R+ and correction don’t mix

We can’t have both when it comes to training our dogs.
In positive reinforcement training the behavior is first developed with expectation of positive reinforcer. We then pair a cue, a “stimulus” or “sit”, with that behavior and they both in turn predict a chance for reinforcement.
This positively trained stimulus always predicts a reinforcement opportunity. If the behavior does not occur, for example, your dog does not sit when you cue a “sit” the only consequence is that no reinforcement occurs. If the “sit” occurs, then reinforcement is guaranteed.
As soon as your dog knows what “sit” means in a positive reinforcement training environment, they quickly pair the cue “sit” with reinforcement so that cue becomes a conditioned reinforcer on its own. How cool is that?
So why does correction have no place with positive training? Because, the same pairing with stimulus/cue occurs with correction. You’ve cued the “sit” then you’ve popped the collar or pushed a rear end or issued a verbal correction. Those two become paired; “sit” anticipates a correction. In the positive scenario, “sit” has been paired with a reinforcer. In the correction-based scenario, “sit” has been paired with a correction. Which is it?
So, you’ve cued the sit and provided positive reinforcement for your dog’s response to the cue. Next, the sit is not quite what you want, so you give a correction to your dog. You’ve now poisoned the cue. Your dog is not sure if “sit” indicates something good or something bad will happen. In our dog’s mind, which is it today? Good or bad?
This ambiguity can be a very slippery slope for us and our dogs. Positive reinforcement and correction don’t mix.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *