The Carrot is Your Friend

3am. It was another sleepless night.

Ruby, our wheaton terrier poodle rescue, was barking incessantly at the epic possum vs. racoon war in our back yard. This was becoming a regular occurrence and being one who needs sleep, I was either going to go crazy or murder somebody. We tried disciplining her and putting her in the other room but nothing seemed to work. I sat up in bed and googled "how to stop wheaton terriers from barking". Here's what the internet advised:

1. Tell the dog to stop. Praise the dog once it's quiet.

2. Get a treat and stick it under the dog's nose. It will probably stop and eat the treat.

3. Get a treat and tell the dog to sit. Once it's quiet, reward it with a treat.

It also advised-

Note: If you yell at a wheaton or lose your temper, they'll lose respect for you. They're looking to you for calm, steady leadership.

I grabbed a treat bag, trained my dog, and then trained my boyfriend on how to train the dog. We praised Ruby for her silence regularly. The barking problems disappeared.

Epiphany

This strategy should not only be applied to Ruby. It should be applied to humans too.

It's easy to focus on the negative. We're afraid of mistakes and bad behavior. It's anxiety producing and when it's recurring. It's scary to think it'll never go away.

What I realized, is that by consciously focusing on the positive and by reinforcing the positive, the negative naturally starts to disappear. Not only that, the person (or in this case, dog) is improving their behavior without any resentment or negative association. Everything is positive and it just gets better and better as the behavior improves.

I do think negative behaviors need to be confronted. However I suspect that if negative reinforcement is delivered calmly and positive reinforcement is highly emphasized, it's likely that humans, like Ruby, will ditch the bad behavior for good behavior due to strong positive association.