Some Dogs Need This and Other Dogs Need That. WHATEVER.
I hear all kinds of things when people find out I’m a professional trainer.
Lots of people will say to me “not all dogs (horses, cats, insert your animal here) respond to things the same way. What works for one dog doesn’t necessarily work for another dog.”
I’ve got news for you.
It all works the same way for every learner, be it dog, horse, cat, or chicken (yes, chickens can be trained!).
The laws of behavior state:
- Reinforcement increases a behavior.
- Punishment decreases a behavior.
- Extinction eliminates a behavior.
Period. End of story.
Now, here’s what does change depending on the learner.
What one learner considers reinforcement does change, just like it does from person to person. Here’s a real-life example.
Let’s say a friend did me a huge favor (like came to let my dogs out 3x a day while the dog sitter worked when I went on vacation — you know who you are, Wendy!). If, as a thank you, I got her a big coconut creme cake, I would actually be punishing that behavior if she hates coconut. If that’s my go-to thank you gift, she’s probably not going to volunteer to help me out in the future.
So even if you really love something, it doesn’t mean everyone else does. I LOVE ice cream. But someone allergic to dairy would not appreciate ice cream for dessert.
It doesn’t matter if I hate pecan pie — if I want to reinforce someone’s kind or helpful behavior, I gotta let my hatred of pecan pie go.
A reinforcer is a reinforcer is a reinforcer. If behavior increases, a reinforcer is involved. Period. Done. Finished.