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WHAT IS IT EXACTLY?

Operant conditioning has four quadrants that each either reinforce or punish behavior. By definition, reinforcement causes a behavior to increase or maintain in frequency while punishment causes a behavior to decrease in frequency. However, how reinforcement or punishment are applied greatly affects whether we are actually reinforcing or punishing behavior. The plus (+) and negative (-) when looking at operant conditioning does not refer to “good” or “bad”, but rather to adding or removing something.

Positive Reinforcement (+R) – adding something the animal wants to increase or maintain a behavior. Positive Punishment (+P) – adding something the animal wants to avoid to cause a behavior to stop occurring
Negative Reinforcement (-R) – removing something the animal wants to avoid in order to increase or maintain a behavior. Negative Punishment (-P) – removing something the animal wants to cause a behavior to stop occurring.

Examples of operant conditioning quadrants:

  • Positive reinforcement (+r) – Dog sits and then is immediately given a treat. If the dog wanted the treat the behavior of sitting will maintain or increase.
  • Negative punishment (-p) – Dog jumps on a person and then the person immediately leaves the room. If the dog wanted the person’s attention the behavior of jumping will decrease.
  • Negative reinforcement (-r) – Owner pulls up on the dog’s collar, dog sits down, owner releases collar pressure. If the dog found the collar pressure aversive and sits the behavior of sitting will maintain or increase.
  • Positive punishment (+p) – Dog jumps on person and then is immediately kneed in the chest. If the dog found the knee to the chest aversive the behavior of jumping on the person will decrease.

Vicki

Vicki Ronchette is the founder of Show Dog Prep School and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer. Vicki has been working with dogs professionally for over 30 years as a professional dog trainer and behavior consultant, groomer and veterinary assistant. She is the author of Positive Training for Show Dogs, From Shy to Showy and Ready? Set. SHOW! Vicki presents workshops and seminars all over the country on how training show dogs.