Success at Problem Solving Makes Dogs Happy

Companion Animal Psychology blog recently published a summary of a study comparing the behavior of dogs who earned a reward by solving a problem versus dogs who were rewarded randomly (not contingent on their behavior).  “Happiness” was measured by level of activity, tail wagging, general level of arousal, and speed of going to the reward delivery area.  Dogs could earn rewards (such as food, petting, or access to other dogs) as a result of manipulating one of six simple pieces of equipment.  The equipment made a distinctive sound when the “problem” was solved. Those dogs that had to perform a simple behavior with a piece of equipment to earn a reward exhibited the most positive affective state (they were the happiest).

“Our results suggest that dogs react emotionally to problem-solving opportunities and that tail wagging may be a useful indicator of positive affective states in dogs.”  McGowan et. al. Animal Cognition 17(3) May 2014

Sound familiar?  Operant conditioning with an event marker – clicker training!  If you are a clicker trainer you know that it works and that is makes you and your dog happy.  Why train any other way?

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