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Thread: Purely Positive Training, Reward based training and Operant Conditioning

  1. #1
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    Default Purely Positive Training, Reward based training and Operant Conditioning

    Hi all

    people often confuse terms like "positive" and "negative" and I just wanted to clear up (or increase) the confusion.

    Hopefully we will get some good contributions from the people who've studied this stuff and use it in their work.

    The words "positive" and "negative" in training are often misused. I confuse them too.
    B.F. Skinner | Operant Conditioning - Simply Psychology

    Positive - doesn't mean "good". It means "you're adding something" as a consequence of the what the dog is doing. So you can
    add a treat or praise
    or
    add a smack or scold.

    negative - doesn't mean "bad" or "nasty". It means "you're taking something away"
    examples
    you withhold or stop the rewards - or
    you take the naughty teen's phone away.
    or
    you can stop the jack hammer (take away the noise and vibration), or
    you can stop pulling on the choke chain (release it). (take away the pressure) - also known as escape training.

    So the positive and negative - is "good" or "reinforcing" or "bad" and "punishing" depending what you add or subtract. (trust scientists to use maths based not emotion based words).

    Reinforcing - is something the dog (or human) finds encouraging and will work to get more of.

    punishing - is something the dog finds discouraging and will work to avoid.

    so you pair a behaviour with a positive reward (treat) - and ideally the dog will try to do more of the behaviour.

    or you pair a behaviour with a positive punisher (smack) - and ideally the dog will try to do less of the behaviour - if the dog figures out the connection between the behaviour and the smack - they don't always do this successfully.

    for example - of how the connection is harder to get right with punishers:
    you are driving along with your dog barking in the back of the car - and a cop pulls you over and shoots your dog... would you risk driving at all ever again? Or would you know it was for speeding? and not the barking? or just a bad day for the cop? If the police siren goes off just as you plant your foot on the accelerator thinking faster faster - then maybe you'd make the connection. Timing is everything.

    So it is true to say you don't want to be "always positive" - sometimes you want to withhold the reward to signify a behaviour you don't want to encourage. And with this phase of the training - you want to test your dog's understanding of the task - so you wave the lead temptingly in front of the dog - and if she leaves it alone - you treat, and if she grabs it you laugh at her, call her silly and don't give a treat.

    So anyone who says they are "Purely positive" usually means they use the reward / treat method of training ie give a reward or withhold a reward parts of the operant conditioning quadrant (combinations of positive and negative with reinforcer and punisher - you get four squares in a box). They are also using that term to please people who think that positive is "always good" when in fact the positive side of the box - includes smacking the dog.

    Or they say "purely positive" because they don't understand or are confused by operant conditioning quadrants or their customers are. Which is why I say "reward based training" not "purely positive".

    with the rewards (something good) and aversives (something nasty)
    what one dog (or person) finds good - isn't the same for another
    and some things are more rewarding than others. Eg $10,000 is better than $10 for most people
    and freshly cooked sausage is better than kibble for most dogs.
    but not all. Some (dogs?) prefer to work for attention, or praise or toys (some toys are better than others)...

    So if you want to use reward based (or even aversive based) training - you need to know what your dog likes, what your dog loves... and use these things appropriately. Do not hand over the thing the dog LOVES, when they've strolled back to you stopping to sniff at every bush and maybe roll in something stinky on the way back. Give them some praise, and maybe not a pat.

    You can also use something called "response cost" or delay the reward... the dog has done what you want, but slowly? tell them good dog - but delay the reward...

  2. #2
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    We have three self employed dog trainers in my area, 2 of which are considered negative trainers and they get offended when someone mentions it but they agree that they are.
    They PULL a dog on the leash, just yank it. Now personally I would never let one of those trainers take a hold of my dogs leash because I don't want her to get hurt.
    The 3rd trainer which is a positive one never yanks, she barely even has to touch the dog to teach it something.
    Positive trainers also never use chain(or anything similar) collars.

    Things to AVOID when Choosing a Dog Trainer - YouTube

    Zak George is one of the worlds most famous and popular dog trainers - he was in a few episodes of Dogs 101 and other shows.
    Last edited by RakshaWw; 12-18-2013 at 12:07 PM.

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    I just had a look at the video and really had a hard time concentrating because I find these guys eyes so... hypnotic... woowwww.... Are they for real? Lenses maybe?

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    I was going to say that I'm all positive then because I use positive reinforcement (treats) as well as positive punishment (as in a squirt of the spray bottle when the pup chases the cat or our dog attempts to jump up on visitors). But then I realised that what you're saying is that if you use treats to reward behaviour, it's practically a given that you will use negative reinforcement by withholding those treats if you don't get the behaviour you want or if it's not up to scratch.

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    Hi RakshaWw

    We have three self employed dog trainers in my area, 2 of which are considered negative trainers and they get offended when someone mentions it but they agree that they are.
    Clearly my post has managed to increase your confusion.

