Behaviour 2019
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Effects of reinforcer magnitude and method of delivery: Behavioral economics of food reinforcement in dogs
Erica N. Feuerbacher1, Chelsea Stone2, Jonathan E. Friedel 3. 1Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA, United States; 2Carroll College, Helena, MT, United States; 3National Institute for Occupational Health & Safety, Morgantown, WV, United States

Despite the prevalence of reinforcement-based training practices in animal training, little research has investigated how to enhance the efficacy of the delivered consequence. One suggestion for increasing consequence efficacy is to increase salience by delivering several small treats one-by-one while simultaneously delivering vocal praise, rather than delivering one large treat all at once without praise. Similarly, the magnitude of reinforcement can be readily varied. In this study, we evaluated dogs’ preference for two delivery methods and two magnitudes of reinforcement (one treat versus four treats) using a concurrent choice procedure. We then tested reinforcer efficacy of the two delivery methods and the two magnitudes by measuring dogs’ break points using a tandem progressive ratio-progressive ratio schedule with step size 1 in a subset of the dogs. While delivery method had a small and inconsistent effect on reinforcer efficacy, magnitude did reliably increase efficacy. However, unit price for the small magnitude was nearly double that of large magnitude. Overall the preference test predicted the relative reinforcer efficacy of the various reinforcer manipulations.