The human half of the dog’s human team is important. In addition to the love we give our dogs and how we meet their needs, there are some special skills that can help our dogs learn more successfully.
If your timing is good and if you understand how reinforcement works, you can be better for your peers. Dogs are as reliable with us as we are with them. The credibility of any behavior increases at the same rate as its support history.
Your loved ones enjoy playing with you, so take the time to play. It’s good to have goals, but if you don’t have any fun, it’s just a struggle – and no one enjoys the struggle.
As training begins with us, we must set an example for our learners. To be a better teammate, we need:
Great timing: Good timing is great, but good timing is beautiful. There are moments when the dog’s behavior is what we want. A good human partner is engaged and ready to mark and reinforce the desired behavior, as they associate these exact moments with verbal cues for the future. That’s why we need good times.
Marking to remember: Marking behavior is signaling to a learner (your dog) after the behavior. The signal can be verbally “yes” or clicked with a clicker. Time to mark a behavior is equivalent to taking a picture at sunset. The sun is setting on its own, all you can do is be prepared to mark the desired moment that you enjoy the sunset that you want to achieve on time.
To always strengthen: A positive marker is followed by a reinforcement. One of the things that makes your dog feel good is what he enjoys. Ideally, this is a solid object that you can give it within seconds of using the approval signal marker – such as a tasty treat or a favorite toy.
Disclaimer: Like everything else, there is a light and a dark side. That said, I don’t believe in non-reward markers, or negative markers. Identifying what a person is doing wrong does not help them to learn what they can do better. I understand this human language habit, I don’t use it in how I communicate.
I use constant support when I introduce new attitudes. Every desired behavior is reinforced. Once the learner understands what is happening, I move toward variable reinforcement (meaning a ratio of 1: 2, 1: 5, 1: 1, and 1: 3. Encourage the dogs I’m training, so don’t give up every time, but do it.
I adjust to each individual learner. I can tell that if the dog is frustrated that I am not giving him enough help when I lose his focus or attention. Then I increase my support rate so that it can be happily added.
However, there are some high priority behaviors, such as recollection, that always get a boost from me.
I use a combination of primary and secondary aids. A common basic strengthening aid is something solid, such as food, which is both accessible and everyone needs it. Secondary reinforcement is something that is associated with positive results or outcomes, such as praise, such as “Good girl!”
Toys also fall into the category of secondary reinforcements, as the dog feels good about playing with some toys. My youngest dog learns really well when I use a ball as a reinforcement in some situations. For dogs who love a particular toy, the toy can then serve as a basic or solid support rather than a food item.
Why make learning fun?
“Sports are often talked about as a relief from serious learning. But for dogs, sports are serious learning. Playing is really a dog’s job.
Fred Rogers made this statement about children, and it is one of his favorite quotes, but I changed two words because it is also true for dogs. This principle is very easy to understand and it is important to keep in mind when we are helping dogs to learn something new or to do something that we have already introduced.
If your dog is ever struggling to learn, lower the standard and make it easier. Sometimes it means taking a break. For example, if you are trying to walk your dog and he is very excited and pulls towards everything, it does not mean that a will fight is needed. We need to understand our dog’s needs right now. What is the function of behavior? If it is dangerous then we need to manage it. If it’s not dangerous, it’s just that things aren’t working out as planned at the moment. I like to make a plan, I like to achieve goals – that doesn’t mean they are immediate or going according to plan.
That’s fine – this is a waste of time, and sometimes it’s just a matter of time before things get out of hand. You can always go back and try again. When things don’t work out and everyone is frustrated, the chances of learning are slim.
Our dogs are never really giving us a hard time, they are having a hard time. You don’t have to give them a hard time about having a hard time.
There are many ways to turn learning into sports: remembering sports, finding them, waiting and playing games like red light / green light, taking it / leaving it in trade and much more. Be creative about helping learners.
I also believe in holidays, shortening sessions, breaking time with sports and having fun. There is so much to learn when we are having fun.
I really like the quote from NBA Hall of Fame coach and player Phil Jackson about teamwork: “The strength of the team is every individual member, every individual strength is the team.” Understand that you are a member of a team with your dogs for life. Your peers trust you to be the best. Go, team!
Discriminatory reinforcement is reinforcing an inconsistency or alternative behavior. That is why a good human partner should be busy. You just have to be more discriminating with the help you render toward other people. If your dog is doing something you don’t enjoy, ask him to do something else instead, and reinforce that desired behavior. For example, ask your dog to sit down instead of jumping on you.
It does not reinforce or reward bad behavior. All attitudes have a function. For your dog, what he is doing is not bad, he is a dog doing dog things. Discrimination is teaching a learner what is required in any situation so that it is more likely to be repeated.