Canine Conundrums – Reward or bribe?

Reward or Bribe?


Reward or bribe? Canine treats

So often when I talk about positive reinforcement and reward based training, I get the age old comment, “Oh, bribery and corruption”. This is not how positive reinforcement works. What is the difference, you may ask.

It is all in the timing. A bribe is offered before the action. As in, “I’ll give you R500 if you let me off my speeding fine.” Or, “Fido, I’ll give you this yummy treat if you come inside.” Positive reinforcement comes without inducing, almost as a surprise: “Well done on an excellent exam result! I’ll take you to see ‘The BFG’ for working hard and achieving a high mark”

In training, the dog is not offered the treat as in “If you sit, I’ll give you this.” Rather the dog, or other trainee, is marked when they do what we want and they receive a treat. Can you see the difference?

The ‘mark’ tells the trainee what they have done to deserve such a wonderful reinforcer and the reinforcer ensures that the behaviour will recur.

In her book, ‘Don’t Shoot the Dog’, Karen Pryor says, “Reinforcement is not a system of reward and punishment…” These carry emotional associations such as dread, guilt and should and ought to’s which are negative associations, linked to negative emotions. Negative emotions inhibit learning and can cause an array of physiological issues.

We, so often expect the right thing to be done without reward or training and our punishment is too often retribution for an act we believe should not have been carried out. This is not a good way to teach.

To sum up, positive reinforcement is made up of a desired action or behaviour, a marker which occurs simultaneously with the desirable behaviour and a reinforcer which comes immediately after the behaviour.

Jayne Trains
Personal dog training by one who cares
Cell: 083 2774 358
Jayne Goetsch DipCABT