    In Operant Conditioning - "Negative" is not the same as "Punishment". Dog trainers using "yank and crank" are "Positive Punishment" based trainers. Yanking on a choke collar is directly equivalent to smacking a dog.

    A dog trainer that uses a choke chain collar - is using +P and -P to train ie yank on the chain is +P = positive punishment. the Positive part is they add something - which is the pressure / pain on the dog's neck and it's supposed to be aversive (unpleasant) to reduce a behaviour (Punishment for pulling). all that is "positive punishment".

    which should be followed immediately by RELEASING the chain or -P or REMOVAL of the aversive pressure on the dog's neck. And some praise (+R)

    So if a dog trainer is using punishment to train - that by itself is not "negative". Some dogs regard withholding of the treat (-R) as punishment and the idea of doing it is to reduce or not encourage an undesirable behaviour (like pulling on the lead).

    If your timing is excellent - you can get results with a choke chain, but most of the results come from the release of the pressure.

    How many people do you see with their dogs in choke chains - and they NEVER RELEASE the pressure and the dog ignores the chain altogether - because it has never been given a release or reward or reinforcement for being in the right place.

    Don't think this is not harming your dog because they've tuned out the chain and gone to their happy place... dogs put up with immense pain for something they want. Like the park. Or even your attention. It is still causing damage to their trachea and neck muscles and somewhat to their relationship to you - how easy is a dog like this to catch at the end of their run at the park? Not at all, not from what I've observed. They do not want to go back on lead.

    You notice that Zak - always talks about "positive reinforcement" - which I use one word for "reward". He never said "positive" without the word "reinforcement".

    Technically you can call taking something nasty away a reward but given a choice between no more cold showers and chocolate, I would say "chocolate" is top of my list.
    way way ahead of a good shower.

    So professional trainers should know the difference but they often have confused customers.

    Since we're on choosing trainers - tho I'd rather another thread for that...
    how to choose a dog trainer (text) Steve Courtney at K9pro

    Steve Courtney will use all four quadrants with excellent timing to train a dog, but when he teaches people to train their dogs, he sticks with methods they are comfortable and skilled enough (with timing and co-ordination) to use successfully.

    Like I said before - there is a very blurry line when it comes down to the milder forms of -R (eg no treat) and +P (pssit at your dog)

    In fact if you use a marker word to let your dog know that what he's doing will not get him a treat eg "oops" as the opposite of "yes" you are getting a treat, the "oops" itself can work like a +P. Shades of grey in the middle.
    Last edited by Hyacinth; 12-18-2013 at 03:24 PM.

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    Totally agree. No such thing as purely positive training and those who claim so are delusional.

    Any posts made under the name of Di_dee1 one can be used by anyone as I do not give a rats.

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    Zak George - has got very few hits on his youtube videos compared to Kikopup or Susan Garrett or Ian Dunbar or Victoria Stillwell so I would say he has some way to go before I'd call him "most popular". I like his training choices but I find he talks too much and doesn't do enough.

    Kikopup 45,000 views
    The most amazing dog tricks performed by Splash the border collie - YouTube

    Susan Garrett 50,000 or 222,000
    Loose Lead walking - Susan Garrett
    Crate Games - Susan Garrett
    or my fav 98,000 views
    Bad Dog Trainer - Susan Garrett and Buzzy Demonstrate

    Ian Dunbar - being interviewed by Zak himself - but there are lots of videos of Ian Dunbar in his own right and you can look him up on "dog star daily"
    Dog Training: A conversation with Dr. Ian Dunbar - YouTube
    Ian Dunbar does a Ted Talk on why dog training is important

    Victoria Stillwell - it's me or the dog... on positive (re-inforcement) vs (positive) punishment
    positive vs punishment

    unfortunately on the youtube label - they have gotten the names of the styles wrong... because scientists use a set of very specific mathematically derived terms and the lay person give them emotional general language use translations.

    It's a bit like the difference between the mathematical definition of infinite and your phone company's definition of infinite - which is very limited.

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    My brain goes into gridlock when I try and remember the correct terms for everthing especially the + and - negative bit.

    Getting the timing right, encouraging them to figure stuff out for themselves, shaping behaviour, breaking things down into small chunks, setting them up for success, building value in what they are doing, building value in my relationship with them, repetition, having fun, the occassional but rare telling off. This is what seems to work for my lot. Dont know where it all fits but it seems to work. Dont get too hung up on the terminology or I would drive myself nuts.

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    I gotta agree Kalacreek

    But I do think people need to know that "negative" is not bad and "positive" is not always good. It's a jargon thing, but it annoys me when people get it wrong. I'd rather they used their own words than misuse words that have specific meaning to the research people.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hyacinth View Post
    I gotta agree Kalacreek

    But I do think people need to know that "negative" is not bad and "positive" is not always good. It's a jargon thing, but it annoys me when people get it wrong. I'd rather they used their own words than misuse words that have specific meaning to the research people.
    Yes this is true. That is why I have now stopped using the terminology because I am bound to get it wrong!

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