I wish the world could have seen Ken’s seminar on Sunday in Worcester MA, it was fantastic. For those of you who don’t know his name, he is the Training Director and Senior Trainer at the Shedd Acquarim, has trained exotic animals for over 30 years, and could train just about anyone to do anything. I left inspired and crazed to train something, anything, and had to stop myself from trying to teach the flight attendant to scratch her head on cue.
When I got home, close to midnight, I sat down with Hope and taught him to flip his hips sideways while lying down to “Settle” before I even walked upstairs. Took five minutes. Scary easy, and extra fun because of being inspired by Ken.
However, in order to get home Sunday night, I had to miss the last hour of Ken’s videos. I heard they were great… anyone care to tell us what I missed?
Here’s what I didn’t miss: some excellent points about what are often called “Secondary Reinforcers.” [Note to training geeks: there are some details about terminology that Ken went into that I found fascinating, but it would take a couple of posts to explain them, and you’re better off going to see Ken in person if you are interested in terminology.] But here is a summary of points that I think are relevant to all of us:
First, many of you know that “Primary Reinforcers” are things that are inherently reinforcing (that automatically cause an animal to increase the frequency of a behavior). Strictly speaking, they are things that an animal needs to survive: food, water, etc. When you give your dog a treat for sitting on cue, you are using a primary reinforcer.
Secondary reinforcers are things that are learned by an animal to be associated with Primary Reinforcers, and thus eventually elicit a similar response through classical conditioning. For example, if you repeat “Good Dog” and follow up it with a treat enough times, eventually your dog will work to hear you say it. But here’s what I learned from Ken:
It is critical to continue to link a secondary with a primary part of the time, no matter how long you’ve been using it. In his experience with his animals (who have to perform perfectly in shows and when being treated medically), even if the animal inherently enjoys the secondary reinforcement, it has to be maintained with a primary if you want a totally reliable behavior. That’s true even if the animal loves the secondary reinforcement. For example, at the Shedd, Beluga Whales love having their tongues rubbed, it clearly feels good to them and they seek it out. However, Ken considers it still a secondary reinforcement, and is very careful not to over use it.
He advises that you condition ALL secondary behaviors as if they were a behavior. In other words, rub tongue, give treat. Rub dog’s belly, give treat. Even if your dog likes it inherently, initially reinforce it with food if your dog likes food. That makes it much more powerful in the long run.
Once your dog is clearly thrilled with what you are doing, then begin to use it as reinforcement by asking for a simple behavior, then use your 2ndary R, and follow with the primary R. After that, for a long time, use the 2ndary by itself only twice in a session, and never in a row. Gradually increase the use of the 2ndary, but be very careful not to overuse it. (By the way, he is NOT talking about a click for those of you who are clicker trainers. He considers that a marker, not a reinforcer.) Clearly there is a lot to talk about here, but this is enough for now to get us all thinking about the issue.
MEANWHILE, back on the farm, I had a chance to think especially hard about all this the day after the seminar. I loaded up the dogs, the plastic bags, the treats, the water, the camera and the leashes and drove over to a wonderful place to walk the dogs. Hope has been there off leash 5 times before, but I am very careful because in the beginning it is close to a road. In the past he’s gotten lots and lots of food treats for coming when called, and for checking in with me on his own.
When we arrived I looked for my bait bag and discovered I’d left it on the counter in the house. Whoops, no food. No primary reinforcer for a young pup who was going to be off leash for 45 minutes. I pondered keeping him on leash the entire time (I always start with him on leash) and thus him getting less exercise, but decided to forge ahead because 1) the path has a natural boundary of high grasses 2) Hope tends to follow Will, who always stays on the path 3) Hope has had 5 lessons there and had done very well and 4) I DID have a primary reinforcer: water. It was hot, and I knew the dogs would be thirsty after not very long. So I decided to risk it, but here’s what I did:
1. Unlike our other trips, during which I called him back to me often for training purposes, I decided to call him back only when absolutely necessary. I knew he wouldn’t always be thirsty, and wanted to have the water retain its power. I ended up calling him to come five times in 45 minutes. Every time he came he got water, but I didn’t let him drink his fill. The last time he drank one quick lap and moved away, so I immediately leashed him up. We were close to the end anyway, and at a place I have always put him back on leash, because it gets close to the road.
