Is Negative Reinforcement Negative?


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Hey,here from Dog Matters and today we are going to talk about one of the four quadrants of operant conditioning. Negative reinforcement and is negative reinforcement actually a negative thing? So, if you have no idea what I’m talking about little these big dog training words; they don’t usually use. Today, I’m gonna explain to you one of these four quadrants, which is a scientific term for things that we use to shape behavior. Now, reinforcement means to make a behavior stronger, usually by rewarding it.

Now, the problem with the term negative reinforcement is that the term negative has negative connotations to it and people think that negative equals bad, but negative reinforcement is actually a mathematical sense of negative meaning taking something away to reinforce the behavior, so it’s talking about changes we’re making to behavior, reinforcement is reinforcing the behavior, making it stronger and negative meaning we are taking something away; not we are doing something bad.

So, basically, negative reinforcement means we are taking something away from the situation that makes the animal feel rewarded. Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean that whatever we’re taking away is highly aversive or forceful or painful. In fact, it’s any type of pressure, even moving into the animal space without touching them whatsoever. Negative reinforcement is used a lot in horse training, so if you’ve ever had anything to do with horse training or ever ridden a horse, you’ve used negative reinforcement and I’m betting if you learned a dog, you’ve used negative reinforcement already, as well. For example, one of the classic ways that people tend to automatically get a dog to sit is to call upwards on the leash adding pressure to the dog’s neck or even onto their harness and when the dog sits, the pressure is released.

That release of pressure is the reward to the dog. That’s negative reinforcement in action, but I wanna talk to you about a few other ways that it can be applied; that can be really beneficial to your training and don’t require much pressure or force at all. So, you can use many tools to create negative reinforcement whether it’s some colors, harnesses, slip leads; all the different types of colors; E-Colors. She’s just got a normal color on that she uses for everyday use and just a normal lead and I’m gonna show you how very light touches can work for negative reinforcement without applying very forceful measures of pressure to the dog at all.

So, If I put very slight pressure on and he comes towards it, the pressure goes away. That’s her reward. That’s negative reinforcement in action. The pressure is taken away. Negative deduction to reinforce the behavior of coming towards me. It doesn’t mean thathe’s feeling, any pain or finding it very aversive. It can just mean that you’ve taught the animal that that’s what the pressure means, so pressure on, she comes towards it. Good, good girl. Now, what can be really powerful here is to pair negative reinforcement with positive reinforcement. Positive reinforcement isabout a lot most popular and very effective way of training and combining the two together can actually be a really powerful and fun way of training, so if I wanna teach her to back up, I can put backwards pressure;

good girl. Good…

It wasn’t there. Pressure on; good.

Pressure off when she’s where I want her to be and now if I wanna get that backing up action, pressure on, yes and then follow it up with the positive reinforcement of the favorite reward, as well. As well as the negative reinforcement of the pressure of the leash dropping. Now, the classic example I talked about earlier was the sit position, which people hold upwards pressure towards thenot necessarily very hard, she sits and the pressure disappears. That’s negative reinforcement in action and like I also mentioned earlier it doesn’t even have to be a physical touch that you can use for putting pressure on and releasing pressure to the dog for reinforcement. It can also just be spatial pressure. Getting ahead to move out the way.

Coming towards her; good girl. And now there’s no leash pressure coming on whatsoever with that, so spatial; good, yes. She moves out of my space. The spatial pressure stops and disappears and backs off from her and that’s her reward and just to make it even better, pairing it with positive reinforcement, as well and actually you can see, she’s enjoying both sides of that training; good girl. Yes, so that wasjust body pressure and hand signals and her giving into that pressure, which is a good thing for a dog to know how to do. Now, she’s predicting that that’s what I’m gonna do, so pressure this way; good, so I’ll drop the leash completely; Yes, so that’s spatial pressure without even touching the dog. It’s the negative reinforcement at work.

So, I hope from this video you can see that negative reinforcement doesn’t have to be negative and, in fact, it can be really effective and a lot of fun, especially when you pair it with positive reinforcement, as well. Don’t forget to leave a comment bellow, like and subscribe and share and I will see you in the next video.

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  1. Marie Celine Gelinas Duguay

    I enjoyed your videos. My Australian shepherd is 5 months old and jump on us or counter top etc all the times. What could I do to stop that kind of behaviour

  2. Marla Milner

    I do this with my dog but he starts getting excited and moving back towards me to jump up. He’s seeing it as some kind of game I guess. I am forced to push him off of me but then he will sit down without being asked. Restarting the activity keeps ending in the same result, or he walks off. Very frustrating dog!


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