Monday, March 21, 2011

How Dogs Learn

Dogs are very efficient in their behavior. If a behavior is inherently pleasurable (eating, playing, chasing, etc), or if doing a particular behavior gets something pleasurable for the dog (like food, attention, or social interaction), the dog will display that behavior more and more often. If a behavior is not pleasurable, if it does not work to obtain something pleasurable, or results in something unpleasant, the dog will use that behavior less and less. Whenever you interact with a dog, you’re constantly giving her feedback about what works to get the good stuff and what doesn’t work. If a dog jumps up and gets attention, even if the attention is that you push him, then he knows that jumping “works” -– that is, it gets him attention and social interaction. If a he accidentally bites you in play and you don’t end the game, then he learns that play biting “works” or at least is not a serious impropriety -– the fun continues. So you can see why it is very important to manipulate the consequences of your dog’s behavior to be sure he is getting the right messages from you. This is a big responsibility. Read the entire article

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