In an earlier post, we learnt to express our likes and dislikes to our dogs. In this post, we will dive further to understand what exactly drives behaviours in dogs (animals). We will also learn how to increase / decrease our dog’s behvaiours.
Dogs learn through consequence. In other words, consequence drives learning (of behaviours) in dogs.
Stay with me for a moment. Let’s take a step back and understand what behaviour and consequence means.
Anything your dog does is called a behaviour. Sitting, standing, barking, bowing, lying down are all examples of behaviours.
In dog training context, something that follows (happens after) a behaviour is called a consequence.
According to The Free Dictionary, consequence means “something that logically or naturally follows from an action or condition”.
Here is an example. Your dog chooses to sit (behaviour). And you choose to offer your dog a cookie (consequence).
You offering the cookie (consequence) happens after your dog chose to sit (behaviour).
Let us dive further to understand how consequence drives a behaviour. Now, looking through the eyes of the dog, the act of sitting is rewarding because the behaviour is immediately followed by a cookie.
Let us look at another example. Your dog chooses to jump on you (behaviour). And you choose to ignore your dog and turn your back to your dog (consequence).
Now, looking through the eyes of the dog, the act of jumping is unrewarding because the behaviour is immediately followed by the loss of human’s attention.
Over time, your dog will choose to exhibit behaviours that are rewarding and will cut back behaviours that are unrewarding.
The key takeaway is that you can control the consequence of a behaviour. You should reward behaviours that you find desirable and ensure that undesirable behaviours are followed by an unrewarding consequence.
Note that, every time we’re turning the consequence rewarding by offering a cookie. “Does that mean we should always carry cookies to train our dogs? Are there ways to cut back the cookies?”, might you ask.
Learning about reinforcers will help answer your questions. You’re about to find out what reinforcers are in the next article. Stay tuned!
Today, I’m grateful for my dogs for making our entire family cheerful.