Wherein a Dog Trainer Demolishes Deregulation

(8 am. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

Humans are hardwired to punish, and punishment is very effective at stopping undesired behavior. Many people believe that you have to put punishment on dogs using coercion, fear or intimidation to train them. This is called Positive Punishment.

The only problem with positive punishment is that there are often unintended consequences that arise the the use of it, sometimes these unintended consequences create more problems than they solve.

Positive trainers – like those at some San Antonio dog training centres like A Dog’s Path – believe that reward and repetition and removal of good things (negative punishment) is better at creating, modifying and maintaining behavior than fear and intimidation.

This is sometimes a hard sell to clients. Some people will simply never be able to process and internalize the concepts of positive training, and that’s OK. We just send them to someone who employs fear and intimidation to train dogs. No big deal.

Ironically, the people most likely to be unable to accept positive training, from dog trainers in kansas city for example, are the very people who are likely to believe that positive reinforcement and voluntary regulation will work for controlling institutional, human behavior, and that punishing them for bad behavior is wrong.

I have no idea why this is the case, but my experience tells me it is.

First a quick and dirty explanation of the way things are. Then we’ll look at why deregulation is failing. At the bottom, some definitions.

Deregulation Theory

The best I can tell, the theory of Deregulation is that if you take away the rules that govern business, the business will simultaneously act to maximize profit and to ensure the health and wellbeing of themselves and their enterprise.

Competition and self interest is the thing that will ensure that these people and their businesses act appropriately.

Those that do it well will be rewarded with wealth and marketshare, those that do it poorly will go away.

I think that’s kind of it, in a nutshell.

At first glance it seems that we have a textbook case of positive reinforcement training going on here: reward and repetition reinforce the desired behavior.

Unfortunately that’s not the case.

Positive is not Permissive

Many people, when trying to employ positive training, are actually being permissive.

Permissive training is training without clear and proper consequence.

Giving a dog a cookie because he’s ‘soooo good’ is permissive.

Picking a dog up because you’re tired of him jumping on you is permissive.

Giving banks half a trillion dollars because when they fail is permissive.

Allowing executives to keep their bonuses when they run a company into the ground is permissive.

Giving corporations a pass simply because are corporations and employ people is permissive.

Positive training however has clear and proper consequence.

Walking away from a jumping dog is positive (+P).

Giving a dog a cookie when he sits is positive (+R).

Stopping tugging when your dog mistakenly bites your hand is positive (-P).

Confiscating an executive’s bonus for running a company into the ground would be positive (-P).

A $3B fine to Exxon for price gouging would be positive (+P).

Tax breaks for less pollution would be positive (+R).

Tax breaks for more employees would be positive (+R).

Jailing executives that willfully destroy the environment would be positive. (+P)

Tax breaks for providing workers a living wage would be positive (+P)

Notice that all of the illustrations of positive training are hypotheticals – “would be”.

That’s because our regulatory regime, or lack thereof, is permissive by nature.

The problem with deregulation is that it is permissive.

Many people believe, myself included, that permissive training is worse than no training at all.

How to Create a Sociopath

The problem with permissive training is that you often wind up teaching the subject exactly the wrong behaviors. The subject also learns that there are no consequences to their actions.

In short, you create a little sociopath that has no concept of right and wrong.

Now, creating a little sociopathic dog is one thing, not cool but not too horrible for fluffy to not know how to behave, but making Bank of America or Exxon into sociopaths, that’s just stupidity.

It doesn’t help that corporations are already sociopaths in that there are virtually no consequences for them, but removing any checks or balances that keep them honest, again, is just stupidity.

Contrary to popular belief, dogs and corporations don’t give one rat’s ass about pleasing you. It’s all about them; about doing what makes them happy.

For dogs, it might be chewing on stuff, or playing with you, eating cookies, chasing animals, laying around, etc. But for corporations it’s only one thing – more profit.

Thats it. That’s all they want. That’s all we have to motivate them with.

Motivation is Key

In positive dog training, you don’t get to choose the motivator. You use what your dog likes, and then you become the master of those resources. If your dog is experiencing anxiety, such as separation anxiety, the owners will need to find calming and relaxing ways in helping them deal with that so it doesn’t affect them badly.

Yes, I am blaspheming against the Market Gods here.

I’m suggesting that profits are not a given in business. Behavior has consequences. Do bad things lose profits, be it a rolled up newspaper in the form of fines or sanctions or lost profits in the form of a time out.

The days of allowing giant companies to do whatever they want with no consequences should be over. We can’t continue to give them cookies just because ‘they’re soooo good’.

It’s radical, I know, but after reading this, it should make sense, and we should all be able to agree that, permissive regulation, is something that must change.

Reinforcement and Punishment

Reinforcement is something that makes a behavior more likely to occur and punishment is something that makes a behavior less likely to occur.

I want to talk about punishment first because I’m pissed off and itching to start punishing the bad guys.


Positive Trainers use punishment, they just tend to use Negative Punishment (-P).

Negative punishment is taking something of value away to reduce the likelihood of the behavior happening again.

A timeout is negative punishment. No TV is negative punishment. Losing business is a negative punishment.

Deregulation of industry depends entirely on Negative Punishment to create the desired behavior of commercial institutions. If used properly, negative punishment is extremely effective.

Regulation, on the other hand tends to use Positive Punishment (+P) in the form of fines and other negative consequences to control commercial behavior.

Positive Punishment is a punishment that is put on the subject in order to reduce the likelihood of the behavior happening again.

Hitting a dog with a rolled up newspaper, spanking a child and levying fines against corporate interests are all forms of positive punishment.


Positive Reinforcement is the #1 tool of positive trainers, and is extremely effective in creating, controlling and maintaining behavior.

Positive Reinforcement is attaching a good consequence to a behavior in order to improve the likelihood of that behavior happening in the future.

Giving a dog a cookie for sitting. Buying a child an ice cream cone for being good at the store. Giving tax breaks for good business practices.

Negative Reinforcement

Negative Reinforcement (-R) is kind of hard to get your head around and is often mistaken for punishment. It is not punishment. Positive trainers do not use much negative reinforcement. It is, however, quite effective.

Negative Reinforcement is removing an aversive stimulus that has been applied to the subject once the correct behavior is performed.


Here are two examples of Negative Reinforcement:

1. A rat is placed in a cage and immediately receives a mild electrical shock on its feet. The shock is a negative condition for the rat. The rat presses a bar and the shock stops. The rat receives another shock, presses the bar again, and again the shock stops. The rat’s behavior of pressing the bar is strengthened by the consequence of the stopping of the shock.

2. Driving in heavy traffic is a negative condition for most of us. You leave home earlier than usual one morning, and don’t run into heavy traffic. You leave home earlier again the next morning and again you avoid heavy traffic. Your behavior of leaving home earlier is strengthened by the consequence of the avoidance of heavy traffic.


    • k9disc on February 11, 2009 at 19:40
  1. So, like, what we have to do is get the BDSM freaks who did stuff in Gitmo and Abu Ghraib and other black rendition sites and put them in charge of the SEC, right? Look the other way while federal employees who get their jollies doing this shit “blow off steam”? Like, maybe put a few in charge of the country, even? Don’t ask, don’t tell – or you can get “disappeared?”

    Oh wait. WE ALREADY DID THAT, and look where we are today!

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