I'm glad to hear that Positive Reinforcement is so prevalent where you are. That hasn't been my experience. I'm sure it's true that many, if not most, throw fun bumpers and the like, but that doesn't make a training program. Even in this thread, a couple people commented that to nic when sending a dog is +R. But of course that's not so. Even in this thread you can see a lot of confusion about positive reinforcement really is. Frankly I don't have a clue about the percentage +R to -R or -P training in advanced dogs. But I think the larger, more important point you made about the efficacy of aversive vs positive training is not supported by the vast majority of the behaviorist community. Though admittedly even among that group I could easily imagine lacking one hundred percent agreement. I think it's unfortunate that our retriever community doesn't use positive reinforcement in a more significant way within the larger force program.
As to your last point, only someone with no awareness of the dogs running in today's trials & hunt tests would think Positive Reinforcement was a successful program for competition dogs. I'm not aware of any dogs who have earned a title that wasn't trained by the force method. It's hard not to see the force program as the single most effective program ever designed for training retrievers. There isn't even a program in second place.
I had written on RTF before that I sent an email (7-8 years ago) to Morgan Spector and asked him to take a retriever using only a +R to either a Grand title or FC title.
I'm still waiting....
Let's put this another way: How do dogs teach each other? They use both, don't they? Their wild brethren Canis lupus also do the same. What's the mix overall? Haven't a clue, but we do know that dogs interact with each other using behaviors that reinforce responses.
Last edited by PhilBernardi; 07-09-2012 at 09:51 AM.
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I don't know how I missed this gem by Dennis when it was first posted or in subsequent bumps, but I'm glad it was stickied because it's the best and most practical explanation of behavioral science as it relates to retriever training I've ever read. Have to admit as soon as I read the word operant conditioning or see stuff like p+ and -r my eyes tended to glaze over, but this was a great explanation. Now I feel like I have a better understanding of operant conditioning, especially the terminology, and more important how it relates to what we do on a daily basis with our dogs. Thank you Dennis and all those who took the time to post (non-agenda driven) contributions to this thread.
Julie R., Hope Springs Farm
Chesapeake Bay Retrievers since 1981
I too, am well aware that a large percentage of the behaviorist community thinks positive reinforcement is "better" than negative. This persists despite no quantitative data to support it and despite several scientific papers challenging this viewpoint. The following excerpt presents an even more fundamental issue about the differences. Nonetheless it is still valuable to be super aware of rewards verus aversives for our dogs. talk! You probably have no idea how much I preach ABC-Attitude, Balance and Control. Rewards and aversives are at the heart of that!
eg Excerpt:From the Behaviour Analyst 2003
Positive and negative reinforcement: Should the distinction be preserved?Baron A, Galizio M.
Michael (1975) reviewed efforts to classify reinforcing events in terms of whether stimuli are added (positive reinforcement) or removed (negative reinforcement). He concluded that distinctions in these terms are confusing and ambiguous. Of necessity, adding a stimulus requires its previous absence and removing a stimulus its previous presence. Moreover, there is no good basis, either behavioral or physiological, that indicates the involvement of distinctly different processes, and on these grounds he proposed that the distinction be abandoned. Despite the cogency of Michael's analysis, the distinction between positive and negative reinforcement is still being taught. In this paper, we reconsider the issue from the perspective of 30 years. However, we could not find new evidence in contemporary research and theory that allows reliable classification of an event as a positive rather than a negative reinforcer. We conclude by reiterating Michael's admonitions about the conceptual confusion created by such a distinction.
Footnote Addendum by Dennis:
I could have added that there is considerable evidence that negative reinforcement is more powerful than positive reinforcement but i do not want to use that to rationalize aversives. For starters have a look at :
J Exp Anal Behav. 2008 July; 90(1): 1–22.
Concurrent Schedules of Positive and Negative Reinforcement: Differential-Impact and Differential-Outcomes Hypotheses
Michael A MagoonAuburn University
Thomas S CritchfieldIllinois State University
Considerable evidence from outside of operant psychology suggests that aversive events exert greater influence over behavior than equal-sized positive-reinforcement events. etc.etc
Last edited by RetrieversONLINE; 07-09-2012 at 11:20 AM. Reason: Footnote addendum
I am sooo thankful Dennis is on this forum!!!
Last edited by Bridget Bodine; 07-09-2012 at 12:17 PM.
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Great Thread, I hadn't seen it either until this morning.
I'd like to point out that there's a guy on the east coast named Lindsay Ridgeway who is training with all positive reinforcement and no negative or punishment. His dog Laddie, a Topbrass field bred Golden has titled SH so far and has gotten a Reserve Jam in a Qual this summer as well as a Jam in another Qual this summer. Ridgeway has never ever put down anyone using an e collar or other punishment methods, he just chooses not to use punishment himself. He has been following Mike Lardy's program and modifying the drills to fit his positive reinforcement training. It is working!
Below is a recent video he posted on Laddie doing a 300 yard blind with lots of factors and diversion bird.
Daniel, I think it's counter productive to give a sideways insult to folks using the traditional methods to train field dogs - even if it was an unintentional insult. I think the main reason folks aren't using the newest positive methods in the field sports, is that there are NO MENTORS or examples leading the way - except for Lindsay and a handful of others who haven't been very public about it. Daniel, if you want to really make a change and help folks to transition from the traditional methods to new ones, please jump in and prove that it can work. Phil B made a good point, that no one will believe it can work or that it works better, until someone can prove that it does. So far Lindsay says it is definitely not easier or faster to do it all positive with no corrections. But, it may well get easier and faster once the trail is blazed and others jump on to help problem solve.
Just want to reiterate that Lindsay goes above and beyond to say he has a great deal of respect for and no malice toward others who use the collar or punishment. I am in that camp, too. But I do want to see if the all positive can work.
And a link to his blog that describes his training:
Last edited by Jennifer Henion; 07-09-2012 at 12:30 PM. Reason: Qual, not QAA as initially stated
I can understand why you don't like the label "force program". And yet as you indicate in your following paragraph the practice continues. I think there are compelling reasons to explain why the practice continues today, but I don't make the rules. I'm not certain if you're saying you don't like me referencing your training method as force, or if your complaint is with academia who continues to use the label. And so I don't know if your being overly sensitive about how the program is referenced outside the retriever community, or simply expressing irritation with anyone who uses that label. Labels are just tools for referencing something, so for me they're not a problem. I do think however that we in the retriever community use lots of euphemisms in the program, and I think they have a tendency to keep us from seeing clearly. If you think we can't use the prevailing terms, maybe that should be discussed on its' own thread so the issue is narrowly focused.
I have no doubt that if the seminar you gave is similar to Lardy's books & DVDs then the seminar would have demonstrated that "the first option was never force". I've long made the argument to those who argue against including positive reinforcement within the larger program, that Lardy's record is the best example to support that opinion. You're correct about my not having any knowledge of your personal methods. What I said was an attempt to state a clear, and affirmative reasoning supporting the force program; i.e. it wins in competitions. I also mentioned: "I think it's unfortunate that our retriever community doesn't use positive reinforcement in a more significant way within the larger force program." Along with your belief in the what you call"the ABCs" don't we share a common opinion?
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