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Month: April 2013

Operant Learning Illustrated by Examples

Operant Learning Illustrated by Examples

Many thanks to Ruth Byrn, Marge Rogers, and Susan Friedman for their generous assistance with the movie.

Sable dog is play-biting at a stream of water from a garden hose. She is all wet.
Does Summer’s weave behavior get reinforced by a spray of water?

In the terminology of behavior science, positive does not always mean good. Actually it never means good. Likewise, negative does not mean bad. Also, reinforcement is not always about giving the dog something she wants. And punishment is not always about hurting, intimidating or confining her.

Got that straight?

If your head already hurts, skip ahead and watch the movie.  That’s why I made it. The purpose of this post is to introduce a movie that illustrates the four contingent processes of operant learning with multiple examples, in hopes of clarifying the bigger concepts with those examples.  (Don’t worry; Feisty the stuffed dog stands in when bigtime aversives are used.)

Anybody still reading? Good.

A stuffed dog, brown and white, is in a crate. She is being sprayed with water from a spray bottle.
Does Feisty’s barking in the crate get punished by a spray of water?

To continue: Most of us have heard the term “positive reinforcement” and have a notion of what it means. The dog sits, you give her a cookie. That is by no means the whole picture, but it’s a start. But when the other terms start marching out, things get dicey. Negative reinforcement, negative punishment, and what, positive punishment? Isn’t that an oxymoron?

There is a certain amount of confusion that we just have to live with on this subject because of the terminology that B. F. Skinner chose.  In behavior science, positive means something is added. Negative means something is removed. They do not mean good and bad,  happy and sad, or moral and immoral. Susan Friedman points out that in the context of mathematics, no one mistakes a plus sign to mean something happy or morally desirable. It just means you add that thing. Likewise with a minus sign. You take the thing away, whatever it is.

So that’s our first job. Think math. Take away the glamor around the word “positive.” In behavior science it just indicates an additive operation. And “negative” indicates a subtractive one. Ergo our first set of definitions:

  • Positive means that something is added after a behavior
  • Negative means that something is taken away after a behavior

The thing that gets added could be something really great (a bag of cookies), or it could be something awful, like a kick in the stomach. Likewise, the thing that gets taken away could be something you’ll miss, like that same bag of cookies, or it could be something that makes you sigh with relief when it stops, like a car alarm.

And that sets us up to talk about these “somethings” as consequences. Now we need to lose the idea that reinforcement is good and punishment is bad. Here is our second set of definitions:

  • Reinforcers are behavior-increasing consequences
  • Punishers are behavior-decreasing consequences

That sounds really dry, but that’s the way we need to think if we really want to understand this. We need to rid ourselves of the other definitions of these terms that leak into our head from pop culture.

Now let’s combine these four items into definitions of the four possible processes:

  • Positive reinforcement: Something is added after a behavior, which results in the behavior happening more often.
  • Negative  reinforcement: Something is removed after a behavior, which results in the behavior happening more often.
  • Positive punishment: Something is added after a behavior, which results in the behavior happening less often.
  • Negative  punishment: Something is removed after a behavior, which results in the behavior happening less often.

Here is a chart that shows the processes in quadrants. I used a circle, rather than the more traditional rectangle. We can still see that we are looking at four processes that vary on two dimensions (there’s the math again). My artist friend suggested the circle for use in the movie and I thought that was a great example of thinking outside the box….

Four quadrants of operant conditioning
Four procedures of operant learning arranged in quadrants

Good and Bad

Take a look at the definitions of positive reinforcement and positive punishment again. “Something is added after a behavior, which results in the behavior happening more/less often.” Do you see that they differ by only one word? “More” vs “less.”  So if increases OR decreases in behavior can happen by adding things, those things must be pretty different if they are achieving the opposite result.

That’s why you will see many definitions of the contingent procedures of operant learning that do describe the consequences as “good and bad.” They are not exactly wrong, but you have to take care. There are some caveats and even some exceptions.

Here’s the caveat about using the good/bad terminology. We tend to have pretty strong ideas of what constitutes good and bad things, and they may be very different from how the animal responds. It’s the animal who matters, though. For instance, most of us would not classify yelling at a dog as “adding a good thing.” But yelling at a dog can reinforce what they are doing when we intend the opposite. Imagine a dog who has been locked outdoors all day and is now barking at the back door. Nothing happens, and nothing happens, then mom finally sticks her head out and yells, “Stop that barking!” and closes the door again. Social contact for a dog who has been starved for it. Do you think he will stop barking?

