Simplifying Dog Learning Science-Part 2
I've had requests for more of this GobblyDeGook!
The following is something I have on Pressure and has retriever training examples.
Enjoy or hit delete!
Note:There is a phantom smilie half-way down that I can't get rid of-is somebody trying to tell me something? I also lost all my italics and underlines- I think it's tiime to go training!
The behaviour of a dog is changed (increased or decreased) when rewards or aversives are added or taken away. For our retrievers, rewards are birds, praise, food, comfort and anything that makes them feel good. Aversives are scoldings, swats, e-collar nicks, cold water, briers and anything that makes them feel bad. Both are powerful so why do we dwell on the aversive? Think about that!
Pressure is an aversive. It can be mental stress or physical pain. It can be so strong it can overwhelm clear, thoughtful responses or it can be so weak, it is barely detected. In both cases the effects of pressure can accumulate over time to have a bigger effect. One effect is to condition the dog to withstand more or ignore-that is why nagging is so ineffective.
Rex Carr said the pressure of the correction must exceed the pressure of the cause. Example: The correction for creeping must be stronger than the reward of getting the bird. Unfortunately, when we do use extreme pressure in training not only can it be inhumane BUT we invariably have bad side-effects such as poor marking, poor attitude, loss of style, no-goes, bugging, popping. Direct pressure is powerful and widely used in Basics where we have a clean controlled situation. Back nick and Sit:stick and Fetch:pinch are examples of Direct pressure.
Rex and some other early retriever trainers discovered a method of using pressure that had fewer side-effects. It is called Indirect pressure a term which is not normally used by learning scientists or behaviourists. In retriever training we use Indirect Pressure to either increase a desired behaviour or decrease and undesired behaviour. The pressure is applied directly on some well-known and understood behaviour. This has an Indirect effect on the behaviour we want to change but because it is applied on something previously well reinforced and understood there are usually fewer side-effects. Indirect pressure acts like starting a new chain of behaviours. It’s like putting Johnny back in school! It gets their attention
Example 1. Dog prone to creep and be on it’s own at the line. Trainer has an obedience session on sit, here and heel using corrections until dog is soldier-like and thoughtful and paying attention. This Direct Pressure carries over Indirectly to pay attention at the line.
Example 2. Dog prone to slip whisles and go out of control on blind. Trainer takes dog back to swim-by pond or pilework and forces dog on back, reinforces sits and “here”s. This Direct pressure has an Indirect pressure affect on dog’s behaviours during the next cold blind.
Example 3. Dog doesn’t take cast given-scallops back when an angle cast is given. Trainer stops dog with sit whistle and gives a nick with e-collar and repeats cast. The Direct pressure on the sit has an Indirect Pressure effect on the dog who now takes the angle cast more accurately.
This latter example is the most commonly used example of Indirect pressure by retriever trainers. It uses negative reinforcement on the sit to improve casting. The dog has learned to sit quickly because the nick is removed after the whistle if he sits quickly. Note: We have learned that dogs understand this sequence and respond well even when we are slow and the nick is delayed (this can become positive punishment if the sit becomes slower).
Like it or not, the mainstay of much of today’s retriever training is the use of pressure. Much behaviour is shaped by using pressure even though wise use of praise coupled with pressure is very effective. Shaping is gradually reinforcing actions towards a desired behaviour. Example: think about a loopy sit gradually being shaped to a sharper and sharper quick sit on the whistle. You can use praise and an aversive to help the dog understand when he is doing better or not.
Take Home Lesson: All of this “learning” and all of the principles of learning theory are happening constantly while we train whether we can label it or not. Fortunately, you don’t need to understand the labels to use them. What you do have to understand is the following.
The dog’s behaviour at the instant that he gets praise or an aversive is the behaviour that is increased or decreased. You may be thinking four behaviours behind or ahead (dreaming of the ribbon) but the dog is simply reacting to the here and now! This why we always hear that timing when using the e-collar is so important. But this doesn’t mean that you have to be fast necessarily. It means that you have to be applying pressure or praise to the behaviour that is occurring not to some anticipated behaviour or to some older behaviour. Reading your dog is all about understanding and reacting the instant your dog is making a decision. What behaviour is in your dog’s mind?-that is what you are influencing.
So with all this Science,
“Reading your dog involves a lot of art”