Here’s an intro to an informative article by author-trainer Pippa Mattinson giving a short history of dog training methods and research into their effectiveness. Readers raise a couple of interesting comments at the end. It’s a healthy debate and cool to think about how these issues effect other facets of our lives, like getting cooperation from kids, colleagues, our own students, and each other!
I used to joke that everything I learned about teaching, I learned from dog training. Then I’d scold my class, “Sit! Stay! Hush!” The truth is, especially since the rise of positive reinforcement techniques, experience training dogs has made my interactions everywhere, from my classroom to the IT Help Desk to my marriage, more pleasant than you might think.
Last spring semester, I made positive reinforcement the defining feature of my Advanced Fiction Writing course. I actually required it of my students in all their interactions, particularly their workshop peer reviews–their use of positive reinforcement was the only thing I graded them on. I made a sort of Kindness Rubric, and, however ironic, only docked them for using negative reinforcement. A few students grumbled at first, especially men who felt that searching for things to praise in others and not saying anything about the poor stuff made them weak and phony, even when the praise they gave was honest and accurate. By the end of the course, all of them felt uplifted, more creative, and more influential.
If you’d like to know more about positive reinforcement and dogs so that you, too, can extrapolate wildly to all facets of your own life, you’ll find an excellent article below. It’s overview of positive reinforcement techniques, their history, and their effectiveness. From what I’ve seen of our readers, you tend to be introspective, insightful, and committed to your own and others’ happiness, so I’m confident you’ll put the information to work adding a little more goodness to the world.
One more thing: for those of us who’ve been training dogs since the seventies, or who cut our teeth in business or academics during the Age of Sarcasm, it’s also nice to see this article remind us to forgive ourselves for having doled out negative reinforcement without knowing any better.
And remember, positive reinforcement works on yourself, too.