The Correlation Between Negative Reinforcement and Positive Punishment

forced retrieve There are four ‘quadrants’ to learning for any being capable of learning. Those quadrants are positive reinforcement, positive punishment, negative reinforcement and negative punishment. Positive means something is being added, negative means something is being taken away, reinforcement means the behavior will increase and punishment means the behavior will decrease. For this article we will be discussing negative reinforcement and the correlation it has with positive punishment.

The picture to the left is of a dog learning a ‘forced retrieve’. This is also known as an ‘ear pinch retrieve’. In this technique, the handler pinches the dog’s ear causing discomfort, once the dog takes the item the ear is released, the discomfort is removed and the dog learns to retrieve. This is a negative reinforcement training technique. Many field dogs and service dogs learn to retrieve in this fashion. Handlers also use toe pinches and basically choking techniques in order to gain the retrieve response. Here is a link to where this picture comes from that fully describes the ear pinch technique. Personally I am absolutely not a fan of this technique.

Because this is a negative reinforcement technique, you are doing something physical to the dog that causes discomfort. The dog can interpret this as a positive punishment, which always has the possibility of what is called ‘fallout’. Fallout can be in the form of fear, aggression or emotional shut down to name a few.

It is important to understand that the dog’s interpretation of the technique is the determining factor regarding what quadrant is being used. No matter what technique is being used, the handler must be able to read, understand and react to the dog’s response.


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