3 min read

Early days of exploring the process of reinforcement to maintain or strengthen a behaviour were limited to the simplest mechanism to deliver a pellet. The restrictions of research experiments and absence of other forms, or view, of what may constitute reinforcement should have been left behind as soon as we began to train our friends, or dogs, animals that share our lives.

We have a very rich range of rewards available and should make use of them at every opportunity. It saddens me to see the mechanical click-treat-and-be-done protocols heavily promoted as “training with reinforcement”. Perhaps it should be “training with the least amount of effort from the person as possible”.

A common question is “what if the dog doesn’t train for food?” Then I would be seriously question what an earth has happened to stop that process being an event of pleasure for the dog?

Treat training is not just about supplying food or having a hungry dog.

The delivery of that treat can become a highly valued process, eagerly sought by the dog because the delivery involves so much more than “dump-and-swallow”.

It involves engagement from Their Person, who is probably the most valuable resource in that dog’s life – the person that enjoys their company, gives affection, provides security and a sense of belonging. To deliver a treat AND LOOK AWAY, is an insult. Like shaking hands on greeting but talking to another person at the same time. It completely devalues the process, but I see it far too regularly.

Just delivering a treat is not enough.

We can add rewarding activities that the dog enjoys, catching, chasing. We can add anticipation, a choice process, and increase the value of that dry piece of beef.

Magnifying the value of the reinforcement process, increasing the time of enjoyment, builds the power that drives the behaviour.

The cue-seeking effect where the dog needs little prompting.

The behaviour that builds its own energy and pleasure.

A behaviour that contains animation, joy and so much more than a mechanical response.


If we seek to teach, then we need to become masters of the reinforcement process, not masters of behaviour manipulation.

Join us in person, or online and find the power of your reinforcers.

When we train a dog it grows

Most training starts from necessity. Management is a necessity but it usually benefits all parties by a reduction of conflict. But does management training mean that the dog can grow? Are they expanding their skills to benefit us or for their benefit?

Heartbeat of Geek-land

I like to regard a “teacher of dogs” as someone who meets dogs in their world and teaches them how to be their best whilst living alongside us in our world.

The life of my Time

Time is my ninth generation of collies. He lives for being a collie and all that collies have done for generations – work in partnership and assist in what their Person likes to do. This ranges from collecting sheep off the mountain to toddling round the main ring at Crufts.

Treats for life?

The whole collective of rewards, or reinforcers, serves a purpose of ensuring that the tasks just completed keep getting completed. The task may tolerate a lapse of memory, but you will soon find that door smacked in your face if you stop acknowledging the courtesy offered to you by a stranger, friend or acquaintance.

One day you will love him again

The puppy that you adored, could do no wrong, is now a living horror story. We want to use positive reinforcement, and our mind focuses on the success of what is not happening. But reinforcement attaches itself to something happening, not an absence and cannot select for a multitude of different things that are being reinforced.

Construction or suppression

There are distinctive goals: Continual success, always travelling forwards ~ Each click to represent a moment of joy and not a moment of relief from the anxiety of not understanding. Looking at the way the behaviour is carried out is the most important element, and that is the product of all the considerations.

How do you know what you don’t know?

The age of trusting the professionals is fading fast. I am not sure anymore what exactly is a professional and the difference between genuine, self-styled and fake? With so much information freely available and shared when we open the gate to “looking for a xyz” we are struggling to recognise authenticity from smart marketing.

Which course, which conference?

This is a regular question when mixing with the trainers and professionals of tomorrow. There are more folk wanting to fullfil life goals to work with dogs and their people. Unfortunately the “make money whilst I sleep” crowd are seeding the market who can be parted from their time and money.

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