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The give and take of raising your pupper

Consequences drive behaviour

A simple statement with a complex meaning.

The cut and thrust is simple enough, is the juice worth the squeeze? Its a yes or no answer, no shades of grey.

Let us look a little deeper into the statement though...


A consequence is the predictable outcome of a behaviour.

A consequence can be appetitive (desirable) or aversive (intolerable).


A behaviour is an action executed by the student.

The statement now means that our student pupper now understands whats at stake and how to get it.

We say "Come" and our dogs predict that running to you will result in food from you, so they run to you with the idea that they receive their pay.


Now, consequences can applied by presentation (positive) or removal (negative). Consequences can be reinforcing (more intense and/or more frequent) or punishing (less intense and/or less frequent).

Let us look at the combinations that are possible and how we can affect daily life and training with these four combinations (we call them quadrants).

Positive Reinforcement

Adding something, such as food, to ensure that the behaviour becomes more intense and/or frequent.

Negative Reinforcement Removing something, such as lead pressure, to ensure that the behaviour becomes more intense and/or frequent.

Positive Punishment

Adding something, like a towel, to ensure the behaviour becomes less intense and/or less frequent.

Negative Punishment

Removing something, like access to a toy, to ensure that the behaviour becomes less intense and/or less frequent.

Positive Reinforcement can be used to teach exactly what to do.

Negative Reinforcement can be used to teach an attitude in how to do something. If my dog is pulling me, and I go with them to reach the other dog...I build a greater anticipation of the meeting, ergo more excitement. This is common with front clip harness, bungee leads, changing lead length.

Positive Punishment will stop a dog from doing anything. They will stop offering behaviour, in case they get it wrong again. Instead, a pupper will wait whilst they determine what caused the applied punisher to occur.

Negative Punishment will stop that behaviour by removal of access to the problem. If my dog brings me a tennis ball and barks at me, I can remove that ball. If my dog jumps up at a guest, I can take the pupper into the backyard.

Positive Punishment and Negative Reinforcement can overlap. A tentatively applied punisher can result in being reinforcing. On the flip side too much difficulty can be punishing. We must find the balance that tips the scales in the direction we require.

Punishment and indeed Negative Reinforcement receives a great deal of bad press on the interwebz. However, all good trainers understand the importance of good use of Negative Reinforcement, it enables motivation into a specific behaviour; this results in a strong commitment into what we want. Those same trainers understand that Punishment is a natural and important facet of life; this builds a strong commitment away from what we want.

Next time your out and about, look out for those reactive dogs. Those dogs who flip out when they see another dog. Then think of these quadrants and how they influence behaviour. A dog that is barking and lunging at another is trying to make sure the other dog makes space. This is then negative reinforcement. I bark and lunge, you remove yourself from my presence. A puppy that bites too hard is met with a cold shoulder, the playmate gets up and walks away. This is negative punishment. A puppy barges their way onto your lap and you shout and shove them off you and they come back. This is positive reinforcement. A puppy jumps on a cat and the cat swipes at them stopping the puppy in their tracks, this is positive punishment.

Learning to use these 4 tools allows you to be extremely subtle and surgical in your approach in raising your puppy and training your dog. Far more subtle than another animal can be. Because we can predict what our pupper likes and does not and we understand how to leverage a teachable moment in daily life and a training session.

Consequences drive behaviour


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