“A reinforcer is anything that, occurring
in conjunction with an act, tends to
increase the probability that the act will
“A positive reinforcer is something the
subject wants, such as food, petting, or
Don’t Shoot the Dog!
reinforcement is one of the training methods
at our disposal. We can use this method to
shape any kind of behavior in any animal.
It works very well with horses, especially
with trick training. Positive reinforcement
encourages the behavior it is linked to, to
With trick training, we
use the positive reinforcer to let the horse
know when he did the right thing. This
encourages him to try that same thing again,
which also gets rewarded. The horse then
starts to think that he has us trained. If
he does this one thing, he can get us to
reward him. This ends up being great fun
for the trainer and the trainee.
Often, when we train
horses, we use food as the positive
reinforcement. Most horses love food and it
is a good reward for them. However, some
horses might love a good scratch as their
positive reinforcer. Once horses get the
idea, they often enthusiastically offer
their reinforced behaviors, hoping to
receive their treat.
A reinforcer is used as
close to the action as is possible.
However, it is not always possible to do
this effectively. So, we bring into use
another tool called a bridge signal. A
bridge signal is any specific sound that
allows the horse to understand the
connection between the action we want and
the reinforcement that comes later. One
example is using a clicker as the bridge
>> To be continued in
What is Clicker Training? Using a
clicker as a bridge signal.