Karen Pryor is a genius! Maybe it’s not so much genius as it is good old common sense, but either way she one smart lady. Since we have recently adopted a new family member in the form of a dog, I have been reading through her book titled “Don’t Shoot the Dog: The New Art of Teaching and Training”. In the book Karen discusses not only the art of training a pet, but also how those same training techniques can be applied in training really any other living being in your life.

What I find most interesting about what Karen speaks about in the book is that she constantly applies it to everyday life. Not only to pets but also to other entities in your life like children, significant others, and bosses. In one very basic example she speaks to the fact that a cat constantly getting into the trash can be easily corrected using a negative reinforcement. Seeing the cat getting in the trash she had a spray bottle filled with water and a few drops of Vanilla diluted into it. When the cat got in the trash she simply sprayed the cat with the mixture. Additionally she added a couple of drops of the same vanilla to the bottom of the trash every few months. The cats makes the association of the smell of vanilla to being sprayed, and thus now avoids the trash.

This is the very basis of negative reinforcement. It is something that increases a behavior but is not necessarily something the subject likes. The book goes into so much more detail than can be explained here, but I have to very highly suggest you take a look at this book.