Treats during training

Pointing, retrieving, flushing, tracking, behavioral issues, puppy training, etc.

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Re: Treats during training

Postby J D Patrick » Thu Apr 26, 2018 10:36 am

Bruce Schwartz wrote:For training dogs for NAVHDA and the basic skills needed for a hunting dog there isn't any need to do reward based training. You teach a few simple commands via aversive means and you're done. Positive reinforcement (PR) won't, for instance, help you teach steadiness or how to point.

And aversive training works - you push the dog's butt down and say "sit" and pretty soon the dog learns that nobody is going to push on their butt if they respond to the sit command. Even FF, if done expertly, shouldn't even be a problem in the traditional sense: you apply force until the dog figures out it's to accept a dummy in its mouth and so learns to open it's mouth when you pinch it's ear.

But reward based training is very powerful and it's the method animal trainers the world over use to get their dogs to do spectacular stuff like going into buildings with cam corders and searching for snipers, etc. It's simply giving food treats for a desired response instead of teaching the dog to avoid pain. These particular PR methods are now honed for the average pet owner and so basic OB can be taught quickly and solidly pretty much by anyone. FF is one of these things that can be done by positive reinforcement as well, and so there is no need to subject yourself or the dog to the anxiety of going through the process. And the dog loves the training and learns it quickly and pretty solidly.

PR doesn't remove the ecollar from your training and so will likely be needed, for instance, to overlay the "fetch" command at the end of the FF process in order to create the compulsion that the traditional methods employ (it's needed at the end of traditional FF anyway). The collar is incredibly successful because a correction can be administered immediately and with reward based training you can't do that. So they're used in combination.

The real value in reward based training comes in when you want to teach higher level skills like handling and lining, and similar skills for advanced retriever training. Traditional methods of the past are based on aversive training and were developed by using reality mentally tough dogs like Labrador Retrievers. The usual versatile dog can't take high pressure and so ramping up the ecollar to get a desired result just doesn't work very well. The dogs simply aren't happy and their demeanor suffers. With PR you can get closer to the training levels of these tough retriever breeds but you won't surpass them.

The other place PR is good for are the problems that folks run into where they don't get a good recall, or their dog won't do more than a couple of retrieves, or they want to increase the distance on a send, or the dog is stubborn about a task, or just simply ignores you. If you're having training problems think about how some treats can help get you over it. Even going over your OB stuff with PR just gets you a more willing subject and you'll find that the dog's doing stuff because it wants to rather than because you told it to. There's a difference. I keep some kibble in the pocket of my vest and give a few pieces from time to time.

So, PR solves the problem of complex training stuff but also helps hone the normal OB that you use every day. And GH is correct in that if you give intermittent rewards (say three out of four times) you create a better response. It's like pulling a slot machine lever - if you get a reward every time you pull it then you get lackadaisical about pulling it and if you never get rewarded you give up on pulling it. But, it you get rewarded every now and then you will pull it vigorously.

My own personal story with PR goes back a few years when one of my griffs balked at FF and she quit talking to me for over a month. Gradually we reconnected and I started using PR to reteach the fetch process. Eventually she went on to becoming the only griff to get the HRCH retriever title, and also received a MH title in AKC pointing breed competition. Everything with her had to be negotiated and so I learned subtle communication ways about reading my dog that I never knew before when I just told my dog to do this or that. Dogs are really complex animals. Their brains are put together pretty much the same as ours and fMRIs (functional MRI's) have shown that they love, and have remorse, and plot, and do all the stuff we do but at various different levels. I can't say for sure that reward based training opened me up to more closely paying attention to my relationship with my dog but it happened at the same time and I hadn't learned it in forty previous years of dog training.



that was enjoyable to read - well stated Sir
J D Patrick
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