Operant conditioning uses both reward and punishment. When you master this very effective psychology, you can teach a dog (or human family member) to reliably perform specific tasks. Stay with us on this one. It sounds much more complicated than it is!

The Basics

Positive Reinforcement (+R)

Positive reinforcement means the addition of something, like a treat. If a dog gets a treat when he sits, he’ll be more likely to sit.

Negative Reinforcement (-R)

In this case, the dog’s behavior causes something uncomfortable to go away. For instance, when a trainer wants a dog that is lying down to sit up, the trainer will pull the dog’s leash to an upward position, tightening the collar and creating minor discomfort. When the dog sits, the trainer slacks the leash, and the discomfort goes away.

Positive Punishment (+P)

Again, here the word positive means the addition of something; in this case, it’s the addition of a consequence. For instance, if a dog jumps on the owner and the owner pushes the dog away with an unpleasant sensation like a knee push to the dog’s chest, the dog will associate the discomfort with the action of jumping up, and be less likely to do so in the future.

Negative Punishment (-P)

As with negative reinforcement, the word negative means the removal of something. In the case of punishment, it’s the removal of a good thing. If a dog jumps on the owner and the owner steps back, removing himself and his attention, the dog will associate the loss of his owner’s attention with that particular action, and he’ll be less likely to repeat it in the future.

A Few More Behavioral Terms

  • Neutral operants: responses from the environment that neither increase nor decrease the probability of a behavior being repeated.

  • Reinforcers: Responses from the environment that increase the probability of a behavior being repeated. Reinforcers can be either positive or negative.

  • Punishers: Responses from the environment that decrease the likelihood of a behavior being repeated. Punishment weakens behavior.

Examples

  • It’s important to keep in mind that positive and negative punishments may be different for different dogs. Your dog has different likes and dislikes, just like you do. For example, if your dog doesn’t like having his head touched, a pat on the head may be negative reinforcement, rather than positive reinforcement. We’ll work with you to help determine the most effective strategies for your particular dog.
  • What about a dog that begs for food at the dinner table by barking? To the dog, barking has just offered food. Therefore he will repeat the same trick another day to earn food from the dinner table. To the owner, barking particularly at the dinner table is annoying, and he hates that. However, he achieves silence by giving the dog food and may do this often to prevent barking at the table. The two situations, stopping barking (negative) and giving the dog food to stop barking (reinforcement) presents two sides of the same coin.
  • People use the term positive to imply that they employ rewards as the key dog training method. Additionally, they use negative to refer to the obedience method based on corrections. However, the same people will use both negative and positive at a given time in the training session. Positive implies giving. For instance, giving the dog a treat. On the other hand, negative relates to taking away. For example, withdrawing attention from the dog or taking away pressure on the leash. Therefore, positive can either be good or bad depending on what the person gives his/her dog.

in summary

Operant Conditioning helps your dog understand that actions have consequences. Your pet will learn to moderate their behavior based on what happens after its actions. If their behavior comes with a perceived reward, it’ll repeat it. If there is no reward, or if they don’t enjoy the consequence, they’re less likely to repeat the behavior.

