Quadrants: the cornerstone to training

My time with the Academy for Dog Trainers may be have only been a short while thus far, but man have I learned so much already! Including that I didn’t know as much as I thought I did and that my brain is quite good at thinking in quadrants; something I never even thought possible! The syllabus is taught by breaking down everything into easy to assimilate bite sized chunks, therefore learning is easier and highly effective. Awesome stuff and Jean is a fantastic critical thinker and mentor, nothing is too much trouble for her.

So, what do I mean by quadrants? They are the cornerstone to training it would seem, something I already did know on a certain level but the training the Academy gives you makes you see everything in quadrants! Honestly, I am taking examples from everything including my own behaviour in everyday life. It all made my head explode at first as I’m so used to feeling bad about using the words punishment and negative when applied to behaviour but in order to use Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) you have to think in quadrants! They are how you decide if a behaviour has increased or decreased and how.

Reinforcement & Punishment. Negative and Positive.

R+  R-

P+  P-

Positive and Negative Reinforcement increase a behaviour. Positive and negative Punishment decrease a behaviour. Simples.

Over the last few years there has been an enormous movement in attitude toward the positive reinforcement part of the quadrant with trainers saying they only teach positive reinforcement methods. I included myself naively in that. The dread evoked from using the words negative and punishment smacked of old school Alpha methods and aversive (force) training. It’s simply not like that though. If you withhold a treat from a pet because he didn’t sit for you on cue that’s not positive, that is negative. It’s not wrong, it’s part of the quadrant and that is science based fact!

The way to deal with getting your head around using the words negative and punishment in training is to think of them as the mathematical symbols, plus and minus. Plus means add and minus means take away, right? So if you increase a behaviour it’s on the plus side of the quadrant and if you decrease a behaviour it’s on the minus side of the quadrant!

If you decrease a behaviour it’s been punished, if you increase a behaviour it’s been reinforced.

So now to help me decide if a behaviour has increased or decreased I use the quadrants, ask some questions about the behaviour and it’s consequence (the outcome of the behaviour). Thank you Jean Donaldson, the Academy is truly, the Harvard of dog training!

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  1. #1 by kay on April 9, 2012 - 2:10 am

    I am so happy to run into your blog. I have been researching whether to apply for “The Academy” or apply for Karen Pryor’s program. I feel more drawn towards Donaldson’s approach when I read her books and how she presents subjects. So are you enjoying the classwork? What drew you towards this program versus other ones if you don’t mind me asking? Thanks Kay

    • #2 by Katie Scott-Dyer on April 9, 2012 - 10:14 am

      Thanks Kay. The main reason for chosing The Academy is the syllabus, it is comprehensive and taught in bite sized chunks making it easier to assimilate-I have Aspergers so my brain works differently, having a non complicated approach to learning benefits me greatly. Jean is also a great mentor and a critical thinker plus the syllabus teaches you how to teach & run your business; perfect! I’ll also be applying to study with Roger Abrantes as soon as I either find a sponsor or can afford it! Good luck with your studies Kay 🙂

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