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By Published On: March 18th, 2022

Learn with us at Lemon’s Hope Sanctuary

Working with problem behaviors requires more than simply following a protocol. You need to be able to wrap your head around a number of concepts, some that might seem in opposition to each other.

The idea that using positive reinforcement to train is a good thing. It has permeated the training field, and the pet dog owner community as well. I can’t help but smile when I pass people wearing treat pouches while out walking their dogs. There are still hold-outs, but carry on, we love our dogs and we love feeding them. It’s a beautiful evolutionary synchronicity.

When we take the time to find out what our dogs want, or like, we gain the ability to not only use this information to train new behaviors, we also learn how to stop behavior. It might hurt your brain a bit, but we can stop behavior using reinforcement. We can do this using either positive or negative reinforcement.

You’ve seen it happen, and you’ve done it. A dog is pawing at you for a bit of your lunch. You hand some over, and the pawing stops. It might only stop momentarily, or in that situation it ends completely. Did you punish the pawing by giving the dog what we could assume is positive reinforcement? Not likely. The information you have gained from this situation is going to give you a better understanding of the function of the problem behavior. Most pet owners have become masters at this. Their history turning off behavior gives us a treasure trove of information.

The animal training community has done a good job drilling us on the quadrants. It is helpful to be able to differentiate between negative reinforcement and positive punishment, and the others, but simply plugging in the right quadrant, may not be enough to address persistent problem behavior. When working with any animal who may be at risk for causing harm to others, we need to have a quiver full of options that will turn behavior off, ASAP, in ways that are less likely to escalate the problem.

We will be addressing this topic and how we use it to shape appropriate behaviors, at our workshop in June of 2022 at Lemon’s Hope Sanctuary in southern Vermont.

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