hearing them from many people in the force free community. The statements minimize the problems that can be caused by using negative reinforcement.

In negative reinforcement (R-), something that makes the dog uncomfortable, including that it may frighten or hurt the dog, is used to get behavior. The dog stays in the uncomfortable state until it performs a desired behavior. Then the uncomfortable state is ended. (The definition is contingent on a future increase in the behavior.) This linked post has examples of some of the ways that negative reinforcement is used in training, ranging from body pressure to an ear pinch retrieve.

There is truly a continuum in the severity in the applications of R-. In the human world, it can run the gamut from putting on a coat, to a staredown, to torture. Negative reinforcement happens a lot in the natural world, too, often at very low levels of aversiveness.  So people are correct if they say that some situations are more aversive than others, or that using negative reinforcement is not always a catastrophe. The trouble begins when they make blanket statements–especially blanket incorrect statements–that include all negative reinforcement.

Following are two related versions of the statement about negative reinforcement that I keep seeing.

Version 1

The reason some trainers object to negative reinforcement is that when people add the aversive, there can be fallout.

This statement omits the majority of the problems known to accompany the use of negative reinforcement and aversives in general. The fact that an animal’s response to an aversive can get generalized to the handler is only one of the many problems with using negative reinforcement.

I rewrote the statement to be more complete.

The reasons some trainers object to negative reinforcement include that it employs an aversive, the association with the aversive can be generalized, it is on the undesirable end of the humane hierarchy, it is linked with reactivity and aggression, and has other undesirable side effects for both the animal and the trainer.

The main issue isn’t whether there’s a human wielding the aversive, it’s that an aversive is being used in the first place.

If the only problem with negative reinforcement were that the animal might make an association between the icky thing and the human, all that would be necessary to make negative reinforcement acceptable across the board would be to prevent the animal from making that association.

The shock trainers must be delighted whenever they hear this statement come from the mouths of force free trainers. If it were true, all they would have to do for their training to be acceptable would be to make sure the dog doesn’t know that they are controlling the shock. (And shock trainers with skill and knowledge of learning theory take care to do just that, by the way.) Poof! No more criticism of shock!

I know that this is not the intent of the force free trainers who are defending negative reinforcement. But as long as they make blanket statements about that quadrant, it is the logical conclusion.

It also strikes me as very self centered to mention only this particular problem with negative reinforcement. Really? It’s OK to deliberately use something unpleasant to get the dog to do stuff, as long as the dog continues to like us?

Version 2

Negative reinforcement is ethically OK as long as the handler isn’t the one who adds the aversive to the environment.

On the surface, this sounds like the same thing. But in general, the people who say this are discussing ethics, not behavioral fallout. I have seen probably a dozen people write that using an aversive that is “already out there” is ethically acceptable, while adding one oneself is not. It’s a tempting rationale, but there are some real problems with it.

Let’s go straight to examples on this one.

Monsoon_Lightning_Strike,_Table_Mesa

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

  1. Let’s say my dog and I are out in the yard and it starts to storm. I notice that my dog is cowering at the door; she is scared of the thunder. Instead of letting her in immediately, I require that she sit and give me eye contact for 10 seconds. If she can do that, her reinforcement is that she gets to go in the house where she feels safer from the storm.
  2. My dog and I are again in my back yard. I have bought a new sump pump for the crawl space in my house. I turn the pump on while my dog is watching. It will run for 2 minutes as a test. I notice that my dog is cowering at the door; she is scared of the pump sound. Instead of letting her in immediately, I require that she sit and give me eye contact for 10 seconds. If she can do that, her reinforcement is that she gets to go in the house where she can get away from the pump.

Now compare the two experiences for the dog.  She is sitting there at the door trying to figure out how to get me to let her in, away from the scary noise. If the noises are equally aversive, the two situations are just the same.

I don’t see a difference ethically. The thunderstorm exposure is no more humane than the sump pump.  In both cases I chose to use an aversive and required my dog to stay longer than necessary in a situation that scared her. And I did have another option in each case, one that is almost always ignored by people defending negative reinforcement protocols.  I could have just let her in the house without requiring a particular behavior.

Natural vs Contrived Negative Reinforcement

There is a recognized difference between two types of reinforcement: natural (or automatic) negative reinforcement and contrived (or socially mediated) negative reinforcement. I have written a post about them. Paul Chance’s definition is as follows:

Natural reinforcers are events that follow spontaneously from a behavior… Contrived reinforcers are events that are provided by someone for the purpose of modifying behavior. Paul Chance, Learning and Behavior, Seventh Ed., p. 140-141

Getting inside a house is not a natural consequence of sitting and offering a human extended eye contact. Both of the above examples are contrived, even though one utilizes a phenomenon in nature, and the other a sound from a machine deliberately turned on by the human. There is no stipulation about the stimulus for these definitions, only the reinforcer.

