Positive reinforcement is a procedural and behavioral outcome. This means that it works, by definition. That is, if a behavior occurs more frequently, then it has been reinforced. If that behavior is occurring more frequently because something pleasurable or appetitive has been added to the situation, then positive reinforcement has occurred.
If you or your animal trainer “tried” positive reinforcement, and decided it “didn’t work”, then you weren’t actually applying the conditions and procedures of positive reinforcement!
There are a few common reasons for an undesirable outcome during a training event. It is likely that a) the trainer (that’s you!) has not correctly set up the learner’s environment to promote the desired behavior, b) the trainer has not selected rewards that are appropriately reinforcing to the learner, or c) the learner’s emotional state is not currently conducive to learning at this time.
An incorrect application of the principles of behavior, or a limited understanding of them, does not mean they do not work. It simply means that maybe you need some extra help applying them!
Feeding your dog treats does not mean you are using positive reinforcement.
Petting your cat does not mean you are using positive reinforcement.
Praising your toddler does not mean you are using positive reinforcement.
Only the learner’s behavior, in this moment and over time, determines whether or not positive reinforcement principles are truly being applied.
So if you or someone else believes that positive reinforcement didn’t/ doesn’t work, especially for certain challenging behavior struggles… well, you should know, it wasn’t positive reinforcement!
What are some ways that you use positive reinforcement in your pet’s everyday life?
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