WE PLANT THE "SEEDS OF IDEAS" IN DOG OWNERS MINDS - THESE IDEAS EVENTUALLY BLOSSOM INTO A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF DOG BEHAVIOUR - Sally Hopkins
WE PLANT THE "SEEDS OF IDEAS" IN DOG OWNERS MINDS - THESE IDEAS EVENTUALLY BLOSSOM INTO A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF DOG BEHAVIOUR - Sally Hopkins

Survival

Nature provides animals with the ability to recognise rewarding and pleasurable experiences that will help them to survive. For instance in the wild, young predators learn to chase and kill a variety of small animals when they detect their scent, sound, or movement. They also learn what tastes acceptable and what tastes unpleasant or makes them ill.

 

This instinctive ability to assess what is happening around it is still very strong in the domestic dog. The dog's brain assesses the event or experience to see if it offers the opportunity to -

  • Fulfill its strong working drives and instincts (eg. chasing, herding, following a scent, digging etc.)
  • Be safe and part of either a human or dog pack (eg. human attention by either eye contact and/or interaction through play, touch or voice; other dogs accepting its presence and communicating with it by using calming signals and inviting it to play; the company of another dog, human or any other animal that it can bond with)
  • Recognise the event from past experiences that something pleasant is about to happen.
  • Find, smell, taste and feel the sensation of food in it's mouth, even when it may not feel hungry.
  • Fulfill its guarding instincts to protect its pack, territory or itself.
  • Experience an exciting rush of adrenaline, which can often become addictive and leave the dog wanting to repeat the event in order to get another "high". Too much of this type of excitement can result in the dog suffering from high levels of long-term stress which will effect its health and behaviour.

 

VERY REWARDING
If the dog's brain assesses that the Event is very rewarding, the dog will make an environmental photo of what it's senses have detected and store it in the dog's long-term memory.

 

PLEASANT + SHORT-TERM MEMORY
If the Event is only slightly rewarding the dog will store the experience in it's short-term memory (which seems to be only a couple of days, or a week, at the most). If the dog does not come across a similar Event in that period of time the experience will be forgotten. An example of this is when a dog is being taught a new behaviour and it does not find the initial training very rewarding. If the training is not repeated (and rewarded) on a regular basis then the dog will not retain the behaviour in its long-term memory.

 

REINFORCE
Ideally, when teaching a dog a new behaviour, the dog should be given short sessions of training of only ONE SPECIFIC EXERCISE AT A TIME for a maximum of five repetitions in a session. Three repetitions of an exercise seems to suit many dogs and prevents boredom setting in, leaving the dog wanting to do more for the next training session. This repetition enables the dog to assess the exercise as very rewarding and hence store it in its long-term memory.

 

This web site has been written by Sally Hopkins (unless the author of the web page is stated otherwise).

 

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