Likewise, we humans seem to love patting dogs on the head, and there are whole schools of training that claim that their dogs work for “petting and praise.” Well, I included a head pat in the movie. Here’s a big hint: it’s not in the positive reinforcement section!

Increasing and Decreasing Behavior

We have Skinner to thank for some of the terminology confusion, but also, reinforcement and punishment are trickier to understand than they first appear to be, even when you get the positive and negative straight. If I give my dog a cookie when she sits, and she snarfs it down, have I just reinforced the sit? We don’t know! Part of the definition of reinforcement is that the consequence results in an increase in the behavior. So we don’t know if we have reinforced anything until the future, when we see whether the behavior actually increases.

Punishment is even more confusing because it appears to work right then. The dog barks, you yell at the dog, the dog stops barking for 30 seconds. Have you punished the barking? In the vernacular sense, anybody would say yes. In the Skinnerean sense, again, we don’t know yet. It got interrupted. But punishment has to do with future behavior. We only know that the barking has been punished if it decreases.

There are several uses of aversives portrayed in the movie that are very common in real life, done by people with the intent of punishing or negatively reinforcing a behavior. One example is when a dog barks in a crate. Some people keep a spray bottle of water next to the crate and give the dog a spray when he barks or whines. I’ve seen people do this day in and day out, even asking their friends to go by and give the dog a spray as a bonus. Are they punishing the barking? Apparently not. The barking has not decreased. Perhaps the dog likes being sprayed, or more likely in this context, there are other competing consequences of the barking that are reinforcing it.

Did Reinforcement or Punishment Occur?

That’s one more thing to consider: when you see the scenes in the movie, you do not see what other factors may influence the dog in real life. They might be from the environment or from her history. Back to the head pat in the movie: it’s in the positive punishment section. But honestly, Zani’s lying down on cue is not going to decrease because I patted her on the head one time after she did it, even though she clearly doesn’t care for it. She has been reinforced with food and play thousands of times for lying down. The one head pat, although unpleasant for her, will make hardly a ripple. But if getting patted on the head were the only consequence Zani ever got for lying down when I cued it, lying down on cue would decrease, and she would probably be avoiding me to boot.

So the predictions I give for each behavior in the movie (predicting that it will increase or decrease) would most likely be true if the consequence shown were the only consequence for that behavior.

A tan dog is stretched out with her mouth wide open, chasing a red and yellow toy on the end of a pole
Can we use this fun game to reinforce another behavior?

Terminology

You have probably noticed that I have not used the term “operant conditioning.” This is because of what I have learned from taking Susan Friedman’s wonderful course. One of the things the Applied Behavior Analysis folks focus on is precision in language. So although “operant conditioning” is an old and commonly used name for what I am writing about here, I am taking her lead and referring instead to “operant learning.” Because unlike in classical conditioning, we are not talking about a conditioned response at all. The processes that are commonly shown in quadrants are about learning via consequences.

And ah, quadrants! Susan kindly pointed out to me that there is no official term “The Quadrants” in Applied Behavior Analysis. (Guess what the original name of the movie was!) That’s so sensible, too. Why would you refer to four processes that are the cornerstone of so much of what you study “the sectors” or “the divisions”? We are discussing processes. That leads to another one: she uses “processes” for the organically occurring learning in life. She encourages the use of  “procedures” when one is discussing intentional arrangement of consequences (i.e. training) by a human.

My use of correct terminology is a work in process. Obviously, any mistakes or unfortunate wordings in this post are my responsibility alone.

Purposes of the Movie

As I mentioned above, the main purpose of the movie is to give several examples of each of these processes to aid the viewers in developing an understanding of the underlying concepts. I had a couple of other reasons for making it, too. One is to show the rather wide variety of consequences that can be used in each of the four processes. Another is to set me up to write a post about the Humane Hierarchy, which is an aid to making training decisions in order to maximize empowerment of the animal.

And that leads me to what the movie is not: It’s not a training aid. All of these processes are not equally desirable! I am including portrayals of some extremely aversive consequences for educational viewing purposes only, and do not condone those practices. You may notice the green, yellow, and red colors in the chart. That is a hint of what I’ll be presenting in the post about the Humane Hierarchy.

The Movie

Finally! Here it is.

Link to the movie for email subscribers.

Thanks for watching! Stay tuned for all sorts of stuff, now that I have finally finished with this one!

