Reinforced behaviour continues …

So as you can see, I’ve not posted on here in a long time; I’ve just not had the time, even though I have had the inclination!

So I’ve decided to fix that and try my hardest to post some useful information on a more regular basis.

So here is the first one in a while.

Reinforced behaviour continues and will increase in frequency. You may have heard that before, but what does it mean to dog training and your dog’s behaviour.

All behaviour is evoked by an environmental stimulus and then subsequently reinforced or punished by a different environmental stimulus.  If you say “sit” and your dog sits and then you give her a treat, sitting is much more likely to occur in the future when she hears the same stimulus again; i.e. you saying “sit”.

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This is known as the antecedent, behaviour and consequence.   The antecedent happens before the behaviour to evoke it, the behaviour then happens and the consequence follows.

Conversely if you ask her to “sit”, she sits and then you pet her on the top of the head, one of 2 things may happen.  If she enjoys being petted on the head, then the behaviour will have been reinforced and is likely to happen more often in the future, whereas if she finds being touched on the top of her head aversive, the behaviour will have been punished and is less likely to occur in the future.

Training Tip

So what?  It is important to understand the things that your dog finds reinforcing and recognise anything she finds aversive so you can avoid inadvertently punishing the behaviours you are trying to reinforce.  Reinforcement and punishment are the critical elements of behaviour change, but it is always from the animals perspective.

Do you ever wonder why your dog steals things and runs away?  In the past she may have picked up a sock or other inappropriate item to play with.  You will have tried to get if from her and she will have run away; playing chase can be extremely reinforcing for many dogs. Does your dog love to steal things and does the behaviour seem to be getting worse?  It is likely that she is being reinforced.

What does your dog steal?

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