Just tuning in now to the Mythbusting Miniseries? Check out the first myth we wrote about!
Using positive reinforcement does not mean that we're giving our SideKicks permission to run wild and do anything they like. This myth, or misconception, likely comes from a phrase you may have heard before:
"Focus on what you like and ignore the rest."
Yes, when using positive reinforcement, we're focusing on what we like. We're trying to "catch" our SideKicks doing things we like to see; we're inclined to give them a choice and we reward them for making the choice that best fits the rules of the human world. A good chunk of the time, we're even using a lure to mold them into the behavior we're looking for - almost guaranteeing we'll see something we like.
Our SideKicks have free will, though, and - as I'm sure you know - they are not sitting around waiting for us to tell them what we want to see. They're trying different things and offering behaviors that aren't what we like to see or aren't what we're training for.
The phrase above suggests that we ignore this stuff. As with most things in life, though, it's not quite that simple. Ignoring "bad" behavior (the undesirable behaviors that don't mesh with what is socially acceptable in our human world) doesn't mean we just let Rover run wild.
It means we redirect the behaviors we don't like to something we do like: giving Mimi a tug toy to grab hold of while playing to avoid mouthing or nipping at our hands.
It means we manag our SideKick's environment to limit the possibility of those undesirable behaviors: putting a baby gate in the living room doorway, so Mickey can't hop on the expensive couch for a nap when you're out.
And it means asking for a behavior we do like - one that is incompatible and a good alternative to the behavior we don't like: asking Miko for a Sit when greeting strangers on a walk to avoid knocking over a small kid.
Ignoring behaviors in the three ways listed above is certainly not simply allowing our SideKicks to run wild. These methods do, however, make it a lot easier for us to see, catch, and reward the behaviors we like and teach our SideKicks the rules for this confusing human world!
Can't get enough of these myths? Neither can we! Move on to Myth #3 for more fun!