Saturday, September 10, 2011

It's raining cheese (hallelujah)

I'm envisioning something to the tune of the WeatherGirls song Raining Men - "hallelujah it's raining cheese".

Had a question last week about some of the videos I've posted recently. To paraprase "Why are you throwing the treats to him rather than delivering them from hand?" That's a great question - which I don't think I've answered properly in my classes recently. So here's my rationale for throwing reinforcement (food and toy).
Kippie says "I'm here, insert one piece of cheese please"

There are several reasons - first I find it convenient to train with food in my hand/pocket/etc, even if I'm running a longish or full sequence with Teller. When I have little puppies around (mine or board/train puppies) I basically walk around with a pocketful of cheerios (chex, zukes, etc) every waking hour of the day to 'catch' good things (and believe me if you are watching, puppies offer an AMAZING amount of good things naturally, you just need to be looking for them) .

I need my dogs (and I teach my puppies) that reinforcement may come from me - but they don't come for free. Working for me (and to some extent away from me) earns reinforcement (treats, toys, freedom, etc). If reinforcement comes away from me than I believe this starts early with "yeah there's some cheese in my pocket - but you work for it" - the same as the available/unavailable game (which I really ought to post too).

A lot of the time I want the reinforcement to go to the puppy not for the puppy to come to the reinforcement. I'm building reinforcement of obstacles/behaviors not necessarily reinforcement from me. For instance, I want him to get reinforcement (and lots of it) in his 2o2o position in all sorts of situations, on the plank, on the teeter, on the cookie tin, etc.I do not want to be 5' or less from contacts for his entire life. The quicker I can fade ME out of the 2o2o, the better. If you've seen our teeter or plank videos you'll notice that I'm tossing cookies to him (if I'm aiming properly right in front of him). 

As much as possible I want to mark and reinforce him IN position. You'll also notice that in a couple of reps you can see him get 'stuck' in the 2o2o.I've released him, he's still standing there, maybe nosing the grass for crumbs - but also sometimes because the end of the plank has a high value for him. He has no particular desire to break the behavior because he's gotten lots of cookies for getting into the behavior (high value behavior). I do not want to have to be near the contact in 2 years when he's ready to compete, so I start not being there early in the process. For Kipling I want his 2o2o is about running to the end of the board and sticking the landing, it's not about where I am. 

Throwing the cookie creates some drive. With the bigger dogs I use throwing the reinforcement away - ahead of them in the weaves to reward speed in the weaves, behind them on the drops (drop on recall). Getting the reinforcement this time where I want the impulsion.

When I'm shaping an exercise (blanket, head down, box, etc) I want to keep the reps as quick as possible. Go to the object, go to the cookie, come back to the object. Adding ME in that sequence simply takes time and adds a dimension that I'm not looking to add. I WILL sometimes go in and reward from hand/in place - recognizing that position matters, reinforcing that position a couple of times and then removing myself from the picture. For instance - with Teller and his big-boy contact skills I'll often praise the contact from where-ever I am, pause, and then walk into him with a cookie/delivery from hand. The 2o2o is a retrain for Teller, he initially had running contacts.

Plank Video #2 (9/6/2011):

Teeter Video (8/23/2011:

Plank Video (8/20/2011):

Blanket Video (7/23/2011):

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