The mindset of looking for (actively seeking) behaviors that you like and want to occur more frequently permeates the world of dog training and is also a philosophical approach to life. It easily becomes a habit because it affects behavior very effectively, and in a friendly manner, without causing harmful or hurtful side effects. As an added bonus, it also tends to create a more positive outlook for the observer.
It’s easy to look for good behavior instead of looking to see what someone did wrong, but it’s such an unusual prospect in some professions that their efforts made the national news when the police force in Farmington, New Hampshire , it took over. In this city, police officers began to actively look out for people who were doing the right thing – keeping their dog on a leash, crossing the zebra crossing, using a blinker – and reinforcing this behavior by handing out gift cards for pizza or fries.
Get the barge in your inbox!
Sign up for our newsletter and stay up to date.
It all started when an officer noticed that a man was making an effort to walk through heavy snow to cross on a zebra crossing rather than illegally and he wanted to do something to get the man to acknowledge his efforts.
The strategy of positive reinforcement not only increases the likelihood of good behavior in the future, it also helps create connections and relationships between police and citizens. Most people who are approached by a cop will think, “Oh, do you think I did something wrong?” and possibly be quite scared. If an officer tells you you did something right, most people will be unprepared, but in a good way.
Typically, police officers interact with the small percentage of the population whose behavior is not what the police want (or with people they suspect may or may not be right), leaving the rest of the population Can reach people. Police officers looking for good behavior rather than bad behavior are a real shift from standard practice in this area. The pursuit of good behavior and its reinforcement is a revolutionary idea in police work, although it is common in dog training.
It’s not just cops who are new to using positive reinforcement. it has barely emerged in some areas. Unfortunately, it is far more common in our society to comment or respond when someone does something bad that you do not like or that you object to. From a behavioral point of view, it is not ideal to just give feedback on what is wrong. It seems that more people complain about a salesperson or flight attendant when the service is not as good as they’d like than compliments when that job is well done.
Excerpt from “Treat Everyone Like a Dog”, © 2020 by Karen B. London. Used with permission.