The Carrot and the Stick: Why Order Matters (and why ‘balance’ is a fallacy)

In the last three posts, I’ve been looking at some trainer stuff about how animals learn, and trying hard not to be too ‘techie’ when explaining the fallout of punishments, why positive training isn’t the easy option and why your training method might not be working. Today, it’s about the fallacy of ‘balance’ and why it’s so important not to mix and match your carrots and your sticks when training your dog. Whether that’s clipping their nails, training a sit, getting them to be okay in the car or even training for the ring … what follows is perhaps THE most important stuff you need to understand about why mixing and matching is going to fail.

In fact, it’s what you need to understand about all your training methods, even if all you do is try to stop your dog getting on the couch.

Trainers talk lots about punishers and reinforcers. We’ve got a bazillion words that all mean slightly different things… it’s so ridiculously technical that it makes little sense to the average pet owner.

Reinforcers can be primary reinforcers, secondary reinforcers, conditioned reinforcers, unconditioned reinforcers… sometimes we call them ‘rewards’, but that’s not always right, and we hear ‘click and treat’ a lot of which is also not really accurate… none of this helped by the fact that the original words for these things are often in Russian and nobody knows quite how to translate them accurately into English. This is not helped by the fact that they are not all good, but they still make you increase a behaviour. For instance, stopping the kettle whistling is not necessarily a good thing, but it increases your behaviour in taking it off the stove. When you start talking negative and positive reinforcement, it’s no wonder people’s eyes glaze over. Add a bit of maths in there with your S-deltas and your US and your CS and what you have is a minefield of psychology that makes great sense when you understand it and really makes animal training much easier, but is just geek stuff to the average owner.

Punishers or aversives also have a gazillion names, and not helped by the fact that they’re not all bad.

It gets more complicated by the fact there are positive reinforcers and negative reinforcers and positive punishers and negative punishers, and some trainers don’t like the word ‘punisher’, but ‘force’ isn’t quite right, and ‘aversive’ isn’t always exact, or ‘coercive’ is also not kind of right. The technical side of animal training is where science and semantics meet and have hideous, hideous octopus-like babies.

So for the sake of this, I’m taking Maureen Backman’s great explanation about “good stuff” and “bad stuff” when we’re talking about dogs. Good stuff starts. Good stuff stops. Bad stuff starts. Bad stuff stops. It’s not brilliant, but it’s clear and it avoids confusing and inappropriate attempts to translate from Russian into an English so obtuse you need a dictionary to understand it.

Good stuff implies everything your dog wants. That might be stuff it doesn’t need to be taught to like, such as food, sex and sleep. Or it could be stuff you’ve had to teach your dog to like, but your dog really, really likes now, such as balls and squeakers and ropes and petting and praise. It could be sensory, like tastes, sounds or smells. It is highly individual to your dog. And this ‘good stuff’ is highly dependent on your dog’s needs at that moment in time. Like smelling lady wee is ‘good stuff’ where Heston is concerned, except for those times when he can see a hare in a field. Then the field could be drenched in doggie lady wee and it would no longer be ‘good stuff’.

Good stuff to a dog is often bad stuff to a human, or at the very least, icky stuff to a human. Biting can be just wonderful to a dog. Biting and shaking toys is GOOD STUFF to a lot of dogs. Dissecting toys, cushions and furniture is GOOD STUFF to a dog. Chasing squirrels is GOOD STUFF. Barking, digging, jumping, stealing stuff and running away… it’s all GOOD STUFF to dogs. You know how it goes.

But it’s situational and it’s hierarchical. Heston doesn’t want to play tug when he’s tired. He doesn’t want paté when he’s over-aroused. He doesn’t want to chase rabbits if he can chase a deer. Chocolate is ‘good stuff’ to me, until I have eaten a box of chocolates in one go and I feel sick. Someone could offer me a box of my favourites and I’d flinch. Good stuff is individual and situation-specific. It’s based on need and function. What do I need right now? What function does doing this serve?

Bad stuff is things they don’t want. It can be stuff they have never been taught, like the smell of overly-strong perfume, or physical, like a kick, being swatted with a fly swatter or a ‘bop’ on the nose. It can be taught, like a verbal reprimand. It can be environmental, like a snake bite. It can be stuff that is sensory, like someone touching a paw, or the smell of onions. Like the good stuff, it has scales, from mildly unpleasant to the ‘heavy artillery’ such as shocks, chokes and prong collars. It is also individualised and situation-specific.

Whilst many things may be the same for most dogs, you don’t get to choose for your dog what they find good or bad. That said, there are generalities that are often true. Dogs aren’t so individual that some only like rolling on squashed frog and some only like rolling in stale caviar. I walked 10 dogs last Tuesday and every single one of them stopped and sniff-excavated the exact same spot (suspect wild boar had been visiting) and five of them rolled on the exact same spot. You’d have thought I’d have learned to avoid it!

As I wrote about last week, there are basically only four combinations of conscious learning:

Good stuff starts

Good stuff stops

Bad stuff starts

Bad stuff stops

That’s what’s known as ‘learning by consequence’, or operant learning. Yes, it too has a lot of different names and associated terminology. This is a higher cognitive process in some cases. It is not emotional learning. It is ‘switched on’ learning where the dog has learned how to operate their environment. If I do this, then this happens.

But there is another kind of learning – learning by association – that I want to write about today. This is Pavlov. You know, that guy who made dogs salivate by ringing a bell?

It’s emotional, reflexive, physiological learning. I’ve stuck emotions in there because they are reflexive and physiological. Can you control your anger? Yes, absolutely you can, but for animals, this is definitely something happening at a much higher cognitive level and it can be much more difficult. Does it happen at a physiological level? Yes absolutely. There are biophysical changes taking place as your neurons fire up and release hormones and neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin, cortisol and adrenaline that course through your body causing a cascading sequence of physical responses. Can you stop them? If you are very, very mindful and emotionally intelligent.

Your dog? Not so much.

Your cat? Good luck with that.

Go ask a cat to control its anger and come back to me and show me your scars if you don’t believe me.

“Now, now Tybalt, no need to get angry. I just want you to get in the travel crate so I can take you to the vet…”

Can a setter control its joie de vivre? Can a beagle contain its delight at rolling in the grass?

Emotions are not so easy for us as humans to control. If you don’t believe me, go ask a primary school teacher how hard it is to teach on a day when there is a) wind b) rain c) snow d) a dog in the playground e) a wasp in the room.

Emotions make learning more complicated. Gold stars stop mattering when there’s a flutter of snow or a joyful labrador bouncing across the football pitch. Emotions can make learning really, really secure (I’ll never forget the science lesson where my friend Anne made me be the tail of a sperm…) Emotions embed learning and that can work in your favour or to your disadvantage. But what you can’t do is take them out of learning. Even operant, conscious learning has emotional effects, from the pleasure of satiation or play to the anxiety and fear inspired by punishments.

Emotions make learning inevitable and unavoidable. They lay down the tracks for information storage and retrieval in ways we haven’t even begun to comprehend.

If you’re a dog… even if you’re a highly trained dog… emotions sometimes get the better of you.

Just ask this Bolivian police dog

Emotional learning is MASSIVELY powerful and we underestimate it all the time with ourselves and with our dogs. I just had a sip of cider – haven’t had cider for years – but the smell of it made me smile for the 14-year-old me who loved a bottle of Merrydown Cider whilst hanging around on street corners like a hooligan. It reeked of pleasure. I could have stuck my face in it and rolled in it, it was that nice.

But… A whiff of Thunderbird is still enough to turn my stomach, however, 30 years after I had to clear up a friend’s vomit.

When we learn by association, most of it is learned (so it’s a consequence – waaaah! Gordian Knot of Knowledge!) Pavlov didn’t need to teach dogs to salivate to the smell of meat, but he did need to pair the bell with the meat. Finally, the bell ringing meant the dogs were salivating even before the meat.

The key to learning that bells mean meat is to always put the meat after the bell.

You can’t put the bell after the dog eats the meat. That doesn’t work. They don’t learn that the bell predicts the good stuff.

You can’t put the bell thirty minutes before the dog eats the meat. That doesn’t work either. It’s too big a gap between the bell and the good stuff for a dog to connect the two.

You can’t put the bell on a random repeat and expect a connection. You can’t just ring the bell at random and sometimes give meat and sometimes not. That doesn’t work to make the bell a strong predictor of the good stuff.

You always, always have to pair up the bell and the meat (either simultaneously or with the meat slightly after the bell) and you can’t unlink that link. If you start ringing the bell without it meaning meat, the bell becomes meaningless. It is no longer a strong indicator of meat. It’s amazing how quickly that links breaks.

What is important is the sequence by which we teach dogs that everything is either good or bad.

If I want my dog to learn that the word ‘yes!’ means meat is coming, I need to make sure the word is ALWAYS before the food, not too far before the food and that it always, always (or as near as dammit) means food will come. Eventually, I’ll phase out the food, but until that word ‘yes!’ makes my dog wag its tail, I’m going to keep using the food.

Dogs are great at this stuff. They are such great clue-readers. Much of their life is spent working out the connections in the human puzzles that surround them to make sense of our world. Leads are predictors of walks. Boots are predictors of walks. Keys are predictors of walks. For me all of the following are a predictor that a walk may come… going to the toilet, putting socks on, brushing my teeth, putting my hat on, putting my coat on, locking the door with the dogs outside…

Now my dogs weren’t born knowing that if I put my boots on, I’m taking them for a walk. It’s come through the sequential pairing of these things.

Boots >>>> walk.

I never do it in reverse.

It’s not

Walk >>> boots.

The putting on of boots wouldn’t be exciting because it comes after the good stuff.

And when I wanted Heston to stop excitement barking before a walk, I put my boots on hours before a walk. And I took them off. I put them on. I took them off. I used other shoes. It’s easy to break the connection, but my boots still make Heston have a little leap of joy.

And that’s just my boots.

How powerful is this stuff that your boots can make your dog joyful?!

Worth stopping and taking that in;

You have the power to make stuff like boots and keys exciting to your dog. That is just so powerful. You can turn metal bowls and cars, brushes, fridges, cupboards, leads and harnesses into predictors of VERY GOOD DOG STUFF.

It works to take the unpleasant out of something that your dog doesn’t like as well. Can a muzzle make a dog jump for joy? Hell yes. Can you take those icky nail-clipping sessions and get your dog so excited that they can’t wait to give you their paw? Sure you can.

And it works the other way. Can you make keys a predictor of something unpleasant, like your absence? Absolutely. Can picking up your coat make your dog shake with fear? Absolutely yes. Can a phrase like ‘Be a good boy!’ make your dog start to drool with anxiety? Of course.

We do this all the time – consciously and unconsciously – with our dogs.

And when you start using it to your advantage, it is perhaps the most powerful teaching tool you have in your box, where emotions are concerned.

For Heston, boots = walk was causing him to be so over-aroused that I couldn’t get a sit or a down. Using this ‘if… then’ model Pavlov so kindly gave us, I can uncouple the association between the two events.

Eventually, I decoupled that ‘Boots >>> Walk’ thing because it was driving me mad him whining in anticipation of the one great highlight of his day.

There is a lesson here.

Association works backwards. Good stuff is preceded by random stuff. Eventually the random stuff comes to predict good stuff. It doesn’t work forwards. Heston does not care two iotas what I do after our walk. Unless…. the walk predicts something else after. Sometimes that’s pleasurable. When we get back to the car, I quite often get a ball out, and that infects the last two or three minutes of our walk, where the association between finishing a walk/seeing the car means ‘time for football.’

Positive stuff works backwards to ‘infect’ the cue with the same emotion. If you don’t believe me, go and pick up your dog’s food bowl or their lead. Whatever announces that good stuff will start becomes a massive cue for joy.

Like this:

Dustpan and brush >>>>> play bow and tummy tickle.

How does that work?

Every single time I sweep up, Heston races over and the sight of me bent over triggers a play response. He playbows me, he rolls over and I tickle his tummy. That is how you make a dustpan the most exciting part of your cleaning routine for a dog. It is an absolute predictor of another (taught) pleasure, a bit of a tummy rub.

And that works backwards. The things that regularly precede the now joy-making dustpan become a predictor of the sequence.

Broom >>>>> dustpan >>>>> playbow and tummy tickle.

Now the broom is the cue that finishes with a playbow. Thankfully the rest of my cleaning routine is random enough that Heston isn’t following me around like ‘come on… do the thing…’

But this association is how we teach dogs that neutral or meaningless stuff is a predictor of Very Good Stuff.

And we use it all the time in training. I’m doing it right now with Massimo, the black dog in the photo, and a muzzle and harness. He had a fear-aggressive response in the vet’s for his routine jabs. Fear is one of the best teachers of all. One sight of that muzzle and the memory of its connection with a time of trauma and Massimo was backed up in his kennel. Now my training goes like this:

Muzzle >>>>>>>>>> very stinky amazing cheese.

I don’t mess with the second thing. It’s always very stinky cheese. It is never ham, never paté, never peanut butter. If I want the muzzle to mean something, it always has to mean Very Good Stuff. And overripe French cheese is a great way to get a dog’s head in a muzzle. It is VERY GOOD STUFF to Massimo.

But… and here’s the kicker. It’s not a bribe. It can’t be presented before the muzzle. That muzzle absolutely has to be first, otherwise it won’t work. Even if it’s a nanosecond before, the muzzle is first, the cheese is second.

How many times do you think it took before the presentation of the muzzle got a jump for joy?

Two. By the second time I presented the muzzle, a week later, he was WHOOOOOO HOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Muzzle me up, baby!

See how you can take something horrible for a dog, something terribly aversive, the worst of the “bad stuff” and make it into a cue for something fabulous?

We do this ALL the time with neutral or meaningless stuff…

  • fridge >>>> treat for dog
  • bowl >>>>> food for dog
  • lead >>>>>>>>> walk
  • boots >>>>>>>>>> walk
  • open door >>> garden >>>> play session

In these ways, we turn something meaningless into something pretty cool for a dog. Once a dog catches on, you can capitalise on ‘jackpot’ learning, wherein that meaningless cue becomes a thing of excitement even if the reward doesn’t always follow. I did this inadvertently with Tilly and my cat Fox. Tilly was ambivalent about cats. She’d never lived with them. Fox was in the habit of stopping out all night. When he came to the window in the morning, I’d let him in and feed him. Tilly got his leftovers.

So it went …

cat eats >>>>>>>>>>> get leftovers

Then it went …

cat arrives at window >>>>> cat eats >>>>>>> get leftovers

Pretty soon, the appearance of the cat meant Tilly’s little stumpy tail was on overdrive. Six years on and she is STILL happy to see cats even though she has had six years without a jackpot catfood leftover bowl.

Learning by association is so super powerful that it’s mindblowing.

This is how you change something a dog doesn’t like into something they love. If you use head halters, collars, leads, harnesses, muzzles, coats… they’re not necessarily ‘good stuff’ to a dog. But you can make them into something good if what follows is pleasurable enough.

That’s why you’ll hear, “but my dogs LOVE their prong collars! They’re so excited when I get them out!” or “My dog loves the choker! He wags like mad when I put it on him.”

Yes. Because the good stuff of a walk means the prong collar is no longer ‘bad stuff’.

Take a moment to take that in. It’s really important.

That thing you are using as an aversive, as a punisher… has stopped being an aversive or punisher. It is no longer aversive. You have conditioned it not to be aversive.

Now….

You’re using that thing because you want the dog to understand that if it stops pulling, it stops being painful or restrictive (or unpleasant, if you have issues with those words). But what you have done by pairing it with Very Good Stuff is turn it into something that isn’t bad at all. You want it to be aversive. But if you pair it with a pleasurable thing, it has lost its aversive magic.

That is the whole point of aversives. They’re meant to be aversive. They aren’t meant to ‘Spark Joy’.

You get the idea if I talk about canes. They are meant to be aversive. Imagine if you’d only met canes in the bedroom, with a saucy vixen dominatrix. How much of a threat or aversive is a cane now if you’re threatened with it as a punishment for shoplifting? No aversive at all. You’d be all ‘ooh, Matron!’

So if you want your aversives to be truly aversive, and to remain aversive (ie to keep working), you have to never, ever hook it up with something pleasurable.  Not ever. This is why things like chokes and prongs stop being effective. Kind of weird why we use them with a dog’s primary Number 1 pleasure time – the walk, I know.

Now when I tell you about a local trainer who is using a “yank and jerk” choke chain to stop dogs pulling on the lead, and then using food alongside this to ‘reward’ good walking to heel, you can see why it’s totally and utterly ineffective to use the choke.

Yank and jerk >>>>>>>> food reward & relief from tight choker >>>>>>>>>> continue on walk.

They’ve taught the dog that yanking and jerking is an absolute predictor of some great dog Good Stuff.

In other words, there’s no point in the yank and jerk. You’ve rendered it powerless. It is simply a cue that good stuff is coming. In fact, you’re infecting that yank and jerk with a sense of pleasure. That’s why punishers often stop working if they are followed by good stuff.