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7 Great Benefits of Flirt Pole Play for You and Your Dog

7 Great Benefits of Flirt Pole Play for You and Your Dog

Two Dogs’ Experiences with the Flirt Pole

If you have been following the blog, you may have seen that young Clara is an absolute maniac for the flirt pole. It is right up there with playing ball in her list of favorite things.

a tan dog is stretched out at her whole length, chasing a toy on a rope attached to the end of a pole
Clara Stretching Out to Get the Toy

I waited quite a while before introducing Clara to the flirt pole because teaching “release the toy” was a real struggle with her when we played tug and ball. I had visions of her getting overly excited and breaking the flirt pole by pulling on the toy endlessly.

When I taught her to release a tug toy, I didn’t use food. I used the method of reinforcing the release with resumption of the game. I had a pretty hard time with that, since hanging onto, chewing on, and dismembering toys is very reinforcing to Clara, and I lacked experience teaching the behavior. You need pretty good timing. I finally got it though, and Clara was dropping the toy pretty consistently.

But it turned out that playing with the flirt pole actually improved Clara’s releases. First,  we lucked into the perfect toy. Marge Rogers gave me this skinny little tug toy from Dog Dreams Toys. It is perfect to chase, but not as fun to chew as, say, rabbit fur. Our flirt pole has a gizmo where you can attach different toys. It works and they do not come off! Second,  the flirt pole helped me make the game immediately exciting when she dropped the toy. I could zip it away instantly and irresistibly. Much more quickly than I could when we were playing tug. The right behavior (release on cue) was set up to predict more fun than the holding and chewing.

Here are two of Clara’s nice releases, so you can see what I mean.

Here is a link to “Releasing the Toy Means More Fun to Come” for email subscribers.

But enough about the flirt pole champ. We have an up and coming talent. Little Zani, the challenger.

small black and tan dog chases a red toy at the end of a rope on a pole
Zani Enjoying the Flirt Pole

I had first tried her with the pole months, maybe years ago. And Zani didn’t care for it. She was a little afraid of it, and I didn’t have the interest to work on that at the time. But Zani has developed methods of inserting herself into virtually every fun thing that happens around my house, and she finally had enough of watching Clara play with the flirt pole from the sidelines. One day she asked to play with it.

She went for it! Fearsome little dog! She was so excited that half the time she just jumped into the air or snapped at me before she remembered to chase the toy.

small black and tan dog is leaping into the air, snapping at the sleeve of a woman holding a toy attached to a rope and pole
Zani Slightly Confused about What to Bite

She has a different style from Clara’s when she catches the toy. Clara grabs it and holds. She loves for me to grab it and tug with her. But Zani has to give it multiple killing shakes. I have long suspected that Zani is part Russell terrier. And yes, she does know how to kill small animals efficiently. But I don’t mind her “killing” the tug toy at all.

I hope you find Zani’s sessions as delightful as I did. I just loved how she would  jump around and snap before she got it together enough to chase the toy. If she were a bigger dog, it might have been a problem, but she is a small dog with great bite inhibition and a wonderful sense of fun. She always knows exactly where her teeth are. You can see in the still photo above that she is actually not quite connecting with my sleeve. That was the case every time she jumped at me.

Here is a link to “Zani Discovers the Flirt Pole” for email subscribers.

7 Benefits of Flirt Pole Play

  1. It is great exercise.
  2. It teaches coordination, for both the dog and the human! I am continually having to develop new “moves” as my dogs learn to outwit my old ones.
  3. You can use it to teach impulse control.
  4. You may have a better chance of teaching a good release than with tugging.
  5. The dog gets to chase something at high speed but also stays close to you (you are part of the picture).
  6. She can’t run off with the toy, and thereby develops a habit of sticking around you with it.
  7. As long as the dog has a reliable release, the human doesn’t have to move at all. It can be outdoor couch training!

The toy we are using is a Chase It toy purchased at CleanRun.

Note: I have heard that flirt poles are illegal in some areas because they are associated with fighting dogs. I have not determined any specific locations for which this is true, but I am certainly not condoning dog fighting or encouraging anyone to break any laws.

Thanks for watching! Stay tuned for:

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A Secret for Training Two Dogs

A Secret for Training Two Dogs

Tan and black dog lying down on a lavender mat
Clara on her mat during a difficult distraction

I think this is as close as I’ll ever come to a “how-to” blog. Here is my usual disclaimer: I am not a professional trainer and I have trained only my own dogs.

