Behavior Depends on Consequences

Every time you let your dog out of the house, it's the same scenario. He stays by your side for a few minutes, until you get busy working. The next thing you know he's down the street. When you yell at him to come home, he runs the other way. Finally, you track him down, give him a couple of swats, and throw him in the kennel. On your way back to the house, you notice your neighbor's dog. He rarely leaves the yard. When his dog strays, a quick whistle and he's back, greeted with praise. What a great dog, you think to yourself. How did I get such a worthless mutt? Your dog probably isn't worthless but your training methods may be. All animals behave as they do based on the consequences of their behavior. Every behavior has a consequence, and the likelihood of a behavior continuing depends on the consequences of that behavior. Consequences fall into one of two categories - reinforcement or punishment. Understanding how consequences influence behavior is the key to changing behavior. Reinforcement Consequences that increase the likelihood of a specific behavior reoccurring are called reinforcement. They can be either positive or negative. Creatures seek positive reinforcers. When a hungry animal searches for a nutritious food, or a thirsty animal walks to water, or a hot animal seeks shade, they do so because food, water, and shade are positive reinforcers - they are things the animal wants and needs. Conversely, animals avoid negative reinforcers. When a hungry animal sear

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