DON'T SHOOT THE DOG! by Karen Pryor


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Despite that catchy title: a dull, unhelpful recycling of behavioral-training theory and jargon--with only the most scattered bits of practical advice. Pryor, a fervent Skinnerian and onetime trainer of dolphins, advocates the use of ""positive reinforcement"" in all areas of life: for pet training, of course, but also for noisy kids, messy roommates, rotten husbands, or your own weak tennis forehand. And this premise certainly has possibilities. Unfortunately, however, instead of organizing the book around daily-life situations, Pryor opts for a textbook-y approach--explicating the general principles of Skinner-style training in chapters on: reinforcement (schedules, long-duration behaviors, conditioned reinforcers); ""shaping,"" a.k.a. behavior-mod; and stimulus control--with signal magnitude, fading, conditioned aversive stimuli, etc. Practical examples, then, only pop up erratically along the way--in sketchy, often-unconvincing form. (A woman with a bossy husband and father-in-law ""turned them into decent human beings"" within a year by responding minimally to commands ""while reinforcing with approval and affection"" the men's more pleasant tendencies.) And, despite a ""topic finder"" and a flurry of short-hand examples in the final chapters (primarily re ""getting rid of a behavior""), this is heavy on the jargon, skimpy on the how-to appeal--especially in contrast to the dozens of better specific-area guides, many of which do incorporate behavioral-training ideas.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1983
Publisher: Simon & Schuster