As a positive trainer, one of the most common misconceptions I hear from pet owner is the idea that reinforcement and bribing are the same thing. In reality, they are very different concepts.
Reinforcement is a term used to describe any behavior that is rewarded in order to increase the likelihood of that behavior happening again. This could be a treat, a toy, or even verbal paise. The key here is that the reward is given after the behavior has already occurred. Bribery, on the other hand, is a term used to describe the act of offering a reward to get a dog to do something that he or she might not do otherwise. The reward is offered before the behavior occurs.
While reinforcement and bribery might seem similar at first glance, they are actually quite different in their effects on a dog’s behavior. Reinforcement is used to encourage and strengthen behaviors that a dog is already doing, while bribery is used to get a dog to do something he or she might not want to do.
The difference between the two becomes even more apparent when we look at the long- term effects on a dog’s behavior. Reinforcement tends to lead to lasting changes in behavior, as the dog learns that certain actions lead to rewards. Bribery, on the other hand, can lead to dependency on the reward and a lack of willingness to perform the behavior without the promise of a reward.
In addition, reinforcement is a positive and effective way to train your dog. By rewarding the dog for good behavior, you are demonstrating that you like the response. Well timed reinforcement also encourages the dog to keep performing good behaviors. Bribery, however, can damage the trust and relationship between you and your dog- especially when your dog only listens when you have a reward.
So how can you tell the difference between reinforcement and bribery? The key is in the timing of the reward. If you are offering a reward before the behavior has occurred, then it is likely bribery. If you are rewarding your dog after the behavior has occurred, then it is reinforcement.
As a positive dog trainer, I encourage you to use reinforcement as your primary training tool. By rewarding your dog for his or her good behavior, you ae not only encouraging the dog to continue that behavior but you are also building a good relationship. Remember training should always be a positive and fun experience for both you and your dog.
-The Dog Training and Learning Center