What Is Positive Reinforcement Training?
Updated: Jan 6
You may have heard the term when researching about training your new kitten, or overhead it talked about in your puppy’s dog training class. But, what is positive reinforcement training? How does it differ from other training techniques? Read on to learn about this, and other training “types”, and why positive reinforcement training is a good choice for your pet.
The Four “Quadrants”
Training behaviors are broken into four “quadrants”: positive, negative, reinforcement, and punishment. Alone, each word doesn’t mean much, but together, it signifies a way to increase or decrease a behavior.
Positive refers to the addition of something. It does NOT mean good or bad.
Negative refers to the removal or deprivation of something. It does NOT mean good or bad.
Reinforcement increases a behavior.
Punishment decreases it.
Positive Reinforcement is a form of training that focuses on rewarding good behaviors to increase them. The reward makes your pet want to work harder, thus increasing the behavior.
Negative Reinforcement is the removal of something to increase the behavior. Negative reinforcement can happen innately to cause “problem” behaviors. For example, if the mailman walks away from your house when your dog barks (not because your dog is barking, but they are moving to the next mailbox), it will increase the likelihood of your dog barking, because your dog thinks that barking equals removal of mailman, thus reinforcing the behavior.
Positive Punishment is the adding of something to decrease a behavior. When you hit your dog with a newspaper it decreases his chewing on an object. (Not recommended!) A shock collar or choke collar is also positive punishment — it decreases the behavior by giving a painful shock/tug.
Negative Punishment is the removal of something to decrease a behavior. If you hold down your dog’s training collar button to cause a shock until he stops digging, you are inflicting negative punishment by removing (negative) the shock when your dog decreases the behavior (stops digging).
Why Positive Reinforcement Training?
As we learn more about animal behavior, positive reinforcement has grown to be the training of choice. It is also considered to be the most humane choice in training, because it utilizes rewards, along with other training techniques such as redirecting behaviors (and training in replacement ones with positive rewards) instead of instilling pain or fear. Pets that aren’t worried about receiving a hit or shock are also more likely to want to work with you instead of because they are afraid of you.
Positive reinforcement involves more than just treats as well. Praise, play sessions, cuddling, or even grooming sessions (if your pet enjoys it) can all be ways to positively reinforce a behavior. You can also use it in everyday situations, such as when you catch your puppy chewing on a chew toy instead of your shoe (praise them!) or your kitten uses the litter box without making a big mess.
Tippy Taps focuses on positive reinforcement training to help ensure success with your pet. By creating a positive, calm environment, we can work past fearful situations and redirect or retrain “bad” behaviors with positive ones.