Training Forum - Comments Discussion

Update Tuesday, September 6, 2011 at 6:51 PM.
Dalam topik book learnin'

About two weeks ago, I posted a Training Tutorial to follow up with all the thoughts on positive reinforcement training technique. I am hoping for these posts to inspire questions and great discussion surrounding this subject? Why? Because frankly I love talking about it, and it's fun! In a serious vein though, the more we understand behavior and how it is shaped, the better off our animals, loved ones and co-workers will be.

I had 3 great comments on that post that I wanted to share. Jen's thought was that it would indeed be fun to train the little dog to station to the carpet when the doorbell rang and when the garage door went up. I share it here simply because I thought it was great thinking that next step out ahead of time. In most cases, it would probably be best to train one instance first and then the other so as to avoid confusion and deterioration of the behavior. So maybe we would focus on the doorbell first. My thought was to train the behavior on a verbal and pointing cue first, then pair that cue with the doorbell ringing. When it seemed good and solid, you could drop the verbal and only use the pointing and doorbell. Eventually you could try to drop the point or see if he went there automatically when the doorbell rang and drop it. After that was good and solid, you could do the same with the sound of the garage door. Obviously this training would work better with 2 people. It's fun to think about though and would be a great behavior to train! This brings up the thought that often, when trainers go to the pound looking for dogs, they are looking for the "problem" and "overactive" dogs. The ones that seem frantic for a job usually make the best show animals. The little dog is one such character. He's so frantic for a job that training him is a breeze. Trin, on the other hand, is very smart but has to be taken along much more slowly. Her trust has to be earned the hard way, and care has to be taken even with sudden movements or louder sounds. This is a case where the clicker might not be the best bridge to use. It's just too harsh.

Natalie says:

This makes me think back to when I attempted to train my dog Zoe. She's such a freakin airhead she constantly gets over-excited and starts offering every behavior in the book, then gets confused, then gets upset and overwhelmed. My first dog was easy to train - highly food motivated (though lazy), and smart. The shepherd is easy to train, though after the initial training finding motivation he will actually listen to is hard work - he's easily distracted by things and ignores all training if something else is going on.
It's so hard to know from reading it, but Zoe might just be in line with the little dog. Those dogs usually need a "job" to do even between behaviors. Sometimes those dogs do very well with going to "their spot" or "station" each time the craziness starts just to reset. These dogs usually need very short sessions that end on a good note if at all possible. The sessions can be lengthened bit by bit, but when I say short, 30 seconds is not out of the question. Whatever length of time is the time her attention span keeps, shorten it by about 20 seconds to end it with her wanting more. Sometimes these animals even need to be trained to focus. Most of the time the focus is assumed and the animal gets it without us consciously training them to do so. But with certain individuals, training them to focus on you at your cue (I just use their name and the word "focus") needs to be the first step in their program. Once they've got it down, move from very easy behaviors to harder ones at their pace. If it's the case of her spazzing out with behaviors that are known and solid, brief time-outs (in which you leave the session by simply turning your back or withholding further stimulus from her for a few seconds) can be warranted. And this is where I repeat that positive reinforcement trainers are not sunshiny morons. They believe it's the best mode when at all possible, but know that we have a toolbox full of techniques to use and that sometimes punishment is necessary. A time-out, though gentle and preferred to physical violence, is a punishment. It's the removal of the opportunity to earn reward and/or your attention. Thus, it's a negative punishment. But it does give the individual time to gather him or herself (animal or human) and get the message across that the current behavior is not working.

Natalie's shepherd sounds like the smart kid in class who gets bored easily. That animal would require inventiveness and for the trainer to be on their game at all times. Training him would not be advised if the trainer were feeling at all subpar at that moment. Changing up behaviors and asking for the unexpected can help, as could keeping sessions short (him wanting more), and changing up reinforcers. But again, it's hard to really know without seeing the sessions. There are just so many variables in the moment (and they are so fun to figure out!) that I wish I could see it. Natalie, if you disagree with anything I've written, have further questions, or have tried some of these things and they did or didn't work, please let us know! I would love the dialogue.

Rebecca says:

So, does this work to teach an old dog new tricks? I mean that LITERALLY. I have two 10-ish year old Italian greyhounds that came to us from an abusive situation and we have done horribly training them. Is it too late? Because all this step by step stuff makes me feel like it might be do-able.

ABSO-FREAKIN-LUTELY Rebecca!!! I've trained a 13 year old animal who had never had a trainer before in her life with beautiful results. Now does it mean some of your expectations have to be lowered? Of course in some cases. Your 10 year old greyhounds are not going to be running a high intensity agility course, and their motivation for certain rewards may not be as high as it once was. They may even be more set in their ways, so progress could be slower on certain things. Repeated behavior builds confidence and insistence on that behavior. In other words, practice makes perfect, and if they have practiced a behavior a certain way for 10 years, it may take a little while to change. Plus your new relationship may take a little adjustment. However, do it just like I said. Find your most motivating reinforcer. If they are hard to motivate, use that reward ONLY for training. Make sure they aren't overweight. Start small to build confidence for all of you and definitely train a bridge. Were you looking to extinguish unwanted behaviors, train new ones or both?

Note that no matter what you are training be sure to train and keep in your back pocket behaviors that you both enjoy rehearsing. That way training is not just about work, obedience or phasing out "bad" behaviors. It's fun too. We generally only keep up well with things we enjoy to some extent. (who here has trouble with punishing exercise they don't like? I thought so.) So enjoy yourselves!! Have at it in the comments! We learn best by looking at real world situations and discussing all our viewpoints. Thanks for the great comments!

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Training Forum - Comments Discussion
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