You might have encountered this – when you are about to take your dog out for a walk, he barks, jumps up and down in ecstasy, making it difficult for you to put him on leash. He then pulls and rushes you out of the door.
We hope to make complex scientific theories easier to understand, so you can learn how to apply these valuable theories from experts.
According to B.F. Skinner, a psychologist and behavioural expert who has been a professor in psychology in Harvard University, if a behaviour is repeatedly conditioned with rewards, that behaviour has a higher chance to occur again, while a behaviour without reward-based conditioning is less likely to occur or will disappear completely.
In fact, animals and humans have similar behavioural patterns in this regards. For example, a child spills a drink accidentally and he cleans it up as told, his mum is pleased with his obedience and she offers praise in return. The likelihood of the same child willingly cleaning up his own mess again is high, because he is aware of and motivated by the positive consequence – his mum’s praise.
This also can apply to the over-excitement dogs exhibit when they are about to go out. We should try to understand why the barking and jumping happen persistently, and apply the above-mentioned principle of reward-based behaviour.
You take out a dog leash > Your dog barks, jumps around > Your dog is taken out for a walk, feeling pleased
Actually you are unintentionally reinforcing the barking and jumping by rewarding the dog with a walk outside. But if we modify this unspoken pattern, the dog can learn to adjust his behaviour accordingly.
One of the methods we can try is:
You take out a dog leash > Your dog barks, jumps around > You put down the leash, sit down and ignore your dog
Your dog can eventually realize his behaviour of barking and jumping is not being rewarded, and will be discouraged to do so. Let’s face it – your dog won’t learn this overnight. You might need to spend ten more minutes or so than you used to before being able to go for a walk. But as you practice this behavioural reinforcement more often, the time needed will gradually be reduced. You will be delighted to finally see your dog waiting patiently and quietly on your command.
Content provided by Dogniversity. Chinese to English translation by Hellodog.