Herrnstein's Matching Law

preparing to show reward markers Jan 20, 2022

Last fall, M and I made our Utility debut. In this video, she failed, and this performance offers me a great way to bring up and explain Herrnstein's Matching Law, which says;

"When there are multiple behaviors available to the animal, they will distribute their efforts in direct proportion to reinforcement history."

More simply stated, Herrnstein's law says that when M is faced with multiple behaviors that have been reinforced (especially with a Reward Marker!), she will be more attracted to the behavior that is reinforced more often, or where the reinforcement is more valuable. 

It's hard to count the number of behaviors that I have used a Reward Marker to reinforce with M. Fronts, finishes, pivots, standing, sitting with attention, position changes, committing to the correct article, going out to the correct location on the Directed Jumping exercise, and there are probably others. Clearly, some of those behaviors are more important to her than others!

I am sharing this video for you to see the law in action. I hope this will help you get a sense of the importance of balancing your reinforcement, especially in the Utility ring, when it is not always obvious to the dog what exercise you will be performing. 



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