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The FOUR QUADRANTS of Dog Training Explained (with Examples)

The famous four quadrants of dog training, (also known as the four quadrants of operant conditioning and the four quadrants of consequences) include the terms positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, positive punishment, and negative punishment.

The famous four quadrants of dog training, (also known as the four quadrants of operant conditioning and the four quadrants of consequences) include the terms positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, positive punishment, and negative punishment. Today I break those terms down in an easy to understand manner. Whether you are a dog owner just trying to keep up with the jargon your trainer uses or you are interested in becoming a dog trainer or becoming a behavior consultant yourself, it’s helpful to understand these terms and how they apply to behavior modification.

To break this down, let’s start with the terms negative and positive. Don’t think of these in psychological terms as in something that is good or bad, rather mathematical terms as in removing something or adding something.

For example, if I add a cookie that’s positive. If I take a cookie away, that’s negative. Just like addition and subtraction.

Now onto reinforcement and punishment.

“Positive Punishment” Video I Reference: https://youtu.be/KaLUEoCq0Zo

Punishment is what is considered aversive. Aversive means uncomfortable/unpleasant for the dog. Punishment is meant to stop a behavior. Reinforcement means something encourages the dog. Reinforcement is meant to result in a behavior being repeated.

The tricky part in all of this is to remember that all dogs are individuals and what may be rewarding to one dog, may be aversive to another and what may be aversive to one dog, may have no effect on another whatsoever. What we relate as a “good thing” for our dog, the dog may not relate as a good thing. Dogs that shy away from petting are a good example. Humans tend to think that petting is always a sign of affection, however, for a dog that is uneasy about physical affection, it can be counterproductive to your behavior goals.

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