A related example of natural negative reinforcement would be if my dog were in the back yard, it thundered, and she came in the doggie door under her own power. In this case, the reinforcer of getting in the house is a natural consequence of the dog going through the doggie door.

A Message from My Heart

Making glib claims that minimize the harm in negative reinforcement can result in dogs being hurt.

Please remember that when you make blanket claims about negative reinforcement, you are not necessarily talking about the more benign end of the spectrum or just one instance. If you have stature as a trainer, you are giving blanket permission to countless people to be cavalier about using aversives.

For whatever reason, most people are primed to believe it when told that X, Y, or Z method “doesn’t hurt” the dog. Many of us pet owners have had this experience. I would venture to say that most pro trainers have come across it in their clients. People are ready to believe that things that hurt dogs don’t hurt them. And they are ready to believe that practices that harm dogs are not harmful.

It is responsible to urge caution in the use of aversives. It is not responsible to minimize the fallout.

Regarding Comments

This is  a post about speaking truthfully when making general claims about aversives. It is not about any training method. It does not “damn” anyone who uses negative reinforcement when training their animal. It urges them not to make blanket statements about the acceptableness of R- in general or to argue in favor of its acceptance as a general practice. 

Coming Up

Eileenanddogs on YouTube

Share Button

About eileenanddogs

Passionate amateur dog trainer, writer, and learning theory geek. Eileen Anderson on Google+
This entry was posted in Behavior analysis, Escape/Avoidance, Negative Reinforcement, Operant conditioning, Terminology and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

56 Responses to Discussing Negative Reinforcement Responsibly

  1. Dianne Gilleece says:

    Once again – Thank you, Eileen!

  2. Jamie Robinson says:

    I’m glad you mentioned thunder phobia because the aversive is already in the environment. I have a question about my own methods for handling storm and thunder phobia. I don’t think it’s R- but I’ve had others say that it is. What I do, just before the storm hits, we all go out side and start playing and playing and playing and we don’t stop until the storm is over. In Tucson and where I was for 19 years in Florida, storms don’t last for more then an hour in general. Usually it only takes one storm for the dog to get over it, in one case it took two storms.

    So is it R-? We were playing before the aversive and just kept playing. I wasn’t increasing behavior I was reducing behavior (getting rid of the phobia) by making storms fun.

    • Hi Jamie, well that’s a good puzzle. It’s hard to establish one learning process for something that can go on for an hour, but I don’t see it immediately as R-. It’s pretty hard to “require” play from a dog, or make a storm go away contingent on it. And if the dogs can hear/sense the storm coming before you start to play, you may have the beginnings of a classical pairing: storm predicts play. You could just have distraction going on, which I think is a pretty humane method if it works. I know that my little Zani seems to profit from my distracting her if she has been stuck in scaredy land for a while. It doesn’t work at the very beginning for her, though.

      I would like to see the behavior analysis (Antecedent, Behavior, Consequence) that shows this to be R-.

      Although feelings and emotions are said to be (covert) behaviors, I would be cautious about equating getting rid of the phobia with reducing behavior. Although I suppose you might be differentially reinforcing overt behaviors other than fearful ones, in which case the fearful behaviors could be said to be extinguishing.

      I’m not a pro trainer, as I’ve said many times, but it seems like this method might not work with a severely phobic dog. Glad it’s worked for yours so far! It’s an interesting method.

      • First let me say, I love your posts, Eileen. You really make me think and teach me so much. In reading Jamie’s reply and your response I don’t understand how this could be R-because you are not removing the aversive (storm). I am not an expert on this, but I would think this is classical counter-conditioning to change the dog’s feeling about the aversive. Please help me sort this one out in my head.

        • I just can’t stretch far enough to call it R-, largely because of what you say. I think your point is very good. A human can control a dog’s escape from a storm, but they can’t end one. And Jamie’s scenario was not about escape. I was leaning towards the counter conditioning theory too, except that Jamie said she does it only once (twice with one dog), which really doesn’t set up much of a chance for a changed emotional response. So I’m still voting for distraction/differential reinforcement of alternative or incompatible behavior, which could work OK with mild fear.

