Think about this scenario:
Suppose you're getting paid for on-the-job training and are expected to learn your new job by the end of the day.
Which pay would motivate you more?
A) $50 per hour?
B) $10 per hour?
Which rate of pay might keep you on task better throughout the course of the day?
A) Being paid at the end of each hour?
B) Being paid at the end of the day?
If you answered (A) to those questions, you are like most animals, including your dog!
Matt Lauer of "The Today Show" made an excellent observation last month when little Wrangler, the yellow Lab “mascot” puppy was trotting along next to his handler in the plaza, ignoring the crowd.
“You would strut, too, if you were getting liver treats every few steps!”
He was absolutely right!!!
Here are a couple of key things to consider in that statement:
The puppy was getting liver treats - very motivating for most dogs. Not your everyday kibble. Fifty bucks, not ten.
He was getting a treat every few steps - rapid rate of reinforcement. More like being paid each hour instead of at the end of the day.
That's what kept Wrangler with his handler instead of wandering away to check out the crowd. High-value treats and a rapid rate of reinforcement. Once he's "learned the job" he won't have to be paid so frequently, but he should still be paid now and then to maintain his motivation.
Just like us, dogs look forward to payday!
So next time you're training a new behavior, or working in a distracting environment, break out the high-value treats and pay your dog frequently for his small successes. Once he clearly understands his job, you can pay less frequently, or use lower-value treats, or just praise him to tell him he's still doing a great job. But never completely stop using high-value rewards.
Think of what would be more likely to motivate you:
Having your boss give you an occasional pat on the back, or picking up that check on payday?