NO BEGGING AT THE TABLE. THE PROCESS OF EXTINCTION FOR UNWANTED CANINE BEHAVIOURS.

NO BEGGING AT THE TABLE. THE PROCESS OF EXTINCTION FOR UNWANTED CANINE BEHAVIOURS.

January 25, 2024

REWARD DOGS FOR GOOD BEHAVIOURS AND NOT THE BAD. 

One of the principles of operant conditioning is reinforcement, which increases the likelihood that a specific behaviour will recur. Each time our dog sits on command, and we reward it with a treat, it will likely repeat the action more often and faster. The dog's behaviour makes something good happen. However, we can just as quickly reward behaviours we don't want, such as patting our dog when it jumps on us or feeding it at the table. 

For instance, when a dog begs for food at the dinner table, and we feed it, we reinforce the habit by rewarding the dog with a treat each time it begs. We can only stop this behaviour if we stop the reinforcement. Each time the dog begs for food at the dinner table, we must stop rewarding it and ignore it. When we no longer reinforce a practice we have previously encouraged, the behaviour will ultimately fade away, and extinction occurs.  

However, it is essential to remember that extinction takes time, and frequently, a dog's conduct worsens before it gets better, leading to an extinction burst. During this period, new behaviours such as frustration and aggression may appear. If we ignore it, the dog might start to paw or bark at us. It is vital not to give in; otherwise, we will reward more unwanted and possibly dangerous behaviours. 

On the other hand, extinction would not be recommended if the unwanted behaviour is self-rewarding. For instance, if a dog barks at the mail carrier who then leaves, the action is self-rewarding because the dog's behaviour caused something to happen. Similarly, chewing on inappropriate things, digging in the garden, chasing small animals, or sleeping on the couch are self-rewarding behaviours dogs enjoy. Therefore, ignoring these behaviours will not make them go away. Subsequently, it is up to us to train the practices we want with operant conditioning principles. 

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