Pete’s Puppy Principles is a three part series discussing how to leverage a puppy’s instinctive behaviors as part of your pet’s training regimen.
#5 HIGH VALUE REWARDS:
High value rewards would be defined in human terms as either Overtime pay or a bonus. When a pup does something good, we cannot relate to that pup in language that we liked that behavior. Therefore if we teach “sit” we must communicate to that pup it is good. The universal dog sign for “well done” is a treat. At this stage of their lives they really could give a rats’ behind if it makes us happy. That behavior must make them happy, which taps into what they know as dogs. When you want to make a human feel special about a job well done…you tip them. In dog world, when a pup is learning all new GOOD behaviors you provide special treats. Not crappy biscuits that are 5 dollars for 25 lbs. Special treats are boiled chicken breasts or liver with garlic powder. Some pups LOVE carrots or beans. The concept of a high value reward is one that elicits a high response from the pup. That is the quickest way to get these furry babies to repeat good behaviors. I find the homemade treats to be less expensive and more nutritious. The boiled liver/chicken costs you less that any treat from a pet store and is just as organic. Boil either the chicken or the liver in water with a dash of garlic powder which will repel fleas in your pup. Try various veggies with the pup…carrots are the best. The overriding concept of using high value rewards is that you only use them when trying to train your pup to a new behavior. The pup then associates that the only way to get this special treat is by doing the desired new behavior. If someone asked you to hold a snake and then added 500.00 to the request, would that snake be hanging round your neck?? Nuff Said!!
#6 EXTINCTION OF BEHAVIOR:
There are many ancient instincts in pups that have been bred in them for thousands of years. Some of these instincts they share with other mammals and even us. One of the most primal and prevalent is the survival instinct. This instinct drives most mammals to behave in certain ways to optimize their chance to live a long and healthy life. In dogs, survival means many things. In tapping into some of these instincts, we can create or eliminate behaviors in our pups as they are born with certain tendencies that involve survival. All of these are part of a pups initial learning cycle within the family unit. Rules = rewards!!
Let’s take the most basic of a pup’s behavior, which is “attention seeking”. All babies are needy and baby dogs are no different. Getting mom’s attention, provides food, security and comfort. So that same solicitation behavior carries through when the pup moves to its human family. The puppy has already learned how to seek attention to get something they desire. Now that is not always a desired behavior. The most obvious attention seeker is barking. How many of my client complain that their puppy stands in front of them and just BARKS. Now here is how “extinction” works. If a puppy barks at me….I get up and leave. The pup’s intention was to get attention, instead I left. After several barking solicitations with NO results, except the opposite of what the pup wants, this behavior becomes a waste of energy as it produces no positive result. So slowly, as the barking keeps making me leave, the behavior becomes useless.
Now there are two more parts to extinction of behavior. As much as negative results cause extinction of behavior, any attention will increase it. If that same pup were to bark at me and I were to pay any attention, like petting the puppy or trying to stop the barking by acknowledging the dog, you LOSE. The pup seeking attention, so any form positive or negative reinforces that behavior. This principle applies in all cases of behavior modification and the best feature is the puppy decides to stop the behavior on its own.