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Techniques Conditioning > Luring

Description | Example | Discussion | See also



Luring is the process of offering a reward before an action is completed, in order to motivate the subject to perform the action and consequently receive the reward.

Luring typically involves showing the subject the reward while using the cue to signal that the action should be completed. For this to work, the subject has to know the required action. In other words, they must already have paired the cue and action, and know that they will get the reward by completing the action.

Luring may hence be useful for encouraging recalcitrant subjects who are, for some reason, unwilling to obey a command.

Accidental luring happens when the subject detects an associated cue, such as sitting down for coffee where a dog may have connected this action to being given a bit of a biscuit.


A trainer gets a dog to like down by holding a piece of food in front of its nose and moving it down to the floor.

A parent tells a child that they can watch TV when they have completed their homework.


Luring is different to giving a reward once an action is complete. A reward is given afterwards, while a lure is shown before the action. For it to work, the subject has to be able to connect completing the action with receiving the reward.

A problem with luring is that showing the reward can fixate the subject on the reward to the point where they ignore the cue and forget about the required action. Saying 'sit' to a dog while offering a biscuit can result in the dog appearing paralysed or perhaps half-sitting. It is important never to reward a half-action.

Luring can also lead to such problems as drooling and snatching. It can also lead to premature action, where the subject tries out all kinds of actions in case one of these is required (as opposed to only obeying a cue when it is given). A way to prevent snatching is to hold the food inside a cupped palm so the dog has to nose in. Pulling back your hand as they approach can just make them follow and snatch even more.

When the lure is not given for a significant period, this denial can appear as a negative punishment and hence have unexpected aversive effects.

See also




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