Updated: Dec 30, 2020
Dogs they are the ultimate applied behavioural scientists and my working spaniels continuously teach me a lot about behaviour change. At its core, modern dog training is close to nudging: helping dogs make good choices while preserving as much freedom as possible.
Their job is to observe humans 24/7, watching everything we do - after all, their survival depends on it! Unlike us, they are naturals - every dog has to work out humans by themselves. No books, no training, no funky listicles on the internet - every puppy learns to manage humans by themselves.
They do this by finding out what works - by running hundreds of "experiments" in what gets our attention or anything else they might want. We think we are training our dogs, but at the same time our dogs are also training us!
We think a lot of stuff dogs do is "irrational" but actually it's usually "ecologically rational" - the behaviours made sense in the jobs we created many dog breeds for.
Dogs, like humans, do what works. If I want to change their behaviour, I need to consider their capability, opportunity & motivation. I need to think about choice architecture, what incentives work in different contexts & how to create fluent behaviours (=habits).
🎄 Merry Christmas from me & my two muses Nell & Grace 🎄