2. I used Willie to move Hope around in space, calling Willie (by name “Willie Willie!). This helped a lot and meant I only had to call Hope 5 times total. I also used clapping to get the dogs to come. Clapping is not trained as a recall, but is used to motivate the dogs to speed up, sometimes when they are playing with each other, sometimes when running to me. I could use it without polluting my “Hope, That’ll Do!” cue.
3. I managed to keep my hands to myself and never pet Hope when he came back, because he behaves as though he hates it when he is active. He only likes petting when he is sleepy and tired. Petting would have been punishment. Most relevant to Ken’s talk, I didn’t fool myself that “Good Dog” or any other 2ndary R was going to be effective, at least not for long. And I didn’t want to take away its power, so I said “Good Dog” only twice before he started to drink, and kept my mouth shut the rest of the time. Please send chocolate, this is not easy for me.
4. I was ready at any second to bail and put him on leash if I saw the slightest sign that he was going to get himself into trouble. Most of the walk was a long, long away from the road, and there were plenty of scents and sounds to keep him occupied. If he had put his head up and started air sniffing, or completely ignored any signals from me, I would have leashed him up in a microsecond.
Here he is, coming when called, Goooooooooooood Boy!
And here I am Saturday night in Masssachusetts, after a lovely dinner with our host Dana Crevling from Dogs of Course!, another trainer Carolyn whose last name I have rudely forgotten, Ken Ramirez and Karen Pryor (how great that she was there too for the entire weekend!). We ate at a restaurant with a giant crab balloon on its roof. Seriously. And I only had one Corona for dinner, honest.
ROFL!!!! Love the pic of you and the crab!! And the fact that you posed for a picture like that after only one drink says a lot about you, but it’s all good stuff in my book!
A few questions generated by your very interesting post. What else would be considered a primary reinforcer, besides food and water? Why is “Good dog!” a secondary reinforcer while a click is a marker? I have some thoughts on it, but am anxious to hear what others have to say.
Excellent quick thinking after discovering you’d left the bait bag at home! Awesome job to all 3 of you that everything worked out so well. Kudos to you on keeping your talking to Hope at a minimum (sorry, no chocolate). Wouldn’t it have been okay to say “Good dog!” after he came to you, since you were also using a primary reinforcer? Or did you limit yourself because you didn’t know how strong the primary reinforcer was in this instance? After all, water is only a primary reinforcer when you are thirsty.
Trish, sounds like it was a great presentation – I wish I had been more proactive in my scheduling and was able to go. I have enjoyed the Sole Proprietor, especially the Thai Shrimp – I hope you did, too!
Your story of your walk with Hope and Will made me think more about how I work with my dogs. I am a motor-mouth. “Good dog! Nice work!” on and on and on. I’m getting more selective about how I use my voice, but perhaps you could expand on the pros and cons of training with this kind of personality.
As for Ken Ramirez’s discussion of primary and secondary reinforcers – what happens if you overuse the secondary reinforcer? Does it simply lose effectiveness to reinforce the desired behavior, or does the inherent enjoyment of the secondary reinforcer diminish? (i.e. “I don’t enjoy a belly rub so much because I have to work so hard for it”).
And last, just a thought question for a future post, maybe.
I was wondering about what influences the difference between reacting to an infrequent, intermittent stimulus and a frequent stimulus. Here
With my young dog, I’ve been relying heavily on primary reinforcers (food) and wondering how best to phase out the food without taking big steps backward. I like the idea of strengthening secondary reinforcers to give them more power. That might be just the thing.
Thanks for sharing. It sounds like a fascinating talk!
I’m struggling a tiny bit with the difference between a marker (like a click) and a secondary reinforcer such as Goooodd dooogggg!
