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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Pavlov discovered something extremely-potent, way-back when, with his laboratory dogs; it wasn't something he was searching for - he was studying the biomechanics & chemistry of digestion, & this came along as a surprise.

When he observed that the dogs, accustomed to receiving powdered meat blown into their mouths from a tube after a BELL rang, also salivated in anticipation when the bell rang even if there was no meat, he was intrigued.
When he also realized that the dogs responded to the SIGHT of a white lab-coat with the same whining, wagging, drooling joy, he knew something significant was going on.

FOOD is an unconditioned reinforcer - every living thing must eat.

For Pavlov's lab-dogs, the bell & white lab-coats were conditioned reinforcers - they began as neutral stimuli, & became happy precursors to desirable events thru experience.
Conditioning is the process of associating a neutral thing with a significant event, which can be happy, worrying, calming, or any other flavor of emotional effect.
Conditioning can be -positive-, meaning happy, -negative-, which loads the formerly-neutral stimulus with Bad Feelings, or even inadvertent - accidental conditioning can cause disasters, when we set up a chain of events that poisons a cue, the dog's Sacred Name, a particular place, or other important things. :(

in a nutshell, any stimulus that precedes or accompanies a significant event is associated with that event, & soon acquires the same emotional value as the event.
That can be happy [bell = food, Yum!] or scary [buzz = shock, Yikes!] or simply informative [ding = elevator door will open; whoosh! = automatic door opens when motion-sensor is tripped].
Superstitions can also be created when the dog selects a random stimulus as SALIENT when in fact it's merely coincidence.

Over time, fluent trained behaviors themselves become powerfully saturated with all their past-history of happiness - treats during the teaching phase, interactive play during consolidation, & praise given once the behaviors are fluent. // The cue 'sit' thus acquires a golden aura when it's a very familiar signal for a fluent behavior; just saying it to a highly-stressed, about-to-explode dog can help them become calm under extreme circumstances.

Verbal PRAISE itself is an extremely-cheap, low-value reward for an ignorant pup - or for an untrained adult dog; it's just noise, to them. :confused: They don't understand its significance.
But reward-savvy dogs who've had training have also ASSOCIATED praise with other inherently-good things, such as food, petting, scratched itchies, Real-Life rewards [the open door, the leash comes off at the dog-park, entering the car for a ride to the beach...].

Anything & everything can become a conditioned reinforcer -
a click, light flash, the sight of a body-brush, a leash, the bumper used for fetch, a certain toy, their owner's smile, a certain phrase, the smell of wet-wool or a hot shearer, the coat worn for hunting, the Chuck-It, a tennis-ball, the bringsel used in training Search-&-Rescue ... these objects, sounds, sights, places, smells, can all carry tremendous emotional value for the dog.

Novice dogs need a lot of unconditioned reinforcers: food, toys, play, supportive contact when they're stressed, anything that's inherently pleasurable, or is needed for life.
Experienced dogs need fewer & fewer UCRs as they have a whole buncha highly-valuable conditioned reinforcers we can use, things hallowed by past experience & thus very-dear to the dog.

Learning to attach the halo of happy association to things we want the dog to enjoy is pretty straightforward; avoiding the taint of UNhappy association & consequent poisoning of the Name / cue / context, etc, is a lot harder. :eek:

happy conditioning :thumbsup: ,
- terry

 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
"Goodnight, Sweetheart" as a puppy-lullaby

this video is a powerful demo of association at work -

This litter has heard a specific song when they were naturally settling into sleep as neonates; now, they are a bit older, but that potent learned association still sends them individually to lie down, relax, & quickly fall into sleep - despite the interruption of another person's voice, asking Qs. ;)

neat, huh? :)
- terry

 
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