But there is a secret to training a dog to lie quietly on a mat, chair, or platform, unrestrained, while another dog is trained. I didn’t invent it. Sue Ailsby told it to me. I’m going to tell you the secret and discuss it conceptually. Once you get the concept, it all falls into place.

I will also put what I’m saying into practice and demo with my own dogs.

First, here’s what my dogs knew how to do before we started. I think these are the basic necessities.

Prerequisites

  1. The dog already knows how to stay on a mat or other station for 5 minutes while being reinforced.
  2. She can stay with some moderate distractions. Here are some examples. You can walk 20 feet away and back again. You can trot by her or jump up and down. You can drop a treat a few feet away. You can toss one away from her (like you were tossing it to another dog). You can walk right by her with a  toy in your hand. The dog must already have experience with distractions, because another dog in the room who will eventually get a lot of your attention is a huge distraction.
  3. You either have cues that are specific to each dog, or you can work something out as a way to get Dog A to stay while Dog B comes with you, and a way to release Dog A without releasing Dog B. Frankly though, they can learn part of this as you go along. I include some suggestions.
  4. She knows the other dog and neither is aggressive or overly obnoxious towards the other.

Here is what Sue Ailsby said that made it all fall into place for me.  Sue said that when you start, you need to concentrate on the dog who is learning to wait on the mat. Sounds obvious, right? But lots of people who go about this task the first time, including myself, do it exactly backwards. We start taking the active dog through her paces, and throw a treat to the dog on the mat every once in a while. This often does not work.

The other thing Sue said was to treat the dogs separately. Some people say to give the mat dog a treat every time the active dog earns one at first. Then thin the reinforcement down so that you give the mat dog a treat only sometimes when the other dog earns one.  (Emily Larlham does this in her excellent video on the subject.)

Sue recommends instead that each dog gets treats tied to what they are doing, so that the dog on the mat learns very clearly that she is getting reinforced for doing her job and it is not tied to what the other dog is doing. Sue’s method is a little harder for the human, but I think is very clear for the dogs. Each gets treated separately. (In reality, they frequently get treated in tandem, but I make a conscious effort to break the pattern as well.)

Dogs who live in households with other dogs learn very quickly that they don’t always get a treat when their sister does, and I think this is a good thing. So I like Sue’s method myself.

Cricket and Zani on mats in the kitchen. Good stuff tends to happen there!
Cricket and Zani on mats in the kitchen. Good stuff tends to happen there!

Showing the Dog She Is the Center of the Training

Here is how to apply what Sue said. We want to do everything we can to show the mat dog that she is the center of the training.

So first, ask yourself, when starting a training session with my dog, how does she know? Here is my own list.

  • I get out treats. A camera perhaps. (My dogs get very happy when they see me carry around the camera tripod.)
  • I often look in my Training Levels checkoff list binder.
  • I may gather some gear and props. A leash. A target object.
  • I take the dog I’m going to train by herself to a particular place. I have about 5 places in my house where I commonly train. If there are other dogs there, I crate them.
  • I look at that dog, talk to that dog, and generally orient my body towards that dog
  • I reinforce that dog. It if is a new or difficult behavior, I reinforce heavily.
  • I release the dog frequently or at least periodically (mini releases with the click; longer ones when we take a little break or set up for a new behavior)

All these things are what tell the dog that she is being trained. So to apply Sue’s recommendation,  I am going to get the “mat dog” to do all of these things, then bring in the active dog as a distraction.

How I Proceeded

  • I got out the treats as described above
  • I took Zani alone into my front room alone and cued to get her on mat.
  • I did a little mat training with some of the distractions I listed above.
  • Then I let Summer, the distraction dog, into the room but stayed focused on Zani and kept the treats coming.
  • When I started to do a few more things with Summer, I spoke quietly to her, trying to be as clear as possible that I was speaking to her alone.
  • I often turned my back on Zani to cue a behavior for Summer, then turned back to Zani and treated her.
  • With my back turned, sometimes I gave hand signals to Summer that Zani couldn’t see.
  • I started with Summer doing very easy, calm behaviors with minimal movement. I worked up to more movement, but kept a variety.
  • During our second session I did short duration behaviors with Summer, releasing her with “OK,” which is also Zani’s release word. I continued to be careful to speak directly but quietly to Summer. I treated Zani for staying every time I released Summer.
  • I did my best to be considerate of Summer, the active dog, who was probably getting less attention than normal when we train.

