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The Application of Reinforcement!

To understand this concept better, you need to know when is Learning done?


All behaviours are modifiable by its consequences. In fact, whether you like it or not, all behaviours are constantly changing, as behaviours are dynamic and not static. Should you leave behaviour without reinforcement, it will be changed by its consequences. Learning is done when A + B + C is present.

In the Quadrant of Reinforcement, we have the Category of Reinforcement, which is the increase of the likelihood of the repeated behaviours, which contain both the Positive and Negative Reinforcement. While the Category of Punishment, the decrease of the likelihood of the repeated behaviours, which contain Positive and Negative Punishment. In the Training Paradigm, which is a Model of Training, we can refer to the attached diagram below.


In the Laboratory, the + and – equal to Add or Subtract. It is a mathematical formula. To add is to put in something, while to subtract is to take way something. In this Paradigm, we are talking about adding or subtracting something into the operant environment. To help you to understand, let’s take a look at the Animal Kingdom. The Animal Kingdom operates in the Punishment Quadrant, and when punishment is being applied, aggression is usually the end product. In the Animal Kingdom, except for our dogs, no animals will not like nor appreciate your touch. I.E. A Raccoon sticks his nose into the rear of a Porcupine; A Fox got caught by a hunter’s trap or A dog honked by Motor Vehicles. All these are punishment consequences, these animals will learn to avoid it. Or when they feel they at risk, they will turn aggressive and attract.

Our dog will learn, given the Antecedent (Signs or Cues), if certain behaviours are exhibited, the consequence will be such. The Consequences will determine whether such behaviours will be replicated. I.E. A stray dog learns the GREENMAN at the Traffic, if he proceeds with the move, he will get through the traffic junction at ease, such positive consequence will tell the dog to repeat such behaviour when you see the GREENMAN. Likewise, if the stray crosses the traffic junction when the REDMAN is ON, the consequence can be very negative sometimes fatal. The dog will learn in such sign or cue of a REDMAN, it’s a NO GO if you proceed with the crossing, the consequence is Negative and Painful, such cues will tell the dog not to do it again.

Let me try to explain what is the 4 quadrant about and how it will apply to our day-to-day lives and how we can work on the quadrant and get the WIN-WIN situation for both the dog and the owner.

Even though, I would not recommend you to utilize the entire quadrant, however, learning how each quadrant works will help you to manage and train your dog.

Positive Reinforcement

As the positive indicate an add something to the environment, the consequence will be fun, excited and rewarding. I.E. When we teach our dog to a Sit Position, we will show a physical hand signal and when your dog goes into Sit Position, I will reward your dog. In this case, we add a reward as positive, fun consequences every time when your dog sit when asks to.

Negative Reinforcement

As the negative indicates a subtract of something into the environment. I.E. When you train your dog for Retrieve using Ear-pinch method, you are using negative punishment. When you present the dumbbell to your dog, if he doesn’t open his mouth to retrieve, you will apply the ear-pinching as discomfort to the dog. If he chooses to retrieve the dumbbell, you will release the ear-pinch pressure, it will be removing discomfort and pain as punishment. Now if you present the dumbbell if your dog retrieves in order to take away punishment from the training environment.l

Positive Punishment

As the positive indicate an add, to put in or throw in the punishment into the environment or equation. I.E. During the Grey Hounds race, in order to ensure the greyhound don’t sit to ensure a good start, the trainer apply electrical shock on the cage when the greyhounds attempt to Sit. Such negative consequence, it will discourage the greyhound from sitting before the race.

Negative Punishment

As the negative indicates is subtract we are removing punishment from the environment or equation. I.E. Let's assume we are training our dog against barking at the door. Once your dog barks, you shake a Can of coins, this is positive punishment, and when your dog stop barking, you stop shaking the Can, this is negative punishment as you stop the weird sound when he stops barking. Usually, you will work with another quadrant together to get the desired behaviours.

However, what do you think you are changing when you use the quadrant of reinforcement? You are actually changing only these three, 3 elements. Namely Frequency, Intensity and Duration. Frequency as how frequent you want this behaviour to be repeated? Intensity is how fast, slow, relax or with the drive when performing this behaviour. Lastly is the Duration, how long the period you want this behaviour to maintain before the reward?

If you do nothing but good and constant in your reinforcement, you will have a very good dog, however only the top 5% trainers will know how to utilise these 3 elements to get a WIN-WIN for both the dog and the trainer.

Have fun & stay positive!

Dexter Sim, PUPS Dog Training School

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