#positivereinforcement

reilly was a very different story than zepp today. he stayed pretty consistently on edge throughout our time together. my only goal was to groom him today, so i managed to get him into the barn feed him his breakfast while i groomed. he was also very concerned about the wind and commotion going on around the farm, and it took us a good 10-15 minutes to get to the barn. i let him take his time, and clicked and rewarded for every step he took towards the barn. we eventually got inside, and he ate his grain fairly happily. 
i was hoping to go for a walk around the farm with him, but there was a tractor one way and a truck and trailer the other, so i decided to just put him home and give him some cookies.
although i could have pushed for that walk, i decided that he was already stressed about the wind, new horse, sounds, lesson kids etc, and there was no need to push him and enter another stressful situation. 
our partnership is still new, and as we gain more trust in each other and he’s able to find more confidence - windy days with commotion will be easier for us.
to end our session, we chilled in his paddock together. he chose to stick with me and work a little for some more cookies. we worked on a cue to lower his head, which will help him release stress and lower adrenaline. he was super and definitely much more comfortable in his paddock. videos to come:)
#FingleFlahertyOReilly
#ReillyTheOrange ?
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#equestrian #horsesofinstagram #horse #horses #equitation #horselove #horseriding #horsetagram #equestrianstyle #showjumping #ottb #equestrianlife #twohearts #bitless #bareboot #naturesrunequestrian #positivereinforcement #clickertraining #clickertraininghorses
reilly was a very different story than zepp today. he stayed pretty consistently on edge throughout our time together. my only goal was to groom him today, so i managed to get him into the barn feed him his breakfast while i groomed. he was also very concerned about the wind and commotion going on around the farm, and it took us a good 10-15 minutes to get to the barn. i let him take his time, and clicked and rewarded for every step he took towards the barn. we eventually got inside, and he ate his grain fairly happily. i was hoping to go for a walk around the farm with him, but there was a tractor one way and a truck and trailer the other, so i decided to just put him home and give him some cookies. although i could have pushed for that walk, i decided that he was already stressed about the wind, new horse, sounds, lesson kids etc, and there was no need to push him and enter another stressful situation. our partnership is still new, and as we gain more trust in each other and he’s able to find more confidence - windy days with commotion will be easier for us. to end our session, we chilled in his paddock together. he chose to stick with me and work a little for some more cookies. we worked on a cue to lower his head, which will help him release stress and lower adrenaline. he was super and definitely much more comfortable in his paddock. videos to come:) #FingleFlahertyOReilly #ReillyTheOrange ? • • • #equestrian #horsesofinstagram #horse #horses #equitation #horselove #horseriding #horsetagram #equestrianstyle #showjumping #ottb #equestrianlife #twohearts #bitless #bareboot #naturesrunequestrian #positivereinforcement #clickertraining #clickertraininghorses
i had an awesome morning with zepp today!
it was very windy this morning and we had a new horse in the round pen, and zepp took about 10 minutes to get into the barn. he kept stopping with his head up high to check things out because he was a little worried. instead of pushing him along and dragging him into the barn, we just chilled and took our time. after tacking up, making it out to the sand ring was a similar ordeal. he needed some time to check things out. in the end my patience paid off, and zepp was able to calm down. because i gave him the time to work through the worry he had and figure things out, he was able to relax. i’ve been trying really hard recently to recognize when my horse is getting worried, so that worry doesn’t continue to build and i end up with a tense horse or explosions. zeppelin was an angel once we got into the sand ring, and was perfectly calm for the rest of our time together!
jesse talked last week in the trailering clinic about trigger stacking, and how sometimes we miss the little signs that build and then lead up to an explosion. instead of letting those blocks build up today every time something scary happened until he finally reached his threshold, i never let us go anywhere near his threshold because we dealt with each block as they came.
videos of our target training will be up soon:)
#HighFlyinZeppelin
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#equestrian #horsesofinstagram #horse #horses #equitation #horselove #passion #horseriding #horsetagram #equestrianstyle #showjumping #ottb #equestrianlife #twohearts #bitless #bareboot #naturesrunequestrian  #positivereinforcement #clickertraining #clickertraininghorses
i had an awesome morning with zepp today! it was very windy this morning and we had a new horse in the round pen, and zepp took about 10 minutes to get into the barn. he kept stopping with his head up high to check things out because he was a little worried. instead of pushing him along and dragging him into the barn, we just chilled and took our time. after tacking up, making it out to the sand ring was a similar ordeal. he needed some time to check things out. in the end my patience paid off, and zepp was able to calm down. because i gave him the time to work through the worry he had and figure things out, he was able to relax. i’ve been trying really hard recently to recognize when my horse is getting worried, so that worry doesn’t continue to build and i end up with a tense horse or explosions. zeppelin was an angel once we got into the sand ring, and was perfectly calm for the rest of our time together! jesse talked last week in the trailering clinic about trigger stacking, and how sometimes we miss the little signs that build and then lead up to an explosion. instead of letting those blocks build up today every time something scary happened until he finally reached his threshold, i never let us go anywhere near his threshold because we dealt with each block as they came. videos of our target training will be up soon:) #HighFlyinZeppelin • • • #equestrian #horsesofinstagram #horse #horses #equitation #horselove #passion #horseriding #horsetagram #equestrianstyle #showjumping #ottb #equestrianlife #twohearts #bitless #bareboot #naturesrunequestrian #positivereinforcement #clickertraining #clickertraininghorses