Operant Conditioning and Pet Training

The species of the animals, their history, and their upbringing plays a vital role in personality development of the pet. The characteristic of a specific species cannot be generalized, although some habits can be common.

It is therefore recommended that the characteristic of the individual animal should be studied before designing the training plan for it. But some basic principles can be applied along with the designed training plan. The training plan can be equipped with training equipments, reference training book, etc.

Operant condition is the most important and basic thing to concentrate upon during training. Operant condition explains the effect of the training technique on the behavior of the animal. For example, the pet will understand that if he uses the litter box properly it will get a treat. And he can avoid a punishment by not jumping on a sleeping person in the middle of the night. A human learns that if he works hard, he will be able to get good grades and if he touches the flame of a burning candle he will burn himself. All these are example of the outcome of operant conditioning.

The categories of operant conditioning are reinforcement and punishment. Reinforcement is the repeated force of behavior out of the animal using something. They are repetitive behavior, which can be positive or negative. Punishment is the consequence of a bad behavior, which shouldn抰 be repeated again. Punishments can be either negative or positive, but they help to decrease the repetition of the behavior. They can be further divided as positive reinforcement, positive punishment, negative reinforcement and negative punishment.

Good behaviors are behaviors, which should be repeated again and again. And the result of the good behavior should also be good, which is known as a reward. For example, if the dog does an expected action upon hearing the command, it knows that it will get a treat as a reward in return. If the animal doesn抰 pounce on the human and instead pounces on the toy, it should be rewarded with a pat or a hug. All these are known as positive enforcements.

Negative enforcements are repeated behaviors, which will stop something bad or which will help in getting rid of something. This term should not be confused with punishment. For example, if a dog is trained to bark upon sighting a stranger in the house, it will make the intruder run away, this is negative enforcement. The subject does something so as to stop the occurrence of something unpleasant.

Positive punishment is given when the animal does something bad very rarely which results in something undesirable. Since the animal is punished, the animal will learn from it and there will be lesser chance of repetition. For example, if the puppy is sprayed with water when it pounces on the human, this is positive punishment. The puppy will foresee the punishment before pouncing again.

When the animal does something and something good is snatched away from it, this is known as negative punishment. For example if the dog tries to snatch the food right out of the hand of the owner, it will not get any food.

These basic principles depict the learning traits of the animals. Based on these training techniques are developed. The owners can develop unique training programs for each of their pets, individually.


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