What is Behavior?
Behavior is a concrete action or set of actions; something a living organism does. Behavior can be observed, analyzed, and predicted. Common examples are walking, barking, chasing, growling, digging, jumping, sitting, and sleeping.
Behavior Doesn't Happen in A Vacuum
When we analyze behavior, we must consider the conditions that elicit the behavior. When I leave a sandwich on the counter, my dog jumps up and eats it. If there is no sandwich, she doesn't bother to jump up. (Why do you think that is?)
Behavior and Outcomes
When a dog does something, there is an outcome of some kind. If my dog jumps, she can reach the sandwich. If she walks up to a person on the sidewalk, she can get a friendly hello and a scratch behind the ears.
Outcomes Predict Future Behavior
And this is why we should all care about understanding dog behavior! Just like us humans, dog behaviors that pay off are likely to be repeated, while behaviors that have a neutral or negative outcome are less likely to be repeated.
If we can observe and understand what triggers certain behaviors and their outcomes, we can learn to modify behavior in a healthy and compassionate way. I'll be writing more about how this all works - stay tuned!