Releases

I started this project without having a completely clean system of releases for individual dogs. Ideally, I suppose I would have had that in place. There are several ways to go about this. Patricia McConnell, PhD, the eminent animal behaviorist, reported that her border collies could never learn individual releases from stays of the type, “Luke, OK,” because each dog would release on the “OK.” She instead taught them to release individually on a singsong call of their name (here’s her video demonstration). However, some people do direct separate cues to their dogs using their names. Emily Larlham who recommends this video as a prerequisite to her training multiple dogs video, demonstrates her dogs responding to individually directed cues, and she releases them separately in the latter video.

I have had moderate success with directing individual cues to my dogs without formally training that, just incorporating some habits into our day to day living. Like Dr. McConnell, I use a special version of their names to invite one to come with me and for the others to wait. But I actually think that teaching a dog to wait on a mat in the area while another is trained is a way of teaching the kind of differentiated individual response we are talking about. For me, there is some tolerance for error in that situation, as long as I don’t apply any penalty for a dog releasing when I intended the cue for another. It is neither as crucial nor as difficult as when you have a group of dogs all waiting to be cued to do the same exciting thing, such as go out the door.

Videos

The first video shows parts of Zani’s very first two sessions of staying on the mat while another dog is worked. I chose Summer according to my guideline #4 above. Clara could possibly be obnoxious to Zani if Clara is the working dog. We’ll work up to that.

Video link for email subscribers

The second video shows Clara doing what is for her a very advanced version. (I taught her the basics when she was about a year old.) She is staying on her mat while I work up to a pretty rowdy game of tug with Zani. She gets up one time when I accidentally say “OK” while tugging with Zani (I say it twice! Knock head on wall!). But she corrects herself immediately. Her head is clearer than mine!

Video link for email subscribers

What’s Next?

You probably noticed I didn’t switch the dogs back and forth. I plan to do that after each of my three dogs in training can successfully stay on their mat while I work either of the other two.

Sable dog on a mat on a sidewalk
Summer very pleased to be on her mat at an outdoor restaurant

The cool thing, though, is that once you can switch dogs back and forth fluently, Mr. Premack can come to visit (the Premack principle states that behaviors can reinforce other behaviors) and we won’t have to keep that high rate of reinforcement for the dog on the mat. Her major reinforcement for staying quietly on the mat will be the chance to be the working dog. I already take turns with my dogs in almost all training sessions; the major difference will be that they are now closed into crates or the next room. Soon they’ll be right there where the action is. It sounds like win/win to me.

I’ll let you know how it works out.

Update: I later successfully taught individual release cues. You can read about that in the following posts

Thanks for reading! 

Copyright 2013 Eileen Anderson

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Wordless Wednesday: Bopping the Wall

Wordless Wednesday: Bopping the Wall

This is a video follow up to one of my more embarrassing posts: “Lumping It: A Public Service Announcement.” In that post I described, and showed in the video, how I repeatedly raised my criteria too quickly when trying to teach Zani to nose target a piece of tape that I first had in my hand but was working toward putting on the wall.

Zani bopping the wall
Zani bopping the wall. Sorry it’s blurry: that girl was moving fast!

Despite my errors, Zani is now doing a great job finding and touching tape and sticky notes on the wall, and enjoying doing so.

We have varied the objects: tape, sticky note, band-aid. We have varied the height a little but she doesn’t know yet that it is OK to get up on her hind legs to reach the target. That’s next!

Here is a link to the video for the WordPress email subscribers. 

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There is Hope: One Trainer’s Journey from Liverwurst to Kibble

There is Hope: One Trainer’s Journey from Liverwurst to Kibble

Recently on a dog training Yahoo group, a trainer wrote about needing to use hot dogs and lunch meat to train her dog. She was dismayed that her dog wouldn’t work for kibble. She asked the group if she was going to have to be cutting up hot dogs forever.

There were about 20 responses, all with suggestions for other high value treats that might be less messy or less expensive.

But, but, but…..that wasn’t the question! It was a great question! Not the old, “Am I going to have to carry treats forever?” question. (To which the answer is “yes” for most of us.) And not, “What are some good treats I can try?” Rather, it was, “Am I going to have to carry high value treats forever?”

I have an answer to this from personal experience.

I don’t have to anymore!

Screen Shot 2013-03-31 at 8.56.53 PM
Summer practicing “Lazy Leash” on the front porch for kibble

Not all the time, anyway. And that’s a huge improvement.