I think I can sort of see it from the reaction of my dogs. I really don’t like clicker training (nothing wrong with it, but I am a klutz and can’t coordinate dog, treats, body language, voice, and clicker all at the same time, plus my boy is so keen that sharpening him up more with the clicker is counter-productive). However, I have always used “good!’ once, short and sweet, as a marker for saying “yes, that’s it!” and “no” but not in a stern voice to say “not what I wanted, try again.’
When I say “good” short and sweet, even though it frequently follows with a treat, my dogs recognize they’ve done right but don’t seem to get any joy out of it. However, when I sing “good boy (girl), good boy, who’s a good boy!” they grin at me and practically pop their buttons with pride. And when I do my praise party of clapping and jumping up and down and saying a very excited “GOOD BOY!!!” they practically dance and Jack will belt out a few happy “A-rooo-rooo-rooos!” So to me it seems that marking the behavior is not seen as a reward by the dogs, but my happy dog dance is self-rewarding, in addition to being anticipation of treats.
One thing I want to ask: How come my dogs think it is 100x better when we run to the treat cupboard for treats than when I hand them out on the spot? They think that is the ultimate reward. Is anticipation almost a secondary reinforcer?
Angel: Since changing to reward based training, I have used “good” (my “good dog” word) only as a marker, that is , it is always followed by a reward. My thought is that any marker will eventually become a conditioned reinforcer because it is always followed by a reward (mostly food) – to me, the difference is in how you use the word/click, if it is followed by a reward, it is a marker, if it is not, it acts as a secondary reinforcer.
Trish – congratulations – sounds like you did some really hard work keeping yourself out of Hope’s space on the walk. Virtual chocolate on its way. And you are really lucky – a place to walk your dogs for 45 minutes a long way from traffic! I must admit, though, all that long grass makes me nervous – in Australia, that would be heaven for snakes – I have one of the 5 most poisonous snakes in the world in my district, and a terrier who jumps at snakes given half a chance! Needless to say we don’t walk in the bush or long grass through summer 🙂
I know exactly where you were! I went to WPI which is right up the hill from there. Sometimes I really miss living on the East Coast, a lot more seems within driving distance even if it’s across state lines.
Excellent stuff – I think I have been trying to move too quickly from primary to secondary (partly because I too am prone to leaving the treat bag behind!). I suspect that for Poppy, a fuss and silly game a
ARE a primary, or as near as makes no difference (she is a toy poodle, and adores attention), while for Sophy they are very definitely a nice-enough-to-have but not worth working for, and I have never made the primary/secondary link strong enough for her.
I was also interested to read about the continuing use of primary reinforcers to maintain behaviours. We are often made to feel guilty if we continue to use food, rather than fading to a mild secondary like “Good girl”, but this implies that keeping a mix of reinforcers, with lots of top-notch ones, is the way to go. I have no problems with this (I even, ex-computer geek that I can be, have the treats factored in to the spreadsheets I use to work out my dogs’ diet!), but I know there it can be a point of debate with many people.
Does Ken ever make it to the UK? He sounds like a truly inspirational speaker.
I’ve started reading your blog a few months ago and find it really inspirational. Ken Raminez is yet another speaker I would like to meet if he ever comes to the UK. Sadly I won’t be able to make it to your seminar in Scotland this year, but I’m hoping there will be others!
On an unrelated subject, I thought I’d let you know I tried your yummy carrot bread recipe. It was delicious and had tremendous success with friends and colleagues. Thank you!
Interesting… agree with Frances that it takes the pressure off to phase out primary reinforcers completely. A few months ago, when my dog’s pulling on leash had essentially stopped on our morning walks, I began deliberately taking a treat bag with kibble on some mornings and leaving it home on others, hoping to get the same on-leash behavior without food rewards as I do with rewards. The essentials (not pulling, sitting and waiting at corners, etc.) work fine either way. But the “nice to have” behavior like turning to look at me every few yards really only happens when my dog knows I have treats (he is not turning to check in so much as to check for a treat!). And his motivation/interest in me is higher when I have treats on the walk, whereas his interest in sniffing (he’s a scent hound) dominates when I don’t have treats.
