here we go again....................
Monday, July 23, 2012
In the world of dog training there are trainers (or people who call themselves trainers) and there are trainers. The latter of the two I’m refereeing to actually basis their methodology in science. And this is the topic of discussion for today.
Have you ever heard of “clicker” training? It has been around for quite some time. One book “Don’t Shoot The Dog” by Karen Pryor was copywrited in 2002 chronicles it. What we are talking about hear is “operant conditioning”. Simply put we introduce consequence into the equation of “classic” Pavlovian conditioning. Karen Pryor was a marine biologist and realized that not only Dolphins can learn this way but dogs as well. Let’s put this in a simple equation: give a command, sit; the dog does a behavior and sits; mark the behavior with a “click”; then reward with a primary reinforce. The dog will ALWAYS remember exactly what he was doing right before the “click”. That’s the 5 minute tour.
Food rewards. Find out what your dog’s currency is. For my German Shepherd “Heidi” it’s her rubber ball. She goes crazy for it. For my Dachshund “Fritz” it is food. He is a chow hound. If you have treats of any kind, he is your new best friend. Some dogs like cookies others like certain types of toys. Find out what turns them on then use it to your advantage and exploit it. Learn to “condition” a behavior.
Some people believe that you teach a dog a new behavior through compulsion. Studies have shown that dogs that learn through compulsion and force get the requested behavior right less than 50% of the time. Dogs that learn through operant conditioning get behavior right a higher percentage of the time because they become “fluent” in the behavior and understand what you want them to do.
Here is another little trick of mine I use to teach true attention. When a mother wolf goes on a hunt, she leaves the pups in the den to wait for her to return. She perhaps kills a deer and gorges herself on it. Returning to the pups, she goes to them one by one, regurgitating the food and feeding each one directly out of her mouth. It is very clear to the pups exactly where the source of their food comes from. When I want to get true attention from a dog I get the dog’s food bowl, kneel down in front of the dog, make the dog sit. And tell it to “watch”. The exact moment that the dog’s eyes meet mine I say “ok” in a high pitched voice and give them the food. I hold the bowl while they eat. My hands are on both sides of the dish. I become part of the feeding ritual. While they are eating they are smelling my scent and I become part of the food and the direct source. Also they learn that by looking in my eyes, that is the behavior that gets them the food. So in essence every time they look in my eyes something good and positive happens. WOW, powerful stuff.
Now some of you are wondering if you always have to “bribe” your dog. The answer is “NO”. Once the animal becomes fluent in a behavior than you can ween them off the reward system and treat less frequently until the reward goes away or is at least non-consistent.
Some good, healthy treats to use are: Turkey Hot dogs, sliced smoke turkey, green beans, sliced cheese, apple slices (cored and skinned no pits) and celery sticks to name a few. Remember, you need to find your dog’s currency. High value treats. Remember you are going to work one way for 10$ an hour and another for 100$ and hour. Find out what really make him get up and notice and you’ll find dog training to be a pleasure.