P is for Primary Reinforcement

PI’ve talked far too much about positive reinforcement training, that I felt I didn’t need to make a post dedicated just to that (since all my posts pretty much are). Instead, I’ll talk about a primary reinforcer. The reinforcer is the reward during a training session.

“A primary reinforcement is anything the organism finds inherently rewarding – usually stimuli that satisfy biological drives such as hunger or thirst.”

A primary reinforcer is usually food. Animals inherently respond to food treats. It’s as simple as that. Just find something that the animal really enjoys eating as a treat. Some people who work with certain animals, like birds of prey for example, save their daily diet for training sessions. If your animal really enjoys their everyday meal, you can use that as training treats instead of additional food items. Some dogs really like their daily kibble. So instead of placing a dish down on the ground twice a day, you can use that daily kibble in training sessions. My dog doesn’t love her food that way, so with her, I use dried chicken cubes as treats. My dog LOVES chicken. A training treat should not be too big. It should be something the animal can eat in just a few seconds and be ready to move onto the next training cue. Unless you are “jackpotting” the animal, keep the treats small and quick to eat. You also don’t want them to add too much to your animal’s daily intake and cause them to gain too much weight.

© Semi Charmed Life

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge


7 thoughts on “P is for Primary Reinforcement

  1. Pony is VERY food orientated, so this approach works well, although you have to be careful that he isn;t simply motivated to eat the treat, but completes the task asked of him before he is rewarded. He will crowd people for treats IF they let him!


    • yep, you have to set your standards for the behavior and not take any less or, like children, they always see what they can get away with or how much less work they can do. 😉

      • It’s why I’m very fussy about who handles him. He’s a very dominant personality, was unfortunately separated from his mum at 3 1/2 months old, so was never taught boundaries by the herd as he ordinarily would have been. As far as he’s concerned, if he can push his luck, he will.

        • Ah I can see that being a challenge. I hand raised a zedonk (half zebra/half donkey) and when she reached a certain age, I was able to introduce her into the herd of mini equines I had. Mostly the mini donkeys, since that was who she could relate to the most. It was cute to watch the whole introduction. The other donkeys viewed me as her “mommy” and came to me first, for permission to “greet” her. It’s a moment I will never forget. I’m happy she was able to integrate into the herd though. I think it was healthier for her to identify as an equine, instead of being attached to me, which was what was happening. I suppose that makes me a little unselfish. 🙂

  2. Pingback: S is for Secondary Reinforcement | Semi-Charmed Life

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