All behaviour stems from two types of learning, and not unlike humans, fidos learn by the immediate consequences of their actions and by associations (i.e., event patterns).
To put it simply, rewards motivate continued performance. In fact it is a law of nature...
Thorndike’s Law of Effect established that behaviours which result in pleasant outcomes for the performer are more likely to be repeated in the same or similar situation and that the opposite is also true - behaviours which result in discomfort for the performer are less likely to be repeated again in the same or similar situation.
Behaviour doesn’t just flow like a fountain, behaviour is a tool animals use to produce consequences.
-Dr. Susan Friedman, Ph.D. Department of Psychology, Utah State University
What constitutes a reward is in the eye of the beholder. It is up to us to determine what Fido considers rewarding if we want to build or modify behaviour in a physically and psychologically safe and effective way for everyone involved.
Reward-based training works via the human becoming a consequence machine. There is no need for things like intimidation tactics, verbal or physical violence, or pretending we are a dog in order to “correct” their behaviour. The giving and withholding of rewards as a consequence of the behaviour being offered in the moment will get us to the result we want with low stress and best of all it’s an enjoyable experience all around.
The more a behaviour we like is reinforced with a reward the more often Fido will choose it and the opposite is also true for behaviours we dislike. If undesirable behaviours no longer result in a reward, then Fido is less inclined to choose it up until the point it fully extinguishes as it is no longer serving them.
What if I told you Fido could be trained to do something else when you come home instead of jumping up on you? A sit perhaps or a down-stay? Go to their bed? Go get a toy and bring that to you for a game of tug? This can be achieved with reward-based training. Instead of focusing on “correcting” or stopping the behaviour we don’t want, we focus on preventing the rehearsal of the undesired behaviour while we teach them a more preferable replacement behaviour to perform when you get home.
In its most basic form, reward-based training utilizes the things Fido loves in order to teach them how to behave the way we would like. This method is not about controlling or bribing Fido, it’s about being in control of everything they love and being mindful to use it strategically to build behaviours we like. This approach to training creates a world for Fido where they are getting it right more often than wrong and drives reliability of desired behaviours without reliance on fear of consequences to motivate. Afterall, working to gain something we want is generally a much more enjoyable form of motivation than working to avoid something we don’t want to happen to us, am I right?
5 important canine research conclusions to consider when raising Fido:
Nature and nurture both influence behavioural development, one generally cannot fully compensate for the other, so effort should be made during the initial stages of growth to implement an appropriate plan for environmental and social exposures to help prevent problem behaviours from appearing during adulthood.
Puppy socialization training is important in healthy behaviour development and can have a significant preventative effect on a dog's likelihood to show undesirable behaviours to new dogs and people.
Pet dogs trained using reward based methods are no less obedient than those trained using aversive methods, furthermore these dogs exhibit less cases of problematic behaviours throughout their lives.
Dogs are more likely to associate scary punishments not with their own behaviour, but with a person or a context, and can lead to other developmental detriments like decreased interactivity in play with both dogs and people.
The use of aversive based training methods to modify aggression increases the likelihood of injury to the owner and risks causing harm to the relationship with their companion dog.
Sources: Blackwell et al., 2008, Casey et al., 2014, Gonzalez-Martinez et al., 2019, Todd, 2018, Cooper et. al, 2014, Blackwell et al., 2012, Rooney &, Cowan, 2011, Howell, King & Bennett, 2015, Deldalle & Gauntlet, 2014, Hiby, Rooney, & Bradshaw, 2004, Schilder & van der Borg, 2004, Ziv, 2017, Lafollette, Rodriguez, Ogata, O’Haire, 2019