In less familiar territory, he has no interest in treats, only in sniffing, so I use that as the reward for walking beside me for several steps. Sniffing is perhaps not as essential as food or water, but it’s hardwired, not a learned positive association. Does Ken Ramirez consider “Go sniff” and other life rewards to be primary or secondary reinforcers?
Sounds like it was a wonderful weekend. A good friend of mine made it out there, and it sounds like you were very entertaining and educational as well. 😉
I, too, think of the clicker as a marker rather than a reinforcer. It takes a picture of the exact moment the dog does something I like. I then provide the treat in the location of the good behavior (by my side for LLW, on the mat, in sitting position). If I’m using it for reactivity cases, I always click the calm and drop the treat.
Hope is getting so big already! What a beautiful boy!
Trisha is coming to Scotland?! When? Where? Am I to late to book a place???!
Yes, Scotland it is! I’m doing a two day seminar on the 10th and 11th of NEXT year, the 2011, so it is definitely not too late to sign up. I’ll get details about it on the website soon, but mark it on your calendar!
To all who are asking about a “marker” versus a “reinforcer”: This is a perfect example of our brain’s need to categorize things not always being helpful. That said, most prof’l trainers use the clicker to mean “THAT’s IT! That behavior, the one you were doing the instant you heard the click! That is what you are about to get reinforced for!” Thus, it’s called a Marker. After the click, the animal gets food or a chase or a toy to play with as the reinforcer. But those of you who are a tad confused are so for a good reason. Surely the click itself becomes a 2ndary reinforcer, yes? If ‘click’ and ‘treat’ are always linked, couldn’t the click become reinforcing itself? Yes, indeedy, but it’s primary use is to precisely ‘mark’ the exact behavior you are looking for, so most people title it by that name. Make sense?
Don’t know if Ken gets to the UK often, but I know he will be speaking at APDT in Australia soon. You can google his name, Ken Ramirez at the Shedd Acquarium and I’m sure his info will be there.
To Sharon: Good question about the consequences of over using the secondary. At the least, the animal can become frustrated (Ken told a horrific story about a frustrated Orca taking it out on an inexperienced trainer who used too many 2ndaries and not enough primaries). I suspect that the behavior degrades in some cases because the link between the two is broken, especially if the 2ndary is something relatively arbitrary that the animal doesn’t inherently adore.
And your question about the collar jingling is a good one. I’m afraid I have to answer as I did a few times at the seminar: “It depends.” Sigh. But here’s a question for all of us. It sounds like Sharon is combining habituation with operant conditioning to respond with an incompatible behavior. Is it best to try to combine those things? Sincere question…
And to Angel, I didn’t say Good Dog because of Ken’s advice to not use the 2ndary very often in early stages of training. Hope is the last dog to get all gooey just because you say nice things to him (GIVE ME THE TREATS, he says, DON’T PET DONT’ TALK JUST GIVE ME THE %$#@* TREATS!) so I didn’t think he was ready to ‘feel good’ when I just said the words. Make sense?
Oh Trisha, thank you for this laugh:
“Hope is the last dog to get all gooey just because you say nice things to him (GIVE ME THE TREATS, he says, DON
There’s no ‘c’ in aquarium. Learn how to spell.
To Buffet: Thank you so very kindly for your gracious reminder about the proper spelling of aquarium. You are indeed correct. Regarding your second sentence: Well, I’m wurking on it.
I really like this post and I thought about it a lot on my walk today as I constantly “talked” to my dogs. “Come here” “good girls”, etc. I think I need to shut up!! 🙂 I imagine they tune me out because “that woman is ALWAYS talking!”.
