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Utility Ring Problems: Do Variable Schedules Help or Hurt?

Random or variable reinforcement is a useful procedure in making a given behavior resistant to extinction, for example in the shaping process, when one wants to raise criteria. To go from reinforcing every response to selectively reinforcing stronger responses you need to develop enough resistance to extinction so that the animal neither changes the behavior instantly upon going unreinforced once or twice, nor quits altogether. Resistance to extinction is also important in maintaining long duration behaviors, as in searches, field trialing