how we train:
the four quadrants
used at traction
Traction Dog Training Club utilizes all four quadrants of Operant Conditioning Theory.
Positive reinforcement is when your dog receives a reward that encourages them to repeat a behavior we like.
For example, your dog may be given a treat for coming when called.
Negative reinforcement is when something your dog dislikes is removed as a means of rewarding them and encouraging them to repeat a behavior we like.
For example, your dog is rewarded by the release of leash pressure when they stop pulling.
Positive punishment is when something your dog dislikes happens to discourage them from repeating an unwated behavior.
For example, your dog may bite the leash and taste the bitter paste you applied to it.
Negative punishment is when something your dog likes is taken away to discourage them from repeating an unwated behavior.
For example, you may put away the toy you were using when your dog jumps on you.
Why don't we use positive reinforcement (+R) only?
Using positive reinforcement only (+R) inevitably restricts our ability to communicate with our dogs; it allows us to give feedback on what we do want, but does not allow any feedback on what we don't want or what is dangerous.
For many dogs, using +R is more stressful than utilizing all four quadrants because it becomes much harder for the dog to figure out what we want from them and how to earn rewards (treats, toys, praise, or otherwise). For anxious or aggressive dogs, it takes longer for them to learn that they can relax and follow our lead.
While +R is a very slow and inefficient process, using all four quadrants of Operant Conditioning Theory allows us to modify behaviors extremely quickly, effectively, and safely. Many of the dogs we train simply do not have months or years to stop acting aggressively, anxiously, or dangerously. If your dog acts aggressively towards dogs, people, bikes or otherwise, you are at risk of jail or prison time and your dog is at risk of being euthanized if they injure others.
Often, restricting yourself to +R fails to gain reliable control over "high drive" or "low drive" dogs. For example, if your dog has a strong prey drive and values chasing rabbits over getting treats or toys, it is extremely difficult to teach your dog to focus around rabbits using treats and toys only. On the other end of the spectrum, some dogs do not value treats or toys.
Finally, we believe in following natural forms of communication between dogs. Even mother dogs nip their puppies to teach them healthy and safe boundaries.