To Beth – I did read somewhere (maybe one of Trisha’s books?) about how anticipation of something good is at least as good or better than the something itself – for humans and dogs too. So you definitely aren’t imagining that your dog is more excited when you have to go find the treats than when they are readily available. For me I keep the “special treats” away (such as bully sticks, etc.). When I decide it’s time for a special treat I say “special treat” and the dogs RUN to the closet. The anticipation is too much to handle! They love it.
Deanna in OR says
Like most agility people, I use treats (f0r my collie) and a good game of tug, plus the occasional treat (for my border collie) after virtually EVERY run or practice. My collie is incredibly food-motivated (not toy)–my border collie is food-motivated, too, but really the only thing she likes better than being allowed to run agility is to play tug, and oh yeah, she’ll take a treat if you insist (MOST of the time, around an agility ring).
I do the same thing (run to the set-up and treat after our time in the ring) for the rare times I do Rally or Obedience with my collie.
So I guess I’m still using the primary reinforcers, just waiting until after a long chain of behaviors. And it works–both dogs have done really well in their respective dog sports. They are ages 7 and 7-and-a-half.
I also always take treats on hikes or X-country skiing with my dogs (off leash, forest or mountain trails). We do random recalls, with rewards, then immediate release to go explore some more. I never want to fade out their recalls.
The biggest challenge I find in the puppy-K/Beg-Ob classes I teach is getting people to use food enough! I’m pretty sure I heard at a seminar you did in Corvallis at OSU, Trisha, that most people are just too stingy when it comes to rewards! I tell my students that 🙂 They always worry about “having” to have food or “spoiling” their dog. I ask them if they would keep going to work if the paychecks stopped after 6 months? I also teach a marker word (“Good!” or “Yes!”) instead of using a clicker–like Beth said, juggling leash, dog, treats, timing is hard enough–you need a 4th hand to click, it seems like.
Thanks for sharing your sense of humor. Seems as though I too need to learn – to lighten up and remember to be courteous!
I’ve been pondering the difference between a “marker” like a click or “yes!” or “good!”
Here’s the way my mind has been working.
Dogs have been selectively bred for thousands of years to focus on human communication (the classic study where wolves raised with people won’t follow a pointing hand to find food, but dogs will, is a perfect example of that tendency).
Even an untrained puppy (usually) will react positively to someone cooing over it, saying “Good dog, good boy, who is a good boy?” in a happy, pleased voice. As Trisha points out, the reaction may be situational and even the most human-oriented dog will not appreciate cooing in all situations, but at least some of the time most dogs enjoy being fussed over. So singing praises to your dog is inherently reinforcing, and we build on that by ALSO associating it with treats. Hence, the secondary reinforcer classification.
Clicking, or saying “Yes!” once as a marker, is NOT inherently reinforcing to most dogs. That is to say, if you took an untrained puppy and said “Yes!’ it would either ignore you or be mildly curious or mildly alarmed by your changed tone. Same with a click, hence our need to “load” the clicker when we first introduce it by just clicking and treating for no actions.
So whereas the “good dog” cooing is already reinforcing to most dogs, and we strengthen it during training by also associating it with treats (and so it is a true secondary reinforcer); the click or marker word is purely a learned association: “That sound means I was good and a treat is coming” (and therefore the classification as “marker” and not “reinforcer.” Remove the constant association with the treat and most dogs would eventually learn to ignore the word or click as being insignificant again, while most dogs will still appreciate being cooed over at least in some situations.
Not sure if that makes sense, but it’s allowed me to separate the two out in my own mind.
Whoops, first sentence should read “….the difference between a “marker” like a click or “yes!” or “good!” and using the singing praise “good dog” as a true secondary reinforcer.