  3. Kim says:

    In my experience as a former shock collar user, you have not just described what a shock collar trainer might say, but what they actually do say. It is disconcerting to hear these same sentiments being expressed by members of the force free community.

  4. Ingrid Bock says:

    I really love how you see the big picture, and how your words, and others’ words, may affect all segments of the audience whose ears they may reach. Thank you for speaking this truth, strongly and kindly.

  5. Rosemary Di says:

    It is encouraging to see that people are starting to “get” these things, that you hear about more and more trainers moving away from aversives to a wiser and kinder approach. Thank you for spreading the word!

  6. While I am certainly one who thinks that it’s unethical for trainers to introduce aversives, and I do realize that sometimes R- occurs when it’s not within our power to alter it, I so appreciate you making the point about it being no less harmful when it occurs naturally.

  7. pohweeboon says:

    Thank you Eileen. Beautifully crafted and wonderfully written. Very thought provoking.

  8. Hi Eileen –

    I must admit to being disappointed by this piece. There are several over-generalizations and extreme cases offered without the counterbalance of discussion on more mundane and low-level aversives that occur both naturally and introduced by humans every day.

    For example, it is a low-level aversive to my dog that I walk past her cookie jar and DON’T give her a cookie. The same is true when I pick up her food bowl to wash it and NOT refill it with food. Not everything that happens in our dog’s lives is to their liking. Neither does every aversive ultimately rise to the level of crisis. There is a certain amount of unpleasantness that all of us (every species) must learn to cope with in one way or another. I don’t like waiting in lines but I’ve never punched out the guy in front of me because the aversive was too much for me to deal with.

    “Don’t be mean to your dog for the sake of getting your own selfish way.” I get that. It’s a good rule of thumb in any relationship. Yes, there are those that will use the scientific information behind Negative Reiforcement to justify cruel and unnecessary methods. For me at least, that does not mean that each and every discussion or implementation falls into the category of “cruel and unnecessary.”

    In my own work I tend to refer to the -R quadrant as “Here there be dragons!” for the simple reason that it is complicated and difficult to use -R as a viable training strategy. I neither encourage students to explore it, nor do I shy away from discussing it in technical terms if a student asks. As you point out (all to briefly for my tastes), nature makes use of -R all the time in shaping the behaviour of animals. It is in our best interests as trainers to understand how, why, and when it works.

    And that’s not the same thing as being a cruel heartless bastard.
    (Although I’m sure that some have made up their minds about me at this point.)

    Thanks for writing and look forward to the next one!
    Eric

    • Thoughtful points as usual, Eric! Thanks for writing. I’m going to take some time to think about the low level aversives that you mention. I have seen a rather persuasive argument that P- involves an aversive, although the definition includes a double negative and also it’s hard to track behavior change with it. But anyway, let me think on that some more and write again. Deserves more than the 10 minutes I have right now.

      Here there be dragons, indeed. Agree!

      Eileen

      • Hi Eric,

        I got that your examples of the cookie jar and food bowl were not behavioral scenarios.

        Actually they sent me down a tangent of thinking about aversives and “disappointments” in our pet’s lives, if I may use an anthropomorphic word, and one that does not belong in behavior analysis. Then I went on to some thoughts about P- rather than R-. But it got too long so will save for another post sometime.

        Mostly I wanted to answer your comments about the piece being a little lopsided (my word) and your wishing there were more about the natural or low level negative reinforcers in our dogs’ lives.

        I feel like there is not much to say about that that is relevant to the piece. For example, my dog can come in the house from the yard on her own steam from anything mildly (got too hot) to markedly (fireworks) unpleasant. My only role in that would be to notice if there were a pattern of escape developing and perhaps that there was something in the yard that was chronically worrisome to her. Then I would address that.

        Likewise, my dog can scratch her own itches. I might “help” her (and would do so quite diligently if she were old and had limited range of motion), but my main role would be to notice if she were scratching unduly, then check for a health condition or flea problem.

        What’s relevant to my major point are the resonances and ramifications once a human starts using an aversive as a training tool. That’s where the dragons “be.” For the human and the animal. I actually didn’t spell the dragons out very explicitly, but Yvette of Awesome Dogs and Tiger filled in some blanks very well I thought in previous comments.

        Thanks for the comments.

  9. Jill Priest, CPDT-KA says:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G2y8Sx4B2Sk

    Sorry, I read this blog and your other posts, and it’s clear that you don’t really have a firm grasp on the concept of negative reinforcement. I appreciate your emotionally-charged viewpoint of not wanting to “hurt” the dog, but since R- is about the REMOVAL of things, your argument about “adding aversives” in every case, and labeling them as R-, just doesn’t make sense.

