When a dog has a very rewarding experience (or a pleasant one that is repeated until it becomes very rewarding), it stores the sights, sounds, scents, tastes and textures of the environment in its long-term memory by making an environmental photo.


If its senses detect a similar "photo" in the future, it will recognise the Event as being rewarding and will repeat the behaviour in order to get another reward eg -

  • attention from humans or dogs *
  • the opportunity to rest and relax *
  • the companionship of its "pack" *
                                                  (* see Life Rewards)
  • the scents, tastes and textures of small but interesting treats
  • play with a toy
  • further work that it enjoys doing with the handler
  • Dogs also get a strong sense of achievement (ie. fulfilling their working instincts) for doing behaviours correctly and see this as a reward in itself, once they have completely mastered and understood what is expected of them.

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 -


The very first time a dog goes to a new training venue


If the dog is allowed the time and opportunity to thoroughly explore the new environment on its very first visit (without the distraction of other dogs being present), its stress levels will fall enough for it to relax - it may even become a little bored after a while. Therefore, when the training eventually begins and it is given something to do for a reward it will perceive the training experience as being rewarding and unstressful. After the short training session the dog is allowed to walk calmly back to its car, without being distracted, so that it can latently learn about the Event that has just occurred.

Its brain will assess the whole experience and make an environmental photo of the sights, sounds, scents, tastes and the feel of the floor surfaces so that it can recognise the situation as being a very safe, calm and rewarding place to come and work with its handler.

On subsequent visits the dog will enter the same training area and very quickly relax and calm down (ie. the environmental photo triggers the dog to behave in the same way as it did on its first visit). It will be ready and eager to learn and be focused enough to concentrate on what it is being taught due to its low levels of adrenaline.

The dog will soon be able to cope with other dogs being in the venue at the same time (especially if they are relaxed and calm from their initial introduction to the training venue as well) and all the dogs will be able to make further "photos" to help them remember what they are being taught.



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