If you’ve turned your bad stuff into good stuff by linking them together, is there any point in using the bad stuff to change behaviour?

Wouldn’t it be more simple to go straight to the good stuff?

You’ve added an unnecessary complication to your training.

This is a really, really simple, powerful concept. If you’re going to yank and jerk, do not, under any circumstance, follow it up with the reward of a pleasurable functional behaviour (like continuing the walk) or  – worse – something lovely like food. All you are doing is making your aversive less powerful, which means you’ll have to increase the force with which you use it, or the frequency of its use.

You can see why you’d THINK this would be kind of effective. I mean, it is a bit with humans. Threat followed by nice stuff if you behave nicely. Except the threat becomes meaningless if it’s always paired with the good stuff after. It just becomes something you tolerate to get to the good stuff. Like cold changing rooms before going swimming. This is especially true of animals.

That’s why there’s no “push/pull” in animal learning, there’s no “aversive/reward” sense of ‘balanced’ training that works with dogs. Stick an aversive before something pleasurable, and the bad stuff will simply become a signal that good stuff is on its way. If the bad stuff is no longer bad stuff, might as well stick a clearer non-aversive signal in there and go straight to the positive reinforcement corner, because like it or not, that’s what you’re doing.

This works in the opposite way too. When good stuff is ALWAYS followed by bad stuff, it starts to infect the good stuff by working back.

Lazy Sunday afternoons >>>>>>>> crappy job on Monday.

Sooner or later, you’re going to start feeling less relaxed on those Sunday afternoons, as the association of them with your Monday morning will infect your pleasure time. This is often how school phobia presents itself, by the way. I’ve got a friend with Seasonal Affective Disorder who starts getting depressed on the 21st June! The antipation of misery infects the very lovely long days and hours of sunshine. We do it automatically too, ‘rewarding’ ourselves after unpleasant stuff. Retail therapy and Friday night drinking sessions anyone? We set up our lives to make the predictable  bad stuff less bad, but often that predictable bad stuff infects the good stuff that comes before it.

Now dogs may very well live in the present moment, be unable to think into the future very much. They don’t plot or collude, make plans for their retirement. But they are better than many at working out IF blah, THEN blah.

How many vet visits did it take Massimo to end up hating vets, the vet room, the people who were in there with him, the muzzle, the harness and the needle? One. One single, horrible visit.

How many times did it take me nicking Tilly to make her hate me clipping her nails? One.

How many times did it take Tilly having food taken from her by a child to make her fearful of children? One.

These are what we call One-Off Learning events. And they work best with fear, though it works wonderfully with jackpots of amazing dog “good stuff” bounty as well.

Sometimes they build up slowly. Like what happens if you always pair cheese with the bitter aftertaste of a pill? Your dog will soon realise that you offering cheese is a clue that there’s a nasty pill in there.

So let’s think about that, because it has implications for reactive dogs, and I’m convinced it’s behind a lot of on-leash aggression.

Dog appears >>> yank on the lead, yelled at by owner.

How many times do you think it takes your dog to associate the appearance of another dog (especially if they have negative feelings about unfamiliar dogs anyway) and being choked, jerked, yanked or even told “no!”

The dog’s appearance is the cue for bad stuff to happen. It’s like if you see the police sitting outside your home. You don’t think “Yay!” (unless you have previously associated the police with all things wonderful), you think “oh no!”

And I think this is how using aversives with dogs who are ambivalent at best around other animals can turn that negative-neutral experience into something absolutely horrible.

So if we’re going to use bad stuff with our dogs, we have to be absolutely sure that we don’t put good stuff before it, otherwise it’ll poison the good stuff.

Imagine this neutral thing for a newbie dog: a car ride.

It’s perhaps meaningless to a dog. Perhaps it’s fairly unpleasant. You’re in motion, you’re confined. You can’t escape. It doesn’t make sense to you. To a dog, it might well feel like how we’d imagine an alien abduction to feel.

What comes next is vital.

Car ride >>>>>>> walk, play, agility class, amazing fun stuff.

or:

Car ride >>>>>>>>>> vet, groomer, nail clipper, sickness/vomiting

Now you see? That first car ride is an absolute predictor of Dog GOLD Standard GOOD Stuff. Cars = the best thing ever because whatever comes next = the best thing ever.

