I came across a commentary about the importance of a dog having a job. The blogger advocates that position but when a pal put a backpack on her dog and said that it was proudly wearing it–she did not agree.
Her take was that the dog would not be “proud” with a load on its back unless it was rewarded (which her friend said she did not do).
What I found disturbing was the statement, “Labor is slavery if work is not reinforced and rewarded.”
So wearing a backpack is labor and the dog is enslaved? Depending on the community you live in dogs are considered property–my animals have always been family but that is not how the legal system views it–but this is slowly starting to change.
Anyway, I think her assumption was, like many people think, that the dog needs a tangible reward for the behavior. Many novice trainers get stumped over pets that don’t want treats or another form of reinforcement.
I’ve got news for you. They are getting it but humans miss the boat on identifying just what is rewarding.
How about mental stimulation, praise…etc?
My point is that everything is reinforcing or extinguishing. If the animal gets what it wants or finds something of value during the behavior–it will continue it. If the experience is negative or neutral, chances are it won’t get repeated. But just because the reinforcement is not overtly obvious does not mean that it isn’t being reinforced.
Most pet behavior problems can be significantly reduced or extinguished by simply giving the animal “a job”–that is activity–mental and physical. When you direct an animal or teach him or her to make choices that is when the animal becomes an asset to the household.
Responding and making choices is different from reacting–but that is a whole other topic.