Dog Psychology: The Basics
Concise article on dog psychology and training
There is a basic psychology that can be applied to all creatures: punishment and reinforcement. If applied properly, any behavior which is in a creature's repertoire can easily be extinguished or amplified. For the moment, however, we are specifically referring to canines.
First, let us take a look at how a dog's attention can be maintained. The obvious method is food, but do you always want to need to have food on you? Will your dog still pay attention to you if it doesn’t think you have food? It is important for the animal to be in doubt, yet still comply on the chance that it might receive a morsel. This is where the intermittent reinforcement schedule comes into play.
The objective must first be made clear, for example: getting a dog to come when it is called. First you would take a piece of food, walk a few steps away from the dog, call its name and tell it to come. While you are requesting its presence, dangle the food to entice him. Repeat this process repetitively, each time going farther and farther from the dog. Wait a day, then once again call the dog and give it food.
Once you are confident that the animal has the idea, call it and don’t give it food. For a few days, every third time it comes, don’t give the animal any reinforcement other than a verbal one. Now increase the increment to only giving it food every other time. Then a few days later only give the dog food every fourth time, etc.
Now once this behavior is established, the animal can be reinforced once a week, but will continue to come. The reason is that it knows every once in a while it will receive food, but does not know when. This form of an intermittent reinforcement schedule can be applied to other behaviors of a dog (or any animal for that matter).