Operant conditioning is a name often wrongly applied to clicker training. In fact clicker training generally uses
one or two of the quadrants of Operant Conditioning. In behavioral terms "positive" means something is added
to the situation, "negative" means something is taken away, it does not mean "good" or "bad". "Reinforcement" means that the behavior
is more likely to be repeated after it is applied, "punishment" means the behavior is less likely to be
"Punishment" is often thought of as a physical correction when dog training, but remember
that it is the dog that defines what is punishing and this will be different for each dog. "Reinforcement" is
usually thought of as rewarding the dog with food or a toy, but something is only reinforcing to a
dog if it means he performs that behavior more often. Many people apply their own ideas and emotions
to define what is punishing or reinforcing without looking to see if the dog is performing the behavior more or less often.
The dog receives something that he finds rewarding (play, food, toy) for performing
a behavior. This makes him MORE likely to perform the behavior again.
The dog receives something that he finds aversive/uncomfortable (correction, water spray) for performing
a behavior. This makes him LESS likely to perform the behavior again.
The dog is put in a position he finds uncomfortable (tight leash, ear pinch, electric stim) until he performs a
behavior. This makes him MORE likely to perform the behavior again.
The dog has access to something he finds rewarding, he performs a behavior
his owner doesn't want and the reward is taken away. This makes him LESS likely to perform the behavior again.
Here is some more discussion of operant conditioning by the renowned Roger Abrantes PhD.
This is very important in respect of reinforcement and punishment. Reinforcement MUST
occur within half a second of the behavior for it to be effective. Punishment MUST occur within two seconds of the behavior.
This is a method developed by renowned trainer Bart Bellon, using negative
reinforcement together with positive reinforcement. It is an effective method of training and uses very low levels of
electric collar stimulation applied as a command is given (-ve NE), the stimulation is continued until the dog performs the behavior (+ve PO), once the
behavior is performed, the dog is rewarded (+ve PO). So the dog is essentially reinforced twice for the behavior, once by the cessation
of the stimulation, and then again by the reward.
This is reinforcement which is not taught, such as food, social interaction, physical
This is reinforcement which becomes reinforcing as a result of being paired with
a primary reinforcer. This includes clickers, the word "good", the word "no" etc.