Features August 2008 Issue

Training Your Dog with Rewarding Treats and Praise

If it’s not rewarding to your dog in some way, he just won’t learn.

Why should training be fun for the dog? Briefest possible answer? “It’s the law.” How animals learn is the most-studied phenomenon in the history of psychology and is up there with gravity in terms of its lawfulness. One of the big ticket principles is that anything one tries to teach a new learner (such as a beginner dog) will get stronger in direct proportion to how many times it is rewarded. And (of perhaps even greater interest) every time the new learner does the behavior and is not rewarded (as in, say, “drilling” the same behavior over and over again) the behavior gets weaker. (Not just “doesn’t get stronger” – gets weaker.) In other words, it’s better to do nothing at all than to drill without rewards.

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