Before You Fade Reinforcement
Your dog should be really solid on the behaviour before you start to fade reinforcement. For each exercise, you should have gone through the following process.
- Train new behaviours in your special low distraction training area
- Move to different areas of your home
- Train in the backyard
- Train in the front yard
Train in new places
- Generalize the behaviour to all these areas to become reliable
When Will You Stop Reinforcing With Food All Together?
The short answer is never. Similar to how we need reinforcement via a paycheck when we go to work, our dogs also like to see a reward for performing behaviours. It doesn’t mean that you have to reward every behaviour every single time, but you should reward occasionally as reinforcement keeps the behaviour strong and reliable.
A good example of this is what I see often happen with recalls. Many times when someone calls their dog back to them it is good for them but less good from the dog’s point of view. The freedom at the park is over, playing with other dogs is over. Coming can quickly become something that your dog doesn’t want to do. But… by using periodic reinforcement when we call the dog and reward him and then release him back to whatever he was doing before then your dog will believe that coming to you is a good thing and rewarding to do so.
One way of fading reinforcement is to chain behaviours. You might ask the dog to sit and then to spin and only mark and reinforce the second behaviour. Gradually you can build up the number of behaviours chained together in this way. For example, competitors in obedience trials or agility may need to perform over 30 plus individual behaviours without reinforcing with food. For more detailed information on this topic check out Janice’s post on Fading Reinforcement by Chaining Behaviours
Keep Going Signal
A keep going signal is a way of letting your dog know that he is doing the right thing but it is different from marking because we don’t offer a food reward. “Good” is often used as a keep-going signal.
In the chaining behaviours example above, we want a way to let the dog know that he is doing right by sitting even though we aren’t rewarding it with a treat. We could use the keep-going signal after the sit to let the dog know he was still doing the right thing and then ask for the spin and mark and reward that.
The Reinforcement Timeline
When you are training a behaviour you will go through the same general pattern for each exercise:
- Follow the Lure (to create the behaviour)
- Fade the Lure
- Add Cue
- Reduce Reinforcement
- Fade to Random Reinforcement & Praise
Build Slowly on Exercises
This Fading Reinforcment post is a sample lesson from our Foundation Obedience Online Course
To Learn more about the course (and even get more free previews) please visit: courses.tntkennels.com
Janice, in the obedience ring only, I have lost the sit to the moving stand for exam recall finish sit. She is operantly trained from a puppy onwards. In fact, all her retrieves are clicker-shaped, and she is actually a better retriever than my previous Sheltie, an OTCH-titled dog who was trained to take the dumbbell by ear pinch but later became a “crossover dog.”
How do you manage in-ring only behaviors/non-behaviors? I am hoping that operant training will bring Hannah back to giving me the sit in the moving stand for exam. I use a right finish after experimenting with the left finish. In most of her exercises, I use a left finish because Hannah takes too many liberties with right finishes. However, I am going back to the right finish in MSFE because it is the way Hannah first learned it, and the very last time in the ring, I did get the full recall and finish from msfe EXCEPT the sit. After the judge said “Exercise through,” and Hannah was still standing, I told her to sit. I know that’s like closing the barn after all the animals got out, but I want Hannah to know that what she learns goes into the ring with us. I got my sits back in the finishes after not getting any last month when she needed her anal glands expressed. That procedure was done so she should be back to sitting at the finish, which she is more likely to do after a left finish, which is why I went to left finishes in her training before this last trial. She earned her UD on July 26 of this year, and we are hoping soon to finish our UDX. We are trying to get our ninth and tenth UDX leg, but the scores, ugh, have been mostly in the 180s. I live in an “obedience desert” of two hours or more in all directions. I know Hannah has a lot more potential than she is showing. She is five years old but head pretty much still on a swivel at trials. I live in a rural area where the nearest training club is an hour away but I am banned from training there because I have Aspergers. That club is not AKC-sanctioned so there was just so much the AKC could do to discipline them. (nothing). I am a member of the Greater Kansas City Dog Training Club, which is two hours away, but I drive up there to train almost weekly. Moving is not an option. I own my home. The price on it would have been out of my price range if it were in a metro area, so I am stuck, and have to make do in this small rural town, fourteen miles away from the next larger town. Anyway, I use Hannah’s own meal kibble as her reinforcement in training issues. I make her earn her meal, kibble by kibble. How do YOU use higher value food in training? Should I be doing that? I like the idea of behavior chaining so Hannah realizes I’m not a Pez dispenser. Thanks for any help.
Oh yes, Janice, Hannah is a Sheltie, five years old, and is where my previous Sheltie was at age eight in her training , but without the practically bombproof temperament, and much lower scores in the process from UD accomplishment through UDX. As I mentioned, we are trying to get our ninth and tenth UDX legs, but then during the winter, I want to really bring those scores up.