Would You Gamble With Your Dog’s Behavior?

pigeonI was reading about a study done with pigeons the other day.

The pigeons were in a cage with a feeder bar. If the pigeon pecked the bar a piece of food was given.

The pigeon learned that one peck meant one piece of food.

If the pigeon could peck and get food whenever he wanted he would get bored and peck every once in a while.

The scientists then changed it up.

The food was turned off. The pigeon would peck and no food was given. Once the pigeon learned no food was coming he gave up any interest in the bar and no longer pecked it.

This is where it got really interesting.

The scientist put the food on an intermittent schedule. The pigeon would peck two times and food would be offered. The pigeon would then have to peck five times before any food. Then eight pecks would get the food. Then three pecks would get the food.

They discovered that on an intermittent reward schedule the pigeons would peck like crazy and became very focused on the feeder bar.

This is important for you to understand and apply because you can use this info to improve your dog’s obedience.

Once your dog learns a behavior you should switch to an intermittent reward schedule.

If you are predictable with your rewards your dog’s performance will not be as crisp as you want. Your dog may even lose interest and not perform at all.

So your takeaways for today are:

Never free feed your dog. If your dog always has access to food it will be difficult to use food to train.
Become unpredictable with your rewards to improve performance.
If you work your dog too long with no reward your dog will give up.
Using an intermittent reward schedule is the best way to train once your dog learns a behavior.

Makes sense if you think about it. Look at gambling. Humans LOVE to gamble. Every community in the country is talking about opening a casino because they know people will flock to them and guess what happens when humans show up?

They are exposed to an intermittent reward schedule.

Here endeth today’s lesson.

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