Don't Shoot the Dog!: The New Art of Teaching and Training / Edition 3

4.2 24 5 1
by Karen Pryor
ISBN-10:
1860542387
ISBN-13:
9781860542381
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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781860542381
Publisher: Pryor, Karen
Publication date: 01/28/2002
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 202
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.70(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Karen Pryor is a pioneer in the development of force-free training methods, and one of the leading proponents of operant conditioning. Karen continues to have an enormous influence in the animal training field, and is much admired for her influential body of work and generous spirit. She is based in Massachusetts.

Read an Excerpt

What Is a Positive Reinforcer?


A reinforcer is anything that, occurring in conjunction with an act, tends to increase the probability that the act will occur again.

Memorize that statement. It is the secret of good training.

There are two kinds of reinforcers: positive and negative. A positive reinforcer is something the subject wants, such as food, petting, or praise. A negative reinforcer is something the subject wants to avoid—a blow, a frown, an unpleasant sound. (The warning buzzer in a car if you don't fasten your seat belt is a negative reinforcer.)

Behavior that is already occurring, no matter how sporadically, can always be intensified with positive reinforcement. If you call a puppy, and it comes, and you pet it, the pup's coming when called will become more and more reliable even without any other training. Suppose you want someone to telephone you—your offspring, your parent, your lover. If he or she doesn't call, there isn't much you can do about it. A major point in training with reinforcement is that you can't reinforce behavior that is not occurring. If, on the other hand, you are always delighted when your loved ones do call, so that the behavior is positively reinforced, the likelihood is that the incidence of their calling will probably increase. (Of course, if you apply negative reinforcement—"Why haven't you called, why do I have to call you, you never call me," and so on, remarks likely to annoy—you are setting up a situation in which the caller avoids such annoyance by not calling you; in fact, you are training them not to call.)

Simply offering positive reinforcement for a behavior is the most rudimentary part of reinforcement training. In the scientific literature, you can find psychologists saying, "Behavioral methods were used," or, "The problem was solved by a behavioral approach." All this means, usually, is that they switched to positive reinforcement from whatever other method they were using. It doesn't imply that they used the whole bag of tricks described in this book; they may not even be aware of them.

Yet switching to positive reinforcement is often all that is necessary. It is by far the most effective way to help the bed-wetter, for example: private praise and a hug for dry sheets in the morning, when they do occur.

Positive reinforcement can even work on yourself. At a Shakespeare study group I once belonged to I met a Wall Street lawyer in his late forties who was an avid squash player. The man had overheard me chatting about training, and on his way out the door afterward he remarked that he thought he would try positive reinforcement on his squash game. Instead of cursing his errors, as was his habit, he would try praising his good shots.

Two weeks later I ran into him again. "How's the squash game?" I asked. A look of wonder and joy crossed his face, an expression not frequently seen on Wall Street lawyers.

"At first I felt like a damned fool," he told me, "saying 'Way to go, Pete, attaboy,' for every good shot. Hell, when I was practicing alone, I even patted myself on the back. And then my game started to get better. I'm four rungs higher on the club ladder than I've ever been. I'm whipping people I could hardly take a point from before. And I'm having more fun. Since I'm not yelling at myself all the time, I don't finish a game feeling angry and disappointed. If I made a bad shot, never mind, good ones will come along. And I find I really enjoy it when the other guy makes a mistake, gets mad, throws his racquet—I know it won't help his game, and I just smile...."

What a fiendish opponent. And just from switching to positive reinforcement.

Reinforcers are relative, not absolute. Rain is a positive reinforcer to ducks, a negative reinforcer to cats, and a matter of indifference, at least in mild weather, to cows. Food is not a positive reinforcer if you're full. Smiles and praise may be useless as reinforcers if the subject is trying to get you mad. In order to be reinforcing, the item chosen must be something the subject wants.

