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Tuesday Training Byte: Behavior Conditioning Reinforcement

Last Tuesday I discussed positive reinforcement which included positive reward and negative reward. In behavior conditioning, positive does not mean good, but rather plus (+), and negative means minus (-) or take away. Sometimes ignoring bad behavior does not work. I always start with positive reward as I train new commands, and then negative reward. Once a dog know the command and chooses to not do as asked, I may use negative punishment. This is simply taking away something the dog wants. For example my dog knows the "heel" command but starts pulling forward to go greet a loose dog on our walk. I take away the thing the dog wants (go quickly forward to meet the new dog) by stopping my forward motion. A positive punishment then is given if my dog is still trying to drag me forward. This means I will give the dog something it does not want. An example would be a quick jerk on the leash to make the dog heel in the opposite direction. Here is the catch to make this a good learning experience: you should immediately then praise your dog (positive reward) for it's return to the heel position, as though it was his idea all along. If you nag your dog repeatedly calling it's name or shouting "No!", you will not get the desired results because it is unclear what it is you want the dog to do.

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