(Part of the Memory flow chart of the DOG-GAMES website)
This is why the use of motivators works so well when training a dog (or other animal) to learn a new behaviour - the dog stores the environmental photo in its long-term memory and it then feels compelled to repeat the behaviour it was taught in order to get its motivator again.
However, this does NOT mean that the motivator must always be used to keep the desired behaviour. Once the dog has a thorough understanding of what is expected and associates a command with its behaviour, the motivator can be given at random to make the dog keener to work to see what it is going to be given this time. There are different types and values of motivators that can be used to keep the dog eager and willing to do the behaviour.
Below is an example of the benefits of long-term memory if the dog assesses the Event as rewarding -
For instance, if the handler uses the dog's name for lots of different reasons eg -
Eventually the dog will ignore the sound of its name as it seems to have very little relevance to the dog - in other words, it does not recognise it's name as a signal to look at the handler.
Lodgers often have a number of boring "photos" stored in their long-term memories and and this is why they become very withdrawn and introverted with the humans and dogs around them.
Following on the example that we used for a "Good" long-term memory, below is an example of what happens if the dog assesses the Event as boring or irrelevant -
When it recognises the same "photo" in the same or similar circumstances the dog will display various calming signals both to its owner and to the dogs around it in order to avoid conflict. It will also feel a very strong desire to avoid and escape the situation it finds itself in. If the dog has no escape route available (ie the handler does not recognise the dog's body language and calming signals, and prevents the dog moving to a more manageable distance from the "threat") it will resort to more drastic measures to resolve the situation -
either at the perceived "threat" or the closest thing to its mouth (often the handler).
If a dog is prevented from using any of these steps of the ladder (particularly the lower ones such as snarling, growling or barking) the dog has no option but to go further up the ladder to make the threat go away. This is why aversion techniques that prevent dogs from barking (such as squirting them with water, or collars that squirt citronella) can result in the dog resorting to more unacceptable behaviour (lunging, snapping & biting) to try to avoid the perceived threat.
The only humane and lasting answer to overcome these behaviours that have been triggered by its long-term memory is to manage the dog's lifestyle and environment, and gradually introduce the dog to situations that it can cope with (carefully monitoring its body language and signals), giving the dog new positive associations of the environmental photo by offering it rewards that it enjoys.
Once again, using the same example that we used previously, below is an example of the drawbacks of long-term memory if the dog assesses the Event as threatening or unpleasant, combined with positive long-term memories that reinforce unwanted behaviour -
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