Premack Principle in Dogs
Let’s Talk About… The Premack Principle


Many people follow the Premack Principle everyday. They do this by going to work at a job they don’t particular like but they do it to get a paycheck. Dogs follow this principle too. For example, my Lab had frequent ear infections and had to get his ears cleaned and medicated all the time. In the beginning he would avoid me, refuse to move, etc. After many ear sessions where he got a crazy, high value reward after the cleaning things changed.

The definition of the Premack principle, “Developed by David Premack the concept that a more-preferred activity (eating cheese) can be used to reinforce a less-preferred activity (cleaning ears)”. It’s a form of operant conditioning. After my dog married the 2 behaviors he would see the medication and would come to me without being asked (albeit slowly with his head down and body low) and submit to the cleaning and the second we were done he would bolt to the refrigerator because that was the only time he got cheese which he love-love-loved.

So, if there is a behavior you need your dog to do that may not be preferable to them marry the conclusion of that behavior with something preferable.

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