Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Reinforcers for Dog Training

I couldn't help but relate the section in Chapter Ten about reinforcers to dog training. Over the course of my lifetime I have had 3 dogs and with each dog my family has taught them to stay out of the kitchen when it is a meal time. According to our textbook, Motivation by Deckers, "Learning what to do results from the action of reinforcers" (pg 240). When training our dogs, we used reinforcers in order to motivate them to stay out of the kitchen at meal times.

This short video is exactly how we trained our dogs to stay out of the kitchen.

In order to properly start training, you need to make sure the dog knows where the boundary is. In my house, there is a clear boundary since the kitchen is hardwood floor while the family room is carpet. After the boundary is established you want to make sure you reward your dog for obeying your command. That reward is a treat, and that treat acts as the reinforcer. I also believe that another reinforcer can be praise because dogs respond positively to praise.

A funny thing happened when we had our second dog, Julie a Lab Retriever. We had agreed to watch our cousins dog, Gromit, and both dogs were in the family room. Gromit was closer to the kitchen and she placed her paw in the kitchen. Once this happened Julie gave a warning bark to Gromit almost like she was saying 'You are not allowed to do that.' Gromit pulled her paw back after Julie barked. At the time I thought it was hilarious, but after reading this chapter it made me think. Dogs really do remember things they are taught, and I believe reinforcers make dogs more motivated to show that they can remember.

I also think that reinforcers motivate people to continue a certain behavior as well. For example, a student gets good grades on their report card and the parents give them a gift. Giving the child a gift is the reinforcer for getting good grades. Also, reinforcers can turn into positive incentives. According to Deckers, "A positive incentive motivates the behavior that is instrumental in attaining the incentive." (pg. 240) The textbook gives an example that getting a good grade is an incentive so it motivates studying. When you study, you are working towards the incentive of a good grade and furthermore working towards the reinforcer of getting a gift for your hard work.

It is not too hard to see that training people and dogs are similar. Of course, dogs are much easier to train and are more simplistic than humans but the basics are there. Reinforcers help people and dogs learn the correct behavior, while positive incentives motivate the proper behavior in order to achieve something greater. For humans it could be praise, money, power and for dogs a simple treat or pat on the head will suffice.

Just for fun, click this link to see my current dog Jackie modeling the behavior of staying out of the kitchen during lunch time.


  1. haha i like how your dog was able to save your family trouble by letting the other dog know not to go in there. smart dog !

  2. I think the key to training the dog is shown in the video. By training the dog when you are not using the kitchen (cooking food or eating). You are taking away any potential or perceived incentive for the dog to come into the kitchen. Before a dog is trained to stay out, he sees or smells food as an incentive which motivates him to go into the kitchen, as well as companionship if his/her master is in there. Once reinforcers (the physical line, praise and treats) for staying out and punishment (being yelled at and kicked out) are used, as well as the dog understanding that he will not receive any food to go into the kitchen. The dog has no motivation to go into the kitchen. The dog understands that he will gain nothing by going in the kitchen and will only get punished.

  3. That is cute! Dogs are so smart its unbelievable. Training dogs can be very difficult for some people but the use of reinforcers only helps both the owner and the dog. Now, if only I can get reinforcing behaviors to work in potty training a three and a half year old! :)

  4. Great article on reinforcement here. If you're interested I also have a blog and am continually keeping my eyes peeled for other serious writers to maybe swap guest articles for fresh eyeballs. If you have the time, have a look at one of my newest dog reltaed blog articles here- content about training dogs and get in touch if you're interested! Apologies if you don't, thankyou