Tonawanda News

Features

November 12, 2012

CRITTER COMPANIONS: The cost of bribery

Tonawanda News — I love reinforcements, and so do you. If you didn’t, then they would not be a reinforcer. Some of my reinforcements are food, water and money. I do behaviors in hopes that I get one of those things. I get up and go to the sink to get water. I work, so I can get money to buy food and other less essential, but equally fun items.

Our companion animals are no different. They do behaviors in order to get things, like food and water. When training, many pet caregivers use food to motivate their pets. With the election season behind us, (thank goodness), I would like to talk about bribes. Although I do have a timely joke:

Two politicians on the campaign trail encounter each other near a roadside diner, and decide to have a cup of coffee. They talk for a while, and then get up to leave. “You know why I’m going to be elected?” the first politician asks, as he pulls a roll of bills out of his pocket. “It’s because of my generous personality. I always give the waitresses a big tip and ask them for their vote.”

“That’s interesting,” says the other, “I always ask them to vote for you too, but then I tip them a nickel.”

Bribery is a training technique I have seen used to get animals — and people — to perform behaviors. Bribery and positive reinforcement are two different tools, even though they both can use food.

In bribery the food — good thing — is shown, the animal does a behavior and than is given the food. In positive reinforcement, the animal performs a behavior and then is given food — or a good thing.

The food could be a single treat, five treats, normal diet etc. It can be variable because the animal doesn’t know what they are getting. Bribery can lead to some frustrating situations.

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