I would like to start this post by defining some terms that important to the content of the post. The first is operant conditioning. Operant conditioning forms associations between behaviors and resulting events. So when an animal does some action or behavior that operates on the environment, there is some consequence. Now there are two ways to “train” an animal to do certain things, which is called shaping. One of them is through reinforcement and punishment. Reinforcement is an event that strengthens any behavior that precedes it. Punishment is just the opposite. It is an adverse event that can help decrease certain behaviors. These are often used to train animals to do certain tricks or to prevent them from doing something, such as sitting on the couch.
When I was very young, perhaps five or six years of age, we owned a dog, specifically a Dalmatian. We got this dog just after birth, and it was, as you can imagine, quite small. I was also quite short at the time. After a few months, the dog was getting quite large, growing much faster than I was at the time. It was so big in comparison to me, after a period of time, that when I would try to pet it or interact with it, the dog would basically “run me over” or knock me down. This obviously caused me pain, and I would start to cry. My parents were a bit concerned over the matter, and used punishment, as described above, to attempt to train the dog not to do this, a be a bit more gentle when interaction was taking place. Whenever the dog pushed me over, they hit it on the head. The dog did not like this. After a while, as you can image, the dog learned not to knock me over, although it took a lot longer than one might expect. Afterwards, the dog and I got along just fine.