If you want your dog to learn Nosework effectively, train happy! The emotion that you impart when you train your direct has a direct impact on how well your dog will learn.
It all starts with Memory…
The Episodic Memory is am event based part of the Long-Term memory. A lot of the Episodic Memory has to do with experiences and emotions. We know that the sense of smell is a big component of memory and emotion. For example, when you smell something from your childhood and all of a sudden remember your grandmother, you are accessing your Episodic Memory.
We help our dogs to encode their Episodic Memory by imprinting Target Odors. The dog develops an emotional connection to whatever odor we train them on. We rely on that emotional connection for the dog to recognize and respond to the odors that we want to find. But how do we get that emotional connection?
A scientific study back in 2016, conducted by a group of researchers at Emory University, presented data about what happens in the dog’s brain when presented with food versus social rewards. Guess what? Dogs prefer Social Rewards. Now… that’s not to say that we should stop rewarding our dogs with food! Rather what it DOES imply is that your dog craves a social connection with you.
Therefore, we can extrapolate that your dog will prefer his food or toy rewards to be coupled with generous praise!
Let’s get back to emotion and learning!
In humans, studies have suggested that there is a very strong connection between emotions and learning. What they found was that emotion has a particularly strong affect on attention. Also, they found that emotion helps to encode and retrieve information more effectively.
Although for eons, animals, including dogs, were said to not have a “divine spark” and were therefore thought to not experience emotions. More recently, science has shown that in fact, dogs are likely to experience emotions similarly to humans.
So we can assume that positive emotions will help dogs to sustain attention and to remember their training.
What does all of this mean?
This very simply means that if you impart positive emotions on your dog when you train, your dog will learn and retain information better than if you don’t.
This also means that when you use a marker or when you are giving feedback to your dog, don’t be dull. Your dog isn’t a machine that you feed food into. Training your dog isn’t a transaction where you trade performance for food. Your dog craves your approval! When you mark your dog and when you reward, layer on the praise. Genuine emotion will result in genuine results!
If you want your dog to learn effectively, Train Happy!