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Uploaded:2015-02-06
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Jessi explains the next level of understanding how to train an animal. You can increase and decrease behaviors by applying different responses to a behavior: Positive Reinforcement, Negative Reinforcement, Positive Punishment, and Negative Punishment.


Link to Training #1: Law of Effect: http://youtu.be/AhEnUuDOxW8?list=UU1Nj4gkoi_n5eCcrKCVOXKA
Link to How To Clip A Dog's Nails: http://youtu.be/wfLaSgQnjDs?list=UU1Nj4gkoi_n5eCcrKCVOXKA
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(Animal Wonders Intro Plays)

Jessi: Hi guys, I'm Jessi. This is Animal Wonders. We're working on a series of videos on animal behavior and how you can learn how to train. If you missed the first in the series, you can find that here or the link is below, you can find it there too. Basically, Edward Thorndike's research was a precursor to many more discoveries about animal behavior.

In this episode, I would like to focus on operant conditioning, studied and named by B.F. Skinner. Because it's what many behaviorists still use today and is one of my all time favorite things ever. The concept of operant conditioning, like the Law of Effect, works in the premise that animals increase and decrease certain behaviors when they are followed by certain responses from stimuli around them.

There are four types of responses that can influence behavior. Two of them are reinforcing, and they will likely increase the chance of increasing that behavior occurring again. Two of them are punishing, and they are likely to decrease the chance of that behavior occurring again. These are paired with two that are positive and two that are negative. So reinforcement means that you have a good feeling after doing a behavior and the 2 types are positive reinforcement and negative reinforcement. Punishment means that you have bad feelings associated with a behavior and the types of punishment are positive punishment and negative punishment. 

This is the hardest part to get, because these words have double meanings in the English language. So listen carefully to the definitions used here. 

When you're talking about behavior, positive means giving something and negative means taking something away. So positive is giving and negative is taking. So let's break it down. An example of positive reinforcement is giving praise or giving treats like you petting your dog. Negative reinforcement is taking a discomfort away. An example of that is releasing the pressure a bit when the horse turns in the desired direction. Reinforcements increase the chance of a behavior happening again, so if we apply both positive reinforcement and negative reinforcement, we're going to double the chance that that behavior is going to happen again. 

So let's move onto punishment. Remember, when we're talking about operant conditioning, punishment means feels bad. Reinforcement feels good. Positive and negative do not mean good and bad. Positive and negative means giving and taking. Positive punishment is giving a bad consequence. For example, yelling at or hitting an animal. Negative punishment is taking away something that feels good so they end up feeling bad. An example of this is taking away a beloved toy or occupying or taking away an animal's space. 

I primarily use positive reinforcement when training. I observed behaviors made by animals so that I can give them good feelings for behaviors that I want to increase. You can use the tools of operant conditioning on species, but remember to look for species-specific behaviors and responses, not human ones. And especially watch for what that animal is going to find reinforcing. 

It can vary from giving a porcupine a banana, to giving a bird a seed or a nut, to giving a canine praise and attention. Notice that all of these examples are giving the animal something that feels good. I also use negative reinforcement when the situation calls for it, remember negative is taking away and reinforcement means ultimately that animal feels good. So an example of this is, while I'm working with an animal, training them to be more comfortable around an audience, if they're nervous at first, I'll take them further away from the audience until they feel comfortable again, hence they get a good feeling. 

I love animal behavior and using operant conditioning as a way to communicate with captive animals is a great way to train. It can even help make routine healthcare stress-free and even enjoyable sometimes, as shown in this video on "How to trim a dog's nails."

It can create a healthy activity for an animal to participate in, if we're talking about a pet, it can make living in harmony together a reality. I told you I primarily use reinforcement to train the animals, but since I talked about it, I would like to make a quick mention about using punishment to train. Punishment is the most difficult way of reaching your goal of creating a desired behavior. The problem with it is you're telling the animal what you don't want them to do instead of what you do want them to do. It can be very confusing for the animal, sometimes frustrating, even frightening. 

When used alone, positive punishment, giving something bad, can cause severe behavioral maladaptations. We'll talk more about using all 4 types of training in future episodes. If you ever get the chance to just observe an animal, humans included, you'll be able to see how the Law of Effect and operant conditioning play a part in every aspect of their behavior.

If you enjoyed learning about behavior in this episode and want to continue learning awesome things about animals, go on an adventure with us every week. Subscribe to our Youtube channel, Animal Wonders Montana and if you have any questions or comments or just want to say "hi" throughout the week, you can find me on Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook. Thanks guys. 

(Animal Wonders Outro Plays)

I get asked all the time, "how do I get my animal to *gestures*" Operant conditioning. It's like the matrix, I see it everywhere.