That second pairing has the potential to turn into Dog BAD STUFF. If your dog doesn’t like the vet, that is. If your dog loves the vets, then it goes into the first line with the amazing fun stuff. That’s what I mean about it’s the dog who chooses. But a dog who only thinks of the car as the precursor to the Most Amazing Dog Stuff isn’t going to connect the car with the trip to something aversive.

This gets even more complicated if you put good stuff after the bad stuff again.

See dog >>>>>>>> owner yells and jerks collar >>>>>>> owner says ‘sorry baby!’ out of earshot of other dog’s owner, and pets them out of guilt for being angry

What happens then is that the yelling is still just a precursor of good stuff so all that telling your dog off isn’t going to do anything other than be a great big, fat signal that you are going to give them some good stuff.

You can see then why the following scenario means the dog is paying no attention at all to the owner.

See dog >>>>>> owner yells “no!” several times and pulls dog back >>>>>>> owner says “good boy!” once the other dog has gone out of sight and their own dog has calmed down.

The last thing that happens is the important one. If you’re going to use punishment, don’t ever follow it up with anything that you’ve taught your dog means good stuff. Seriously. I can’t count how many dogs are messed up through techniques such as these. Either miss out the yanking and the yelling, or miss out the good stuff. You don’t need both, and using both is making one or the other meaningless and taking that tool right out of your box. What good is a conditioned punisher such as “No!” if it’s got no power? No wonder people end up having to dig out the heavy artillery of punishers: they’ve taught their dogs that the light infantry is a predictor of good stuff!

However, if you only use the car to take your dog somewhere they don’t want to go…  you know your dog is going to be quick to catch on that cars are vehicles of the devil.

So, a simple message at the end of all of this:

  • Don’t always put bad stuff before good stuff, unless you want the bad stuff to become good stuff.
  • Don’t always put good stuff before bad stuff, or your bad stuff will end up poisoning your good stuff.

Either way, you render what comes first powerless as a reward or a punishment.

If you’re going to do either of the things above, don’t do them in the same time span. Make absolutely sure that you use the first thing out of pair with the second so that your dog doesn’t use one as an omen or portent of the next. For me, this means I get to keep a sharp “no!” as a very effective punisher, because I’ve not taken all the power out of it. Likewise, I can make ‘bad stuff’ like muzzles, nail clipping, vaccinations, pill-taking, ear cleaning and eye wiping into something quite delightful. You don’t need to see a video of Tilly skipping when I get the ear pads out, because ear pads ALWAYS mean paté, in order to see the logic in that.

Finally, though, you can see why I am skeptical of ‘balanced’ training methods. They are often confusing and make poor pairings unless they are used in a skilful way that doesn’t accidentally end up removing the power of an aversive or poisoning the food. Balance, especially in the same learning moment, flies in the face of how animals learn. If you are a trainer who uses aversives, be open about it and keep the cookies out of class. Be mindful though that dogs are very good at working out what’s present in the environment when they receive a punisher, and that can be working out that you are the common denominator.

Handler appears >>>>>>>>>>>> bad stuff happens

Owner gets home >>>>>>>>>> get shouted at

If you want a good relationship with your dog, using aversives can really poison your relationship as by pairing yourself by something unpleasant, you’ve ‘infected’ your dog with the fact that your appearance predicts bad stuff.

I don’t guess many of us want our appearance to mean our dog is filled with negative emotions?

And if you do, I guess what I am trying to say is that if you want your dog to fear you and to associate you with bad stuff, then make sure you keep the good stuff out of class. Your dog might turn around and bite you, but I guess you know that already. If you consistently arouse negative emotions in your dog, don’t be surprised if they then have nothing keeping their teeth in check.

But if you want a good relationship with your dog, don’t confuse your dog by removing the power of your bad stuff and poisoning your good stuff. Be clear, keep them distinct. Mixing and matching is perhaps the most damaging thing we can do to our training and the one thing we really, really haven’t got our head around.

Long, but a crucial and very misunderstood reason why punishers and reinforcers can sometimes become totally ineffective. If you ask me, it’s the most fundamental part of teaching your dog, and it is so powerful in a ‘holy crap’ kind of way that it is something you don’t want to get wrong.

Next time: some accidental poisonings and removing of Kryptonite that we do in our everyday lives through accidental pairing of stuff that we can un-do by breaking the association.