What Is Positive Reinforcement?

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Positive reinforcement is the addition of a pleasant consequence that increases behavior.

Behaviors that are positively reinforced will increase (or maintain at its current level) over time, meaning an animal will attempt the same behavior again if it worked for him to earn something desirable. The reward is a consequence for the behavior, and a reason to perform the behavior again.

Rewards can consist of anything your dog or cat wants, including food, treats, toys, an opportunity to sniff something or greet a person/animal, or a walk outside the home.

Sometimes we intend to positively reinforce a behavior, but the reward we give at that specific time is not desired by our pet, so it doesn’t act as true reinforcement, and the behavior isn’t offered at an increased rate.

Therefore, it’s important to understand it’s the learner, the pet, who gets to decide whether a reward is reinforcing to him.

And just like with people, our pets can like certain foods sometimes and not as much other times. They have their individual preferences, they can feel like playing more than eating, or vice versa at any given time, so we can incorporate this knowledge into how we train our pets.