It’s no secret that we can teach our dogs to do things. One of the key components in making it happen is what happens after the behavior occurs. This is known as a consequence. We often think of the term consequence as something bad, but really, it’s a good thing too. Consequences drive behavior. (Or cause it to come to a screeching halt.) There are 4 types of consequences that can occur either during or after a behavior. The one that is most popular is positive reinforcement. This is the one you should be focusing on if you want your dog to do more of what you like. For positive reinforcement to work we need to provide something that our dogs like right after (or during) a behavior. If you’re trying this, you’ll know it’s working if your dog is offering the behavior again and again. One example is if you ask your dog to sit before going outside. In the beginning it may be quite challenging. But once your dog figures out that sitting results in getting to go outside, you’re likely going to see your dog sit faster. This is because sitting produces the outcome your dog wants. (Which is getting to go outside.) One common mistake is that we try to choose what our dog finds to be reinforcing. What I mean is, sometimes we try to give lots of praise in certain situations and we think that is going to be good enough to get the behavior to happen again. It’s not so simple unfortunately. Different scenarios can need different things to reinforce behaviors. If my dog is playing with other dogs and I call him over and give him lots of praise, there is a good chance the next time I call him over his response will be either slower or non existent. This is because praise in this scenario isn’t reinforcing.
It’s not so simple unfortunately. Different scenarios can need different things to reinforce behaviors.
Focus on the consequences and think about how certain scenarios will call for different types of rewards. Again, if your rewards are actually reinforcing, you’ll see more of that behavior in the future.