Bribery vs Selective Reinforcement

 In Useful tips

Small pieces of food are a good basic encouragement for dog training; yet, the question of the day is:  will I always need to carry food with me so the dog obeys me?

In the very beginning of the training process, we reward the dog for every correct action.   Then training changes to that the reward becomes random and selective. For example, you call the dog, it comes, and you give a treat. The next time they come to the call, you give another piece.  For a period of time, we provide a treat every time they perform the desired behaviour.   Then we progress so that sometimes we don’t give a treat. Therefore, we treat one recall out of two or three. Then treat three or four proper behaviors one after another.  The fifth time you ask for the behaviour, it is untreated. We have commenced varying the rate of reward. That’s what we call selective reinforcement. Thus, two things happen: we do not let the behavior fade away and we use less food.

Maybe you’ve noticed that at the beginning of the walk your dog obeys well because they are hungry; but having received a certain amounts of treats to satisfy the hunger, they begin to ignore the commands. And of course, an element of excitement and play disappears. The dog becomes bored. They know that they will satisfy their hunger within five minutes and then they don’t have any further motivation to cooperate. By encouraging the dog in an unpredictable, variable, random manner everything will fall into place.

It is impossible to consider work with food – bribery of a dog. Bribery is an advance to get a certain behavior in order to increase its likelihood. When we show the dog a treat, and then we give the command, we bribe it to do what we want. In the early stages of training, this is acceptable. But do not linger on it. When the dog performs the command and then receives food – this is reinforcement, reward, salary.

If you cannot control the dog when there is no food in your hand, this is an occasion to stop and think about what you are not doing right. You cannot lure a dog by promising them a piece. Bribery is not effective dog training. Treats should be in your pocket or purse ready and available, but should not be visible.

Selective reinforcement implies that the dog has no idea at what point they will receive encouragement for their behavior and they have nowhere else to get it, except from your hands.

Remember: treats should not always be the same size.  Vary timing of reward, ask for longer duration of the behavior and vary the reward itself.  Consider a handful of food instead of a piece of food as a reward after a period of correct behaviour where no reward has been given, or after a successful extension of duration of the behavior.

When you start to build random reward patterns, make sure you are rewarding the desired behavior, and not just rewarding in a random manner.

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