Reinforcers – What Your Dog Likes




A reinforcer is anything that makes your dog’s behaviour more likely to occur in the future. It can be anything that happens after your dog does a behaviour that results in them repeating the behaviour, often quicker and with more enthusiasm. There are many things that might be reinforcing to your dog including: eating tasty foods, playing with toys or sniffing out interesting scents.

Some things are naturally reinforcing for dogs in particular contexts – they do not need to learn that these are beneficial. For example, food is reinforcing when they are hungry, water when they are thirsty, and sleep when they are tired.

Animals find it reinforcing to feel they can make choices and control what happens to them and this is something to bear in mind when thinking about reinforcement for your dog. How can you ensure your dog is able to safely make choices that matter to them throughout the day?

There are also reinforcers that your dog might learn are enjoyable or beneficial – they are not born knowing it. This includes playing with toys, doing enrichment activities, training and other things like praise and touch, if your dog enjoys them.

What is reinforcing is always up to your dog! One dog may love playing with a ball, but another may show no interest. Playing with a ball might be a good reinforcer for the first dog but would be ineffective for the second.

So notice what your dog really likes. Do they enjoy sniffing, eating particular foods, touch or playing with a specific toy? If so, these things might be good options for reinforcing your dog’s behaviour.

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