Superstition Vs. Dogma: In The Problem Solving Brain

A strong contrast can be drawn between the dog trained primarily with compulsion through escaping/avoiding pain, vs. the dog trained to solve a question to unlock reward. In the first we see a dog that is hesitant to try. A dog that lags into and out of a behavior starts and stops behaviors without committing. We see a dog that may avoid a behavior or a situation due to a superstitious belief that pain is the inevitable result of this activity and there is no actual escape from that eventuality. We must avoid this. In contrast, for dogs trained to solve problems to unlock a reward, the drive to complete the problem becomes evident. Once the dog understands that reward is available at the end of the behavior we find their drive intensifies allowing them to try answers that may or may not be correct. We call this offering. The dog offering behaviors allows us to select the behaviors we want to reinforce and provide reward for these behaviors, while we withhold reward when unwanted behaviors are offered. In the finishing stages of training we may find some aversive stimuli is necessary to cleans the artifacts of non-reinforcement. We must be careful to introduce the dog to aversive correction throughout the process so that they are prepared for this possibility but we must not make this the emphasis of our training.

If these methods are thoughtfully applied we will not be left with a dog that is superstitious or hesitant to provide the desired behavior but rather one with a dogmatic, “religious belief” that the reward waits just beyond the next correct answer and one that can accept and move quickly past aversive correction. This belief begins to resemble a zealous fanaticism for the behavior that has resulted so many times in intense reward. To achieve this, the rewards must be like the law of gravity in the beginning. Unavoidable, Obvious, and absolute. We must not shake the faith of the early believer.

Take thy dog to the church-of-hotdogs, that it may lay its good offering at the altar and receive its just reward. The Book of Dogmas 1:1.

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Jason Brown, Head Trainer

Main Location: Snohomish, WA     

Private Sessions offered bi monthly in

Bellevue, Kirkland, Redmond & Sammamish

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