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The Importance of Premack

The Importance of Premack

Premack principle in very laymen’s terms says that: – When a dog experiences a high value stimulus, he or she will look at the preceding events and consider those events important in accessing or avoiding that stimulus.

High Value Stimulus

This can be a high reward stimulus or high punishment stimulus, but have the same premack. So in my diagram you can see that I talk about a “premack shadow”, this again is my way of explaining how things within the shadow are considered things that produce the reward experience of if I was using a correction, things that the dog should avoid doing to produce the negative stimulus.


Two different views

The problem we often face is that what “we” think is included in the premack might not be the same as the dogs view, see below.

We have to find out the way to test what the dog has within its ideal package and make sure that we agree.

An example may be if the dog is in a sit position and we turn our back to the dog, then give a down cue. If the dog has the same idea as us it will down the same, if not though the dog will not down as it sees some of the components in premack missing.

Sometimes we have a dog that will sit in the front position and not the heel position? I was watching a trainer demonstrate scent detection once and he was very proud of his dog. He brought the dog in and as soon as the dog saw the apparatus he was using to scent train the dog, the dog was dragging him to locate the target odour.

I asked if he wouldn’t mind taking his dog outside whilst I placed the target odour, of to which he agreed.

When he came back in the dog hit the apparatus and drew a blank? He re deployed the dog and became frustrated when the dog would not locate it.

He thought I had played a trick on him and not placed the odour, but I said that I had but just not IN the apparatus. I asked him to search the room, but his dog would only search the apparatus over and over again.

The dog of course had been trained a lot on this system and all he could do when he saw it was search it. This can happen and does happen very often but only when you do not understand premack.

Premack dog

Premack is a huge part of my training and was before I even knew what Premack was. Any time you give a high value stimulus (reward or punisher) the dog will believe that the events directly prior to that event are contributors or “cues” to the reward event.

So in your dogs name, you call your dog “Venom? your dog comes you play tug. If you did this every time the word Venom would mean tug game is about to happen. When we use the Behaviour Interrupter, you should now see that it is just the same. When we use a No Reward Marker, same again.

So when you want to teach something, you need to know and consider that Premack may be your best friend if you want to motivate your dog to do this thing.

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