Thursday, March 26, 2009

Rules of for thought...

Mom ran across Steve White's 8 Rules of Punishment from last year's Clicker Expo...and has been pondering it lately. It's next week's discussion for puppy class too. Here is the list...more thoughts on this later.

Eight Rules for Using Punishment:

1. The punishment must be something the animal dislikes and something the animal does not expect.

2. The punishment must suppress behavior. (This is, in fact, the very definition of something that is a punisher.) If something is being used for punishment, but it does not suppress behavior, it’s ineffective and often just plain abuse.

3. The punishment must be of the perfect intensity. Too much and there will be negative fallout. You’ll end up hurting your relationship with the animal and loosing more than just that behavior. Too little and the punishment will only serve to desensitize the animal and build resistance.

4. The punishment must happen immediately after the behavior it is to be associated with. Otherwise, a clear enough association between the wrong behavior and the punishment will not be made.

5. The punishment must be associated with the behavior, but not with the trainer. Otherwise, the trainer becomes part of the punishment and the animal starts fearing and disliking the trainer.

6. The punishment must happen every time the behavior occurs. If punishment does not happen every time the behavior occurs, the behavior gets put on a variable schedule of reinforcement. Depending on the behavior and how often the punishment actually occurs, the animal could decide that performing the behavior was worth the risk of getting punished.

7. There must be an alternative for the animal.

8. Punishment must never be used to the extent that punishment outweighs positive reinforcement (from the animal’s perspective, not yours!)

If you can’t follow all 8 of these rules, you’re probably better off avoiding the use of punishment. Heck, even if you can follow all 8 rules, you’re probably better off avoiding the use of punishment, as punishment can result in so many unintended and undesirable side effects.

~SDS (Who is glad Mom tries to avoid punishment!)


Mary H. said...
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Mary H. said...


I love Steve White! I think he has some really good ideas about training. Although I try and avoid punishment, I like his rules because I think they're exactly the things we need to consider when considering whether or not to use punishment.

I heard Steve White speak around the beginning of March. I enjoyed it so much that I wrote a couple of blog posts about him. You might find them interesting.


Mary H.

Erin said...

These are some very good rules(and ones I follow), thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Love these rules!