So many good topics! What an interesting point about keeping quiet on walks. This is something I ordinarily do-sometimes we travel off-leash for thirty minutes or more before I utter a word to Otis. He likes praise and a certain degree of enthusiasm, especially if he’s not immediately next to me, but Otis is the first dog I’ve owned who actually seems to be actively reinforced by moments of peace and quiet. He WANTS to be calm and relaxed, he seeks it out, and if I have to ask him to sustain active focus for some reason (training, negotiating a difficult obstacle on the path), the ONLY way to keep him engaged is to give him a ‘break’ every few minutes. During these times, Otis wants to stand or lie quietly, often touching and almost-but-not-quite leaning against my hip. He especially enjoys quiet head rubbing or just a still hand resting on his back or head. After a minute, he’s relaxed and ready to go back to work. Discovering this little trick made training my ‘tough nut’ much, much easier. Though he’s started to accept food rewards much more readily over the past eight months or so, back in the day he was quite a challenge to provide reinforcements for.
In hindsight, I’m very grateful to have had this experience. It’s bad enough to worry that your dog might not obey if you don’t have treats on hand (to my mind, a very real concern) it’s worse to stand in front of a dog actively retreating from excitement, whether from food or toys and games, and figure out how to motivate him to obedience in a positive way. In the end, honestly, I don’t know how much of my dog’s training is based on positive reinforcement at all (at least not directly). Some things he does (leash manners, refraining from cat chasing, etc.) seemingly because he doesn’t want to get ‘in trouble’ -a condition characterized by being spoken to in a stern tone- despite the fact that he is seldom if ever rewarded for them with anything other than momentary praise and the sense that I am pleased with his behavior. A lot of others, (sit, down) he’ll accept treats for, but if I am really honest, he actually seems to do them so that I will remove the pressure of an unmet expectation. He might TAKE a treat, but he really is rewarded by the moment when I break my gaze from him and relax. A few commands, (wait, outdoor off-leash heeling) he seems to see as fundamentally cooperative-he doesn’t seem stressed by being asked to do them nor does he look for a reward-(though I will often pony up a treat or a cuddle afterwards). These are behaviors that he learned easily and does readily with other dogs as well as humans-the idea that he should pause or follow me so that we can coordinate our approach to a dicey situation seems to resonate with him on an instinctive level.
Actually, the more I think about this, I realize that while Otis doesn’t mind being a bit excited himself at times (playing with his toys or other dogs, chasing squirrels), he wants ME to be calm ALL the time. It really disturbs him when I’m not, and he seems to be willing to make whatever concessions are necessary to make sure that I don’t get too ruffled. Hmm…I’m suddenly not sure who is really running this show!
I am so going to the APDT conference in OZ to hear Ken speak. Can’t wait! Of course, this means that I have to seriously consider whether I can also afford to skip over to NZ to hear Patricia speak a few weeks later. 🙂 The APDT conference is 20 minutes drive from my house. No excuses for that one, I think. Steve White is also speaking. I am skipping our local Lapphund picnic to be there!
Regarding secondary and primary reinforcers, it seems maybe there is a bit of a grey area when it comes to social interactions? I am wondering if we should be looking at whether something is a “want” or a “like” to follow Berridge’s terminology when deciding if something is a primary or secondary reinforcer. Assuming that a “want” is something that an animal has an appetite for, as in something ticking over in their brain to tell them to go and find some because they need it, I am wondering if a few things might sneak in as a “want” or primary reinforcer? Take exercise for example. If a dog doesn’t get enough exercise, they may get a bit loopy, right? Does that loopyness indicate that they have an appetite for physical activity? Or we could consider play as both a social and physical reward that speaks directly to a dog’s hard-wired-to-like bits as it serves the purpose of both honing muscles and skills required for hunting and honing social skills, required for getting anywhere as a social animal… Do dogs have an appetite for that kind of interaction? I used to notice with my Lappie that he would get just a teensy bit neurotic if he hadn’t played some good running games with anyone for a few days.
But obviously there is a hole in my reasoning, as things like play are only likely to happen when all other needs are met and the animal is comfortable and secure. And even then, the animal usually has to be at a certain level of arousal before they will play. Some animals have a much greater appetite for play and social interaction and different arousal scales than others? Can it be considered an appetite at all, then?
Sounds like I need to think about it a bit more!
Dena (Izzee's Mom) says
I’m one of those who is still struggling to learn the best version of “fading” treats (for competition purposes). I think I’m coming to the conclusion that it’s not a matter of removing the reinforcer at all. It’s a matter of varying the timing of the reward, so I can gradually move from rewarding every correct behavior IMMEDIATELY in the early learning stages to eventually rewarding the entire run AFTERWARD (outside the ring) when we’re ready for competition.
The notion of keeping the secondary reinforcers paired frequently with primary reinforcers clarifies my thoughts tremendously. Thanks for sharing this golden nugget!
Hi Trisha and All,
My wonderful assistant Bonnie alerted me to this blog entry. How funny to see the crab photo. I love that Trisha is playful and shares her sense of humor with others.
Ken has definitely deepened my knowledge and understanding about how to really use secondary reinforcers to their fullest extent. There is lots to be gained from his insight and experience.
I just want to mention that Trisha was fabulous last weekend as well. Great thought provoking information on canine emotions, fantastic visuals, and fun all rolled into a valuable day for me personally.
Betsy McCoy says
I think most of us are motor mouths. We talk WAY too much. I explain it to my clients by saying many of our dogs put us on “wife mode”; our speech becomes elevator music. I use the word “yes!” as a marker. It’s quick, easy to remember and impossible to say without smiling (Thanks to my mentor Marilyn Neville for teaching me that).
A thought – I think we would do well to approach dog training much as we do horse training. For example, no one would approach a horse and say, ” DO YOU WANT TO GO FOR A RIDE?!?! DO YOU?!!! DO YOU WANT TO GO?!!!” Yet we expect our dogs to be calm on a walk after a similar approach. Calm begets calm, excitement begets excitement.
A question that my training partner and I have for you and Ken is: Can breathing become a primary reinforcer? I suppose if you are asthmatic, yes, as a friend of mine said. In one of the last videos at the seminar, 2 trainers from Puerto Rico were doing water ballet with their beautiful dolphins. It was a very long program with no observable primary reinforcements except that they all came up for air. I’m thinking behavior chains and that the secondary substitute reinforcers were so strong that the dolphins were being reinforced constantly during the “ballet.” I think that this video showed the absolute power of +R and the trust between animal and trainer. I wish you had been there to see it. Maybe Ken can foward it to you.
Btw, Trisha, you were brilliant on Saturday. The more people think about their animals having emotions, the more they will treat their animals with compassion. Let all the love be contagious.
Wild Dingo says
very interesting article. i watch some trainers in a dog sport ring and i see what they do in between exercises is pet the dog (and they pet differently from dog to dog) or play with it with their hands. one of my dog’s loves to “touch” my palm of my hand while jumping up to it (target touch). i use that as a reinforcer /”good dog” before i give a primarry reinforcer. i never really understood how to fade a primary though and you gave me some good food for thought on how to use the secondary in a session.
now is that crab claw giving you a secondary reinforcer or is it considering you a primary reinforcer? 🙂
For Dena and others fading secondary reinforcers for competition: don’t! just teach something (high five, spin left, etc) that you can do in the ring between exercises. This strategy came from a ClickerExpo I attended years ago and has worked. Like KRamirez says, usually link it with the treat, but for 10 minutes in the ring use it when necessary to reconnect & remotivate and then make the link as you leave the ring: High five followed by toy or treat, as your dog prefers…It was the best seminar I’ve ever been to, still use the notes nearly 5 years later….
I understand about not talking too much when training -it’s something I’ll have to work at – but what about the rest of the time – I chat a LOT to my Ranger and have discovered over the 3 years we have been together that he adds to his vocabulary from it – I was not trying to teach him “upstairs” or “car” or “Arboretum (where we go for some of our best walks) but by talking to him & telling him what we are going to do next (shall we go upstairs & I’ll put on my pajamas ?) – he absolutely knows what I mean & will run to the stairs or find his toy or whatever.
Lisa Giesick says
I loved this! My favorite line is “Please send chocolate as this is not easy for me”! Amen, sister. Great information. Thanks for sharing! Aloha