I have written about the value of treats before on this blog. In “Ant-Sized Treats” I described the experience I had when I learned that my treats were too small and hence not high enough value. I want to reiterate that the point of that post is not to prescribe a certain size or value of treat, but to urge everyone to pay attention to their dog, observe what works and doesn’t, and ignore prescriptions such as “eraser sized” or “the size of your little fingernail.” Your dog might need them bigger, or could be fine with them even smaller. You just need to observe to find out. I don’t want you to waste as much time as I did because I followed somebody else’s prescription and stuck with it for a long, long time, thinking my dog was just a little hopeless.

That experience built in some habits for me of using high value treats. This did wonders for both Summer’s and Zani’s agility performance, and made both of them, and Clara when she arrived, really enjoy our training sessions at home.

I have read many times, and even passed on to others, the recommendation to let dogs work for part of their kibble. But ever since I upgraded my dogs’ performance from lackluster, I had unconsciously written off that option for us. Rewarded behavior continues, right? I mean my own behavior! I was reinforced by great performances from my dogs when I gave lots of high value stuff. Why would I change? So instead of using part of their kibble, I habitually used higher value stuff. I decreased their meals when necessary to avoid over feeding.

Then one day on the Training Levels list I read a post by Sue Ailsby about how she was using part of her puppy Syn’s meals every day to teach a certain behavior and how fast it was going. I don’t know what was different for me that day; why I finally considered it. But for some reason I found myself wondering if there was a behavior for which kibble would get a good performance from my dogs. I was rehabbing Summer’s sit stay at the time, and I decided trying kibble couldn’t hurt. I mean, it’s a STAY, right? I loved the idea of not having to cut up treats Every. Single. Time. we trained.

I tried it and Summer stayed interested and motivated. I tried it on Zani. I tried it on Clara (who I had always figured, correctly, would work for about anything). Before I knew it  I was having daily training sessions with all three of them for part of one or both of their meals. Man, my treat life got easier!

Screen Shot 2013-03-31 at 8.57.11 PM
Zani staying away from food on the ground and keeping the leash lazy on the front porch for kibble

Hey folks, my dogs now work for kibble! With drive, motivation, and pizzazz! And I can prove it!

The following video shows Summer and Zani performing several of the Steps from Level 2 Lazy Leash from Sue Ailsby’s Training Levels. We had already practiced these in every room of my house, on my back porch, and in the back yard, and in the front room with the door open. But the front porch was still a big leap. And it was quite exciting out there, with joggers, neighbor dogs in their front yards, and next door neighbors out and about.

(Link to embedded video for email subscribers)

You really need to read the other post to get what a big deal this is. Summer is (was!) a hard dog to motivate, and has some behavioral issues that make lots of things extra hard for her. She is hypervigilant and anxious about quite a few things. Zani has a very steady temperament, but is a mix of breeds that are infamous for their independence and, er, hobbies. (She’s probably beagle, dachshund, JRT.) She’s also extremely friendly, so human distractions are very potent for her as well, just for a different reason.

Summer and Zani both now work with me in almost any environment with great attention for much lower value treats. Classical conditioning, transfer of value: whatever you want to call it, it happened to us. (Susan Garrett calls it “Being the Cookie.”) Working and partnering with me is a major focus of both of their lives and a major source of fun.

I no longer have to carry around the liverwurst, baby food, and tuna omelette that it took to get us to this point. Kibble, Natural Balance roll, and the occasional goldfish cracker will do. They still get high value stuff too though; I want their lives and training to be fun and interesting.

The last thing I want to do is let training get humdrum and for their performance to slide down into disinterest. I am not taking this new state of affairs for granted! I usually use the high value treats for brand new behaviors, high distraction environments, and behaviors that take a lot of energy expenditure. (For instance, when Summer and I went to the Rally Obedience trial last week I had not a kibble on me. Performing there was devilishly hard for her. I had salmon dog food in a squeeze bottle, baby food, and Natural Balance roll.) But sometimes they get the special stuff just as a nice surprise.

Clara works happily for kibble as well. (Clara would probably work well for cardboard.) But I also made a video of her doing something very challenging, incredible, actually, for kibble.

(Link to embedded video for email subscribers)

I know there are plenty of others out there with dogs that are a challenge to motivate. Here is a ray of hope. If you are currently having to use salmon or gorgonzola cheese or some other exotic, expensive, or messy treat: Keep with it. Do whatever it takes to build value for the activity for your dog. I think it’s safe to say that the more you do, the more likely you may not have to  forever.

Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for:

 

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