Giving Positive Feedback
There is an area of communication that is worthwhile for both pup and Trainer to develop, and that is positive feedback. A Trainer will find that rewards are much more effective than punishment at changing a humans behaviour. In fact, praise, focus on successes and positive reinforcement are essential to helping a human pup learn. A pup will enjoy the company of a Trainer who appreciates a pups good work. It works both ways of course, as a pups affection,a pups compliments and acknowledgement of his trainers effort helps foster a maintain a deep relationship with his Trainer.
Positive feedback is easy. You just say something appreciative and complimentary in acknowledgement of what has occurred, and often to show you understand something or to be helpful. It is as simple as
"Yes pup, you have that posture right"
"Thanks Boss, it's great learning new things from you"
Yet often pups and Trainers fail to deliver positive feedback when they should, for a number of reasons. Here are common rationales given by those not giving positive feedback enough:
"It won't matter" - if a pup is quiet and not giving feedback, it's possible he thinks what he might say won't matter, that his opinion and feedback means little. This is low self-esteem talking, because compliments are appreciated by a Trainer. ositive feedback will help a pup develop better self esteem as he sees his Trainer respond to pups words.
"No idea what to say" - if a pup feels uncomfortable giving compliments, if it seems unnatural and awkward for him to be complimentary, then he will not know what to say when feedback is expected. A Trainer needs to practice feedback with such a pup, roleplaying through it, until the awkward feeling goes away. Practice by demonstration helps a pup to give learn to deliver positive feedback, and although he will be clumsy at first, the roleplaying will help until he becomes natural at it.
"I am making myself inferior to them" - the dynamic between Trainer and pup usually has a strong authority gradient, obviously slanted with the Trainer in power. If either Trainer or pup has self-esteem issues it can be a problem, as praising can seem to raise the other person higher than they already are. A low self-esteem guy will be anxious about status and perceived changes to his status are threatening. The best way to deal with this is to go for it and give positive feedback anyway and not hold back. The compliments won't weaken anything, they will actually make a pup or Trainer feel better towards the person complimenting them.
"I won't win" - aggressive pups or Trainers, used to having the last word or feeling competitive, won't feel comfortable complimenting a perceived competitor. Relationships between pups, and pup and Trainer, work better if they aren't a competition. ompetition may seem a positive, to spur pups on to do better. However, it is terribly counter productive to a pack, as it weakens the bonds and reliance pups have on one another, and particularly lets them tend to a lethally bad place of competing for their Owners affection. Positive feedback helps break the competitive negatives as pups say supportive things of one another and receive the feedback themselves.
"I don't like it" - only noticing behaviour a pup or Trainer doesn't like means he won't talk about positive things too often, or even if he does, the message can be lost in the sensitivity to the negative that humans have. It takes a little bit of effort for a pup or Trainer to notice what they do like in another and praise it. That effort is worth making a habit of, as it sets up positive reinforcement and helps curb a tendency to nitpick or be critical.
"It's not necessary" - some Trainers may feel that praising a pup is only for extraordinary circumstances, that doing a good effort as a pup is to be expected and unworthy of comment. This is a method common to many BDSM masters who want to project a tough, demanding image. This choice of not giving positive feedback, except in exceptional circumstances, is up to the pup and Trainer if that's what they want. A pup can walk away from an arrogant master at any time after all. The deliberate choosing to ration positive feedback is a passive aggressive form of dominance, and often counter-productive in pup training.
"Not good enough to merit it" - and here is the most perverse rationale that a Trainer can give, which at the same time plays into some ind of passive aggressive attempt to dominate and control a pup. There is no doubt that in training a pup should strive to do well at learning. Pups making no effort are obvious and usually left at the curb. A Trainer should be able to realise that such a pup is going to be a drain of his time and energy. For those pups who are striving, the Trainer can do the best thing by acknowledging their progress in training. Expecting someone to learn instantly, or rapidly is unreasonable. Human pup play often involves un-learning a conditioned human behaviour. It can hardly be replaced by sincere pup behaviour quickly. The reasoned approach of praising progress, helps a pup reach pup hood a lot faster than stern discipline.
Giving praise for the progress a pup makes is called 'shaping', and this communication tool helps a Trainer direct and reinforce steps towards pup hood. A Trainer praises a pup for putting the hood on for the first time, then for working well using the hood, then compliments a pups choice of hood - thus shaping a pups attitude to his hood. t is important for a pup or Trainer to remember what you are wanting to be doing is giving positive feedback. That means complimenting behaviour that has already occurred, praising and thanking as acknowledgement. It is important not to be saying the positive words about an activity before it has happened as it comes across as manipulative and trying to passively control what is going to happen.
The specific mention of something, such as "I was impressed you sounded so genuine n your 'rawr' sound pup" is the best form of feedback. Grounding a compliment or praise in detail lets a pup or Trainer know exactly what was good. That specific response is better than a diffuse "yeah, it was good". It should be obvious that everyone involved in human pup play avoid giving sarcastic or backhand compliments. Any feedback that can be reasonably construed as an insult is not positive feedback. It's really simple - say positive things to acknowledge what good things have been occurring in pup play.