Premack Principle

dog trainingPremack Principle suggests that if a dog wants to perform a given activity, the dog will perform a less desirable activity to get at the more desirable activity; that is, activities may themselves be reinforcers.

This is also known as Grandma’s Law – you can have your pudding once you’ve eaten your dinner!

We can use this in dog training to improve the reliability of obedience requests. We can teach a dog that in order to gain access to a given distraction it must first perform an obedience request e.g. Sit/Down/Come etc. This can be particularly useful within Recall although you do need to train consistently and have to the ability (by using a long-line/flexi) to interrupt the desired behaviour until the less desired behaviour (“Come”) has been completed.

This video demonstrates William and his owner performing a Recall drill using Premack Principle.


This principle is also useful for teaching your dog that obedience is how your dog gains access to everything he wants. You can use it throughout the day so that your dog becomes really used to being asked to do things and more importantly, becomes used to receiving valuable resources/access to outside etc as a result. Once your dog expects good things to come from performing obedience (some people only use obedience to prevent their dog from doing something – i.e. the dog loses out all the time), and you have the ability the control the resource/access to outside etc, thus preventing them from ignoring you, you can then teach your dog to have more reliable obedience.

Obviously, if you only ever practise Premack Principle whilst on a walk, around high-level distraction, your dog might not succeed! But if you practise it regularly, throughout the day, around low-level distractions, then the chances of your dog succeeding out in the real world are improved, and over time you can raise the level of distraction.


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