    • I don’t think you understand what the discussion is about. I did not label “adding an aversive” as negative reinforcement.

      The two quotes (Version 1 and Version 2) about adding aversives are not by me. They are claims made by trainers. And their point is that if they are not the ones to put the aversive in the environment in the first place, then it’s OK for them to remove it (or allow the animal to escape it) contingently on a behavior. It’s the contingent escape that is the negative reinforcement. They are arguing about the source of the aversive. In the “scary noise” example, it would be analyzed like this:
      Antecedent: There is a continuous unpleasant noise
      Behavior: Dog sits and offers eye contact
      Consequence: Door opens and dog enters house and escapes the noise

      The discussion is about how the aversive got there in the first place, before we ever get to the A,B,C. As you point out, negative reinforcement is about the removal about the aversive. But that’s not what the argument is about. If you haven’t seen these discussions about “who put the aversive there in the first place,” I envy you. But I’ll read the post to make doubly sure the context is clear. It could possibly be misleading to someone newly familiar with the quadrants.

  10. Carolee Penner says:

    Great comment, Eric.

  11. Very nicely done. 🙂

  12. Niki Tudge says:

    I don’t wish to comment on –R here but what I would like to point out is that with any behavior we are trying to influence or analyze we need to functionally analyze it.
    How is it interacting with the environment. So first, what are the distant antecedents (setting events, & motivating operations) and what are the direct antecedents and the discriminative stimuli
    What is the behavior we are analyzing? What dimensions can we measure, intensity, frequency or duration.
    Then we ask, is as a direct result of the consequence, the behavior increasing or decreasing and has a stimulus been removed or appeared, as a result of the behavior.
    So in any situation to determine if a behavior has been punished or reinforced we have to functionally analyze it. I don’t believe it’s possible to analyze the statement provided by Eric.
    “I walk past her cookie jar and DON’T give her a cookie”
    “I pick up her food bowl to wash it and NOT refill it with food”
    If we are going to discuss ABA then let’s do it using the correct methods, describe the ABs and Cs and then lets functionally analyze what is taking place. Then If one is interested the discussion can take place about the merits of -R or +R –P or +P in that particular situation

    • Thank you, Niki. We need to go back to the science and use our ABA principles to determine what is really having an impact on behavior, as well as where our interventions fit on the humane hierarchy.

    • Niki is, in fact, correct. What I was referring to in my examples were not the resulting behaviiours my dog might exhibit and the behavioural functions that may have caused them. I was, instead, describing things my dog might find aversive.

      So much of the discussion around -R seems to be unnecessarily focused on the imposition of aversives on dogs in the name of getting whatever the desired behaviour is. If you introduce an aversive and the dog exhibits neither an increase nor decrease in observable behaviour, what have we done from an ABA stand point? It could be argued that we merely wasted our time and annoyed the dog.

      Once you begin talking about what behavioural results you obtain via the introduction of aversives, you step into wholly different territory.

      And yes, let’s DO discuss things in terms of ABA and ABC and other well defined processes. Let’s perhaps begin by discarding examples of animals clearly over fear threshold and not in a learning mode at all (such as being terrified by thunder or a sump pump). There is, after all, a difference between desensitization and “flooding.”

  13. Tiger says:

    Nature does make use of -R to shape the behavior of animals, but Mother Nature can be very brutal (o example the weak and vulnerable are the first to suffer and die). I fail to see how the “but -R happens in nature all the time” is a relevant criticism of this blog post. Lots of things that occur in nature are not things we want to emulate. For example in nature there is no veterinary medicine when animals get injured or sick (instead they die and often suffer greatly along the way) so does that mean it is not natural to give our pets medical care, of course not. Similarly -R happens in nature all the time but that doesn’t mean it is neutral. As for not shying away from discussion of -R, how is writing a blog post about -R shying away from discussing it? I am not trying to be difficult, I am just very trying to understand what the disagreement is about.

    Another thing is that when we choose to use -R and succeed in getting the desired behavior, *we* have just been positively reinforced for it because *we* got what we wanted. We are thus more likely to do it again (since reinforcement tends to increase the frequency of a behavior). Then when the animal doesn’t respond at some point (say because of distractions of lack of generalization) our natural response since we are also subject to the laws of learning theory is to increase the intensity of what we have been positively reinforced to do, which in this case is to apply more aversive. This is one big difference from an animal being subjected to -R in nature e.g. feeling cold and seeking shelter as a result. .In nature there isn’t someone choosing to create an aversive environment for the animal again and being positively reinforced for it and doing it again. And when -R occurs again and again in nature, well Mother Nature can be brutal and animals do suffer.

    • Thank you for a great comment! I almost had a section on the naturalistic fallacy, because I think it can bleed into the whole “R- is OK because….” argument.

      Wow: “…In nature there isn’t someone choosing to create an aversive environment for the animal again and being positively reinforced for it and doing it again. ”

      You said it better than I. Bravo.

    • Kim says:

      “I fail to see how the “but -R happens in nature all the time” is a relevant criticism of this blog post. Lots of things that occur in nature are not things we want to emulate.”

      Perfectly stated. I never understand using the fact that life contains aversives to justify their use in training or teaching.

  14. kimberlygauthier says:

    Interesting post and this is the first time that I’ve read each comment that followed. Having no training experience beyond training classes that are positive based, I find that I’m confused by negative reinforcement training.

    In an emotionally charged community of dog lovers, I was initially told that things like choke collars, training collars and shock collars were negative reinforcement training. That made sense to me, because I don’t want our dogs to behave because they fear me.

    But recently, I was told that how I interact with our dogs is R- and that caught me off guard. I realized that this is a bigger subject than I imagined and it’s been a true pleasure reading your take on it and all of the responses.

    Thanks.

    • Thanks Kimberly! I hope it’s been helpful. As you probably know by now, choke and shock collars can be used both for negative reinforcement and positive punishment.The latter is easier for most people to identify in practice; it seems like negative reinforcement is harder to wrap our heads around and also sneaks into training more easily. If you haven’t read them already, you might want to read my post on the quadrants, and also the one with examples of negative reinforcement.

      Thanks for reading! It’s always good to hear that something I wrote has been helpful.

  15. awesomedogs says:

    Natural does not mean safe.
    Adding a condition of “if you….” then you may …… that is our doing.
    If someone paints the world as a scary place and offer reprieve by turning to them, that is using R-. It might create some type of relationship. I’m not personally comfortable with that. (Often used in breaking horses…)
    Alternately, if I’m working in the hot sun and someone is in control of my actions and says, “When you x you may get out of the hot sun into the shade,” then I suspect there is a point where resentment builds.
    Whether we’re dealing with the natural hot sun or the scary world out there, the person in control is calling the shots.
    That is very different from nature. Where no one requests a behavior in order to obtain permission.
    I find there is a strong element of control in the use of R-. It’s subtle, but it’s there.
    I agree 100% with what Niki said about the cookie jar. Not enough information to say it’s R-. Sounds more like a non-event.
    Well done blog.

  16. Sonya Bevan says:

    We set up teaching scenarios to deliberately change behaviour. I don’t think mother nature sets out to do this. If mother nature deliberately makes use of aversives in order to shape behaviour, then mother nature is a real cow! LOL Aversives are a part of life (that’s mother nature’s job). But they don’t HAVE to be a part of teaching our dogs – that’s our job. My personal ethos is that BECAUSE life (nature) is jam-packed full of aversives, I don’t want to add any more than I have to when I’m teaching my best friend how to fit into my world and overcome the hurdles involved. So I liked this blog very much. Everyone gets something different out of everything they read: I like the way this one made me figure out why I do things the way I do. How do I rationalize my training? It also raised a question (in my mind) of -P. Do you have a blog on this topic? I did a quick search but no luck.

  17. Excellent post. Thank you for writing this.

  18. nickynockynoo says:

    Eileen, you are in big trouble! I have just recieved 2nd of 3 “Handbook of Applied Dog Behaviour and Training” by Steven R Lindsay, as a birthday present. I still need Vol 3. With luck, it will be next Christmas. I thought I had finished wanting books until I followed your Paul Chance link. Reading the Amazon preview, I really, really want that book too! Wow, it’s nearly the price of all 3 volumes of Lindsay but I still would like it. Did I say you are in big trouble?

    As ever, a brilliant post.

    On to the subject. I am not a qualified trainer. I know enough to answer a passing dog walker about how I trained my dogs. If the conversation does go on to aversives, I will give examples as you quoted, simply because, it may just get the message through to those who may have just watched CM and think the dog must be dominated. Sometimes, simple is better, when dealing with Joe Public

    • Oh noooo! Ducking and running away. While you wait, you can get an earlier version of Chance for a fraction of the price. I have the 5th edition (2003) that I got I think from AbeBooks or Bookfinder for a song. Thennn…when I want to check for anything new, I use “search inside this book” on the new version on Amazon. Life is good.

      Thanks for your kind words. I agree, the simpler we can get the message, while still being accurate, the better.

  19. nickynockynoo says:

    Thanks Eileen, I saw an edition for next to nothing. Thought it couldn’t be anything like the new one. £5 V £135. Will be ordering it now. THANKS

  20. Brian Tippy says:

    I think the reason that people make a distinction between R- or P+ being delivered by a person vs. the environment is that there has been some research confirming that it’s less stressful for the dog if he can associate the negative stimulus with a location or object.

    That, of course, is irrelevant when talking about the ethical implications, and *some* studies demonstrating *less* stress doesn’t mean that it’s safe, effective, or fair. But I’ve heard e-collar trainers make the distinction, and they’ve posted research to go along with that argument.

  21. Thank you Eillen I share your view entirely!

  22. sonlb says:

    This is something I am trying to understand in the horse training community. Horses are trained so much through negative reinforcement as opposed to positive. I am surprised that this has not changed very much over the years.

    • I hope the horse training community comes along.

      My family had horses when I was a kid, and I always wondered whether they actually “liked” us. Now that I have seen how some positive reinforcement trained horses act, sadly, I figure our horses pretty much just put up with us.

      I’ve seen it pointed out that the very behaviors we want horses to do (being ridden) have negative reinforcement practically built into them. I do admire the trainers who are lessening those effects as much as they can.

  23. Pingback: How Did The Aversive Get There? A Call for Honesty | eileenanddogs

  24. Pingback: How Did The Aversive Get There? A Call for Honesty | PPG Podcasts, Blog & News Updates

  25. Pingback: 6 Myths about Positive Reinforcement-Based Training - eileenanddogseileenanddogs

  26. Pingback: Six Myths about Positive Reinforcement-Based Training | The Pet Professional Guild

  27. Pingback: Natural vs. Contrived Negative Reinforcement - eileenanddogseileenanddogs

  28. It’s ironic. People (likely with questionable concepts of what they actually do) used to go around saying that force free/positive training only uses two quadrants: positive reinforcement and negative punishment. (I don’t think these people know about extinction?) That anything else is cruel. Then a very popular method was finally given a brand name, and it becomes all the rage. Now people go around saying that force free/positive training only uses three quadrants, and anything else is cruel. (And I think they still don’t know what extinction is, nor were they alluding to it).

    BUT that’s only from those who will ADMIT when negative reinforcement is negative reinforcement.

    I really question why negative reinforcement is supposed to be better than positive punishment. I can’t seem to get a solid answer from those who champion this branded method. (No, I’m not going to name anything.)

    Either are as severe as you want it to be, either are as aversive to the recipient as they find it to be. I, personally, would prefer to receive a stern look to stop a talking during a movie than I would prefer to receive electric shocks until I recall the math I’m fuzzy on from college algebra class. (And yes, I’ve had professionally applies TENS and NMES, AND have tried professional models of electric shock collars on my neck.)

    This is coming from someone who uses negative reinforcement to teach service dogs tail tucks. Tickling tails. A little molding for you. (I don’t think shaping baskets teaches enough tail awareness, and a piece of tape is just more molding. And I don’t have the skills anymore to free shape) I’ve also been known to give a stern look to stop a behavior a time or two, as well. (My little one, when she first came to me, was rewarded for getting off tables when found, along with Zen. But on occasion, she’s on the couch and reaches a foot out towards the coffee table, then looks at me. Especially if cheese is calling her name). A frown and shake of my head quickly quashes that. I’m not usually frowning and shaking my head when the goods are forthcoming.

    Not proud, but there it is. It is what it is. But let’s be honest and call things what they are. I’ve used and most likely will continue to use positive punishment and negative reinforcement. I don’t prefer them, but they happen somewhere down the line.

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      Your comments about extinction made me smile. Yes, so many people forget about extinction!

      I value your knowledge and honesty about the teaching methods you are using so much. I’d much rather hear the types of thing you describe that than vague claims about only using two quadrants, or even one quadrant as some people claim. Not that it’s not a great goal to minimize punishment of any kind and the use of aversive stimuli. But I dunno–there are times when P- might be a better choice than extinction.

      To return your transparency: I do agility, and there is R- easily embedded in that activity. Tons of R+ too, and one can adapt one’s handling to minimize the R-. But I think it’s no coincidence that my pressure sensitive dog is such a natural at agility.

Comments are closed.