Methods without the madness: A brief overview of the science of positive dog training

For those of you wondering what all the fuss is about when it comes to positive dog training, or those of you wondering how on earth it could be this simple, here is a rundown of the learning theory that helps your puppy or dog figure out what is expected of him in this human world.

Positive reinforcement is one of the four quadrants of operant conditioning.  Operant conditioning explains how behavior changes based on reinforcement or punishment that happens immediately after the behavior.  Positive reinforcement is technically the addition of something positive after the behavior.  This is done with the intention of causing the dog to repeat the behavior.  Operant conditioning follows the formula: IF you “sit”, THEN you get chicken.  If a dog sits, and we give him a treat immediately afterward, the treat reinforces of the behavior of sitting.  Since it is something we added to the behavior (as opposed to taking away), it is referred to as positive.  Another example of positive reinforcement could be if a dog does “watch” on cue and is then immediately allowed to sniff his favorite shrub.  The shrub is added to reinforce the behavior of turning and looking to the human. [Read more…]