I spent last weekend studying animal behavior with the best trainers in the world, who convened in Newport Beach for Clicker Expo 2011. Fellow trainer and friend Stacy Braslau-Schneck and I attended several seminars by Ken Ramirez, one of which discussed the nuances of reinforcement and how to use it to its fullest potential (to help our dogs reach THEIR fullest potential!). It was wonderful, and I was delighted to see that Stacy later summarized the session. Here is a short excerpt:
All animals have some interest in the “primary” reinforcers that ensure survival and comfort: food, water, air, shelter, and mating opportunities. These are so powerful that many trainers just rely on them (mostly food), and never bother trying to introduce newer forms of rewards. However, there can be a huge advantage to having a variety of rewards. It adds variability to your training, keeping it more interesting; it is also there as a fallback when your animal is not interested in one of those primaries (for example, if your dog is sick or even just full, and not interested in food) or they are not available to you
Read the whole post (it's good!) here.