Cane seduto a tavola

To paraphrase Thorndike’s law of effect, rewarding a behavior leads to the increase in its frequency, while failing to reward a specific behavior leads to a decrease in its frequency. What does it mean? It’s simple: if a behavior like littering outside the home is rewarded with some treats, your dog will be more inclined to soil the outside rather than the inside of the home, since he knows that he will be rewarded for the former.

So far so good, because a correct behavior corresponds a reward, but what happens when the behavior is not right? A common example for many: a dog that gives you puppy eyes while  you are eating, watching the bite headed for your mouth as if it were the last piece of food on the planet? Ok, what do you do? After your dog’s insistence, you give it to him!

There you go! That’s it, wrong behavior rewarded. The solution? Much easier than you imagine. Stop rewarding such behavior. Does your dog beg for food? Do not allow him to be near you when you eat. Put him in another room while you are eating or teach him to stay in his kennel, offering him rewards when he does just that. Before long, your dog will realize that his behavior is not having the desired result and will stop. As soon as he does that, you can reward him.