Friday, December 26, 2014

The "Magic" of Negative Punishment

I know we talk about Positive Reinforcement all the time, but that doesn't mean that we don't use a form of punishment. Negative Punishment is the Yin to the others Yang.

Positive Reinforcement increases the chances of a behavior happening again by adding something good or fun - a treat, toy, a chance to run outside, a walk in the park, or play time with other dogs.

When we want a behavior to go away, we want a technique that won't cause fear or intimidation - hence Negative Punishment. It takes no force to use, and can be accomplished by any family member - young or old. The method is simple: Don't touch, talk or speak to the pet when its being naughty. By avoiding acknowledgement, you'll giving a quiet yet obvious message: I don't like this so I'm shutting down.

This technique in action: Your dog plops his saliva slicked tennis ball in your lap. You respond by standing up and letting the ball jettison onto the floor (no touch), while keeping your eyes on the TV program you were watching (no talk) and munching on your popcorn (no speak). Your pet may respond by dropping the ball in your lap a few more times, then gives up for lack of success. Once he's sitting or lying down (action you like) grab the ball and toss it for him ( positive reinforcement). He's make the link of action and reaction for each situation.

Using these techniques you can successfully teach your dog good habits and eliminating bad ones in a what that will reinforce trust.

Photo: The magic of Negative Punishment

I know we talk about Positive Reinforcement all the time, but that doesn't mean that we don't use a form of punishment. Negative Punishment is the Yin to the others Yang. 

Positive Reinforcement increases the chances of a behavior happening again by adding something good or fun - a treat, toy, a chance to run outside, a walk in the park, or play time with other dogs. 

When we want a behavior to go away, we want a technique that won't cause fear or intimidation - hence Negative Punishment. It takes no force to use, and can be accomplished by any family member - young or old. The method is simple: Don't touch, talk or speak to the pet when its being naughty. By avoiding acknowledgement, you'll giving a quiet yet obvious message: I don't like this so I'm shutting down. 

This technique in action: Your dog plops his saliva slicked tennis ball in your lap. You respond by standing up and letting the ball jettison onto the floor (no touch), while keeping your eyes on the TV program you were watching (no talk) and munching on your popcorn (no speak). Your pet may respond by dropping the ball in your lap a few more times, then gives up for lack of success. Once he's sitting or lying down (action you like) grab the ball and toss it for him ( positive reinforcement). He's make the link of action and reaction for each situation.

Using these techniques you can successfully teach your dog good habits and eliminating bad ones in a what that will reinforce trust.

5 comments:

  1. Dr., would "punishment" by ignoring also work to help train a cat not to get on the counter? Can you give me an example of what we could do to punish and then reward a cat that gets on the counter, like you did with the ball on lap example? I would find this so helpful because my husband finds it difficult to "allow" the cat to stay on the counter and wants him to get down right away. He's not seeing that the ignoring is a long-term tactic that may take some time. I would so much appreciate your help! Thank you. Gina

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  2. Hi Minnie,

    Good question! If you're cat is getting on the counter, it would be best to figure out what's driving the cat to want to be up there. Is it food? Is it to see out a window or get closer to you when you're cooking? Is it to avoid another pet who's going through the area? If you can determine why, then it's much easier to train an alternate behavior. For cats that are getting on the counter for food: put food sources away. Don't feed your cat or give it attention for being on the counter. Make a space in the area where the cat can sit and receive food and attention, thus making the area on the counter non-productive. You starve the behavior you don't like, but provide an area that is acceptable. If the cat is avoiding another animal, having a cat tree to give the pet access to get away is ideal. If it's to look out a window, provide a window seat in an area where the cat can enjoy that resource. Training does take time, as you mentioned. Pets don't automatically understand what we're thinking. It could be the cat is on the counter to get attention, so if you're husband interacts with it (even saying "no", picking the cat up or chasing it away can be reinforcing) he may be adding to the problem. I hope this helps! Michelle

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Michelle - I would say his main motivator is food and then a close second would be getting attention (he often does this when it's dinner time and I have not fed him yet). So is it ever appropriate to interact with the cat to physically take him off the counter and put him in what is considered an "acceptable" space (e.g., the stools we have by the counter). Or no matter what we should always ignore him until he gets off the counter on his own? And do we reward him when he gets off? Do we also reward him when he gets on the stool and not the counter?

      I'm sorry to ask so many questions it's just that my husband is at his wits end with the cat getting on the counter and I don't want to suggest anything that may unintentionally making the problem worse. :/

      Thank you Michelle.

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  3. Hi Minnie,

    You should set up the area on the counter to be less attractive to you kitty. You can use double stick tape, a mat with the poky/nubby side up on the counter, etc. On the other hand, the area you set up should be VERY attractive. Leave treats, make sure it's comfortable and even spritz it with catnip spray! If he gets onto any area that's acceptable, reward him with a treat, attention or play with him. If you physically pick the cat up, he may find this to be positive attention, so I would avoid it. Good luck!

    Cheers,
    Michelle

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