It is useful to have a variety of reinforcers for any training situation. At the Sea World oceanariums, killer whales are given many reinforcers, including fish (their food), stroking and scratching on different parts of the body, social attention, toys, and so on. Whole shows are run in which the animals never know which behavior will be reinforced next or what the reinforcer will be; the "surprises" are so interesting for the animals that the shows can be run almost entirely without the standard fish reinforcers; the animals get their food at the end of the day. The necessity of switching constantly from one reinforcer to another is challenging and interesting for the trainers, too.

Positive reinforcement is good for human relationships. It is the basis of the art of giving presents: guessing at something that will be definitely reinforcing (guessing right is reinforcing for the giver, too). In our culture, present giving is often left to women. I even know of one family in which the mother buys all the Christmas presents to and from everyone. It causes amusement on Christmas morning, brothers and sisters saying, "Let's see, this is from Anne to Billy," when everyone knows Anne had nothing to do with it. But it does not sharpen the children's skills at selecting ways to reinforce other people.

In our culture a man who has become observant about positive reinforcement has a great advantage over other men. As a mother, I made sure that my sons learned how to give presents. Once, for example, when they were quite young, seven and five, I took them to a rather fancy store and had them select two dresses, one each, for their even younger sister. They enjoyed lolling about in the plush chairs, approving or disapproving of each dress as she modeled it. Their little sister enjoyed it too; and she had the ultimate veto power. And so, thanks to this and similar exercises, they all learned how to take a real interest in what other people want; how to enjoy finding effective positive reinforcers for the people you love.

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Don't Shoot the Dog! 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 24 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
i thought this book was GRATE. i think if u want to train your dog i think u should use this book. my dog was bad behaved and the i followed the instructions in this book and now my dog is a good behaved dog!!!!!!!!!i like to read books about dogs. i am only 11 but i have my own dog!!! i have to feed it and water it AND EVEN buy the food... my dog is a BORDER COLLIE her name is PRINCESS she is a VERY GOOD dog
Guest More than 1 year ago
Introduced to this book in a college psych course, I have kept it ever since because of its practicality. In very clear and easy to understand terms and language, Karen Pryor allows the reader to grasp and put into practice behavior modification for anyone... from dogs to humans. You don't really have to be a lover of psychology to appreciate and use this book, in my own opinion -- I've recommended this book to many people, regardless of their background. :)
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is excellent whether you want to train a puppy, horse, dolphin, or any critter! It's very easy to read, and offers lots of examples rather than cut-and-dry psychology. I would recomment this book to anyone wanting to train, or wanting to know more about psychology. Or if you just want to know 'how do they get the dolphins to jump through the hoops?' This is the how-to book.
tabscat on LibraryThing 24 days ago
Many books show you methods of training and "how to" train an animal to do something. This book explains why those methods work, common pitfalls when training animals, and real world examples of training. Pryor created an invaluable resource for training animals from theory to practice in all animals.
Jaydot on LibraryThing 24 days ago
If you want to change someone's behaviour (be it a person or an animal) this is the "read this if you never read anything else" book!
dreneen on LibraryThing 5 months ago
The best introduction to behavior modification for lay people, bar none.
berylmoody on LibraryThing 5 months ago
I have read and reread this book. The concept is simple -- never reward bad behavior; the execution is more difficult. This book has a lot more to say about raising children and getting along with others than it does about dog training.
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I gave this book to my daughter who is an animal science professional... She thought the book was excellent and liked the broad application to life itself rather than just dogs.
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TXTrainer More than 1 year ago
I first read this book ten years ago and found the information transformational in dealing with classrooms of high school students. I bought a copy for the band director, too, believing it to be invaluable to anyone who is trying to manage individual and group learning. Today I am a retired teacher, but an active dog trainer. Pryor's book gave me a big headstart in successful use of positive reinforcement as a training tool. This stuff works in every area of your life.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Want to know the basic principles of training any type of animal this is the book for you!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
We got this book to accompany Ceaser's dog training book. Many small differences, but many of the same processes.