Animals quickly learn that what they do (behaviour) has a consequence – good or bad.
They will repeat any behaviour that has some benefit to THEM.
Example 1:-Behaviour --> Good consequence --> behaviour repeated
Example 2:- Behaviour --> Bad consequence --> behaviour repeated less
Behaviour can be modified in many ways. Reinforcement techniques cause a particular behavior to happen more often. (Example 1 above)
Positive reinforcement techniques cause behaviour to be repeated by using a consequence that is GOOD. It is important to find out what your dog likes, and to utilise this knowledge in your training. These goodies are called Primary reinforcers – eg. food, ball, frisbee, etc.
Secondary reinforcers are goodies that your dog does not intrinsically like eg. clicker.
Primary reinforcers can impede training because the dog wants them so much.
Secondary reinforcers (eg. Clickers) work because they:
a) use the positive reinforcement plan
b) are paired with something the dog really loves, and come to represent it.
c) are not normally around the dogs environment
d) are consistent, can be used by different people
e) are instant, improved timing equals better understanding
f) are unemotional, unlike words which change tone with the mood of the person
g) allow training without the use of physical strength.
h) can be used from a distance – sound travels.
i) can be used with young puppies, training is nonforceful, mistakes don’t harm.
When teaching your dog something new (Using the lure technique, eg. sit, down,come,heel):-
1. Start using body/hand signals as these are best understood by dogs (cf. words)
Lure a behaviour with food in your hand. When the dog does the behaviour click and give him a treat. Repeat this 4 times. NOTE: Your timing is important. If you click late you train something different!
2. Lure the same behaviour using the same hand signals but without food in your hand. When the dog does the behaviour click and give him a treat. Repeat 4 times.
3. Now WAIT to see if the dog will repeat the behaviour. If it does click and treat. If not go back to the start with food in your hand and redo this once. Then WAIT again and see if he does the behaviour.
4. Once he does the behaviour reliably with hand signals you can add a word. Say the word and then do the hand signal. If he does the behaviour click and give him a reward. As a guide to know when to add words, be prepared to bet $20 (if he does not respond to the word, you LOSE!)
5. The dog will start to predict that the word will be followed by the hand signal, and he will start to perform the behaviour immediately after he hears the word. NOTE: Dogs respond most readily to body language ie. Body and hand/arm movements rather than words.
6. You will find that when your dog learns a behaviour he will offer to do it just to get a treat. This is great progress!!
At this stage you reward only when the behaviour follows the word ie. when you ask for it! No command = no reward.
Do NOT repeat a word more than once.
7. Set the dog up for success, take small steps towards your ultimate goal. Raise your standards slowly. Eg. sit stay, or sit with more distractions/at new places etc. Keep raising them. If you get 3/3 correct then make it harder/change it.
8. At the start reward EVERY good behaviour. Later reward intermittently.