What Is Positive Reinforcement?

In the simplest answer possible, positive reinforcement means using an unconditioned reinforcer (meaning the animal already likes it, ie food, ball, play, toys, praise) to let the animal know you’d like to see that behaviour repeated. When the animal completes the behaviour correctly, the unconditioned reinforcer, or reward is provided to the animal.

A simple example is when you receive a bonus at work, because you met your sales quota, or did an outstanding job.

Can I use corrections?

While we do not advocate the use of physical corrections or compulsion training, we do use negative punishment as well. Negative punishment means removing something the animal finds valuable, in order to decrease the likelihood of a behaviour.

As in the above example, if you did not meet the sales quota, the incentive program or bonus would not be rewarded. In this, you would know you had not completed the task due to not receiving the reward.

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Can my dog learn this way?

Positive reinforcement training is based on a positive experience - receiving rewards. Whether you're trying to teach your dog to sit or yourself to start exercising, positive reinforcement is a powerful - and enjoyable - tool. Training using positive reinforcement is more fun, and often more effective, than training using a more traditional punishment-based system.

However, realize that punishment has its own advantages. Positive punishment (adding something the animal doesn’t like) can also be implemented in certain situations. This can range from a short verbal “No” to a louder, sharper clap. Negative punishment is also more appropriate in certain situations, as is negative reinforcement (applying something the dog doesn’t like in order to decrease a behaviour - like tin foil on couches to keep them from jumping on the furniture).

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