Still today, people worry about giving their dogs treats and see this as bribery. Giving dogs treats isn't only a kind thing to do and the bank account analogy (I'll briefly refresh - the bank account analogy is every dog has a bank account. When we pay our dogs with treats the account fills, which means we are making not only a payment to our dog like we do for work but we are also forming an association of, training means treats, which is likely to encourage the dog to repeat the behaviour again).
For me personally knowing that when our dogs see us, we give them treats or verbal praise, an area of their brain lights up is absolutely amazing. Not only does this area of the brain light up but the dog recalls these memories and the process of learning.
The limbic system is a beautiful and complex part of the brain. Which must be treated with care and respect. The limbic system can control and influence emotions like joy, happiness and excitement. But the darker side of the limbic system is that it also controls fear, anxiety, aggression and sadly this area of the brain can overtake the dogs thinking and decision making part of the brain which causes a dog to feel overwhelmed, stressed, bite or depressed.
For me personally I would much rather know that everytime dogs experience something good, their brain lights up and how beautiful that is. Rather than ever putting dogs in a position where their brain chemistry is altered through a negative or aversive experience.
So there we have it, science, in its beautiful simplicity with a magical piece of knowledge about the wonder that is dogs.
Image description: title in grey "Cookie pushers vs the limbic system" a comic strip with 4 windows with a grey background. The first window on the top left has two speech bubbles, one says "I was called a cookie pusher today!" on a dark pink and purple background on a spring.
The second speech bubble says "That's a good thing, I'll explain why!" on a green background with white clouds.
There is an image of a chocolate smartie cookie and a plain smartie cookie. Three pink stars surround the cookies.
The second window to the top right has the dogs brain with the larger outer of the dogs brain and an intersection of the smaller inner brain of the dog. With two arrows pointing out the cerebrum and caudate nucleus. There are two speech bubbles. The top right speech bubble reads: ”the caudate nucleus lights up with rewards and love!” and the bottom right speech bubble reads ”the cerebrum is the limbic system, responsible for over riding the cortical system during times of fear and stress! Who would want to do that to a dog? Not a cookie pusher!
The bottom left window has an explosion speech bubble in the middle of the top of the window which reads Thanks to Dr. Berns fMRI study (2015)
The bottom left speech bubble reads ”the caudate nucleus is also responsible for learning with good old habituation!” To the right of the window there is a jar of treats filled with sprats, cheese, beef, crab sticks, bacon stripes, chicken and Jr pate coins. Above the treat jar is an orange explosion bubble which says "Wow" in blue and green gradient.
The right hand bottom window has a purple speech bubble with lightning coming from the bottom which reads: Just like us Dr.berns also used hotdogs (no cookies). There is a green and red speech bubble which reads: ”so remember each time you use positive reinforcement, you are literally lighting up your dog's brain!” to the right of the window is a grey and cream Wolfdog, with his tongue lolling and amber eyes. To the left of his head is an explosion bubble in yellow and green which reads "wow."
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