Getting the behaviour you want

Operant conditioning describes the 4 ways we can get the behaviour – remember

“Get the behaviour to reward the behaviour”.

At this stage forget about commands, they are covered next time in Pavlovian conditioning. We are purely looking at ways to get behaviour we want.

Capturing – Wait until the dog performs the required act then reward it making it more likely to recur. This is good for simple behaviours that the dog naturally performs but is obviously of limited use for complex behaviours or ones that the dog never performs.

Modelling – One we are familiar with. Physically manipulating the dog into position. eg. Pushing his bum into the sit. Can be useful but can cause confusion and this will become clear why when we look at Pavlovian conditioning.

Luring – Using a treat or ball to entice the dog into position or to perform the behaviour eg. For the sit, moving the ball backwards over the dogs head until his bum touches the floor. The dog can be taught to follow a hand or stick and then luring can be used for all sorts of things such as jumps, positions etc. Very useful but the lure eventually needs to be faded out.

Shaping – Getting the behaviour by rewarding the nearest similar behaviour and then rewarding small changes (successive approximations) towards your desired behaviour. This is excellent for complex behaviours and ones that the dog would not naturally perform. This is where clicker training/marker training becomes essential.

Whenever we need to teach our dog something, one of these tools will be appropriate. It may be that you could use any of them in some situations although some will be more efficient than others. It may be that your dog is very touch sensitive and doesn’t like modelling, so you have to rely more on luring. Some active dogs may be performing lots of the actions you need and it may simply be a case of rewarding them as they occur. You may try one method and when it doesn’t work you know you have other tools in your tool box. It is merely a case of choosing the best tool for the job.

“Get the behaviour to reward the behaviour”.

Remember, dog training can be dangerous. Especially if you forgot to put the sleeve on!!


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