Over the last two months I have found some success with practicing positive reinforcement, mainly with my beloved dog companion Sophie, but also as a life lesson more generally.
It started one day when, while I was in the bathroom, my dear Sophie–11+years young and generally excellent about utilizing piddle pads in her own rather opulent bathroom setup with tarps and liners and four pads at a time to prevent misses!–, sat right outside the bathroom door and relieved herself on the area-rug carpet! This happened two times more in the next couple of days despite my arduous use of enzymatic cleanups and strong admonishment and reinforcement of the litter pads.
The fourth day in, I decided to get rid of the rug, rolled it up and moved it to the basement, leaving a wood floor such as she has never made mistakes on. But I wondered inwardly, what was going on? Sophie seemed pleased with herself when she had used the carpet in my view, so I knew somehow she thought I would be equally pleased and was confused when I was not!
I realized the carpet area Sophie had used was near the water cooler (Culligan dispenser). Sometimes water might drip from the dispenser while I am filling a glass or a coffee carafe. So I figured out that Sophie might have interpreted this slight moisture on the rug as an invitation. With this awareness, I changed my approach.
After still strongly reinforcing the use of her litter pads (she is a small dog and while she loves to relieve herself out of doors, I want her to have a way to do so overnight or when I am away for several hours), I started rewarding her with diabetic-friendly Sci-Di W/D morsels, calling them “piddle treats.” Every time she uses the pads during the day and every morning when I check her pads out, I congratulate and praise her for being such a good girl!
She has not made any mistakes since this change in approach to positive reinforcement instead of admonishment.
I have been reflecting on the practice of positive reinforcement more generally. I realize it is important to use positive reinforcement with others I interact with day to day, and with myself! This has led to a more relaxed attitude altogether, and I find I am finding ways to have more fun and to celebrate happiness.
In retrospect I remember how, when I was growing up, I loved the book Irish Red. As I recall, this story directly champions using positive reinforcement and demonstrating unconditional love in bonding with a dog, and I remember from then committing to use that approach with my own pets, always.
My cat and dog life companions (plus a parakeet, a pigeon, and mice when I was young!) have always been among my closest friends and they are my home family as I have generally lived humanly alone or with a roommate.
My better endings suggestion here is simple: Be Kind to Others and to Yourself to Be Happy! Reward your loved ones and yourself with positive vibes and attitudes.
Better Endings Story Seed
How can you practice positive reinforcement with a relationship situation you are currently facing, and with yourself? Journal also about a time when you used positive reinforcement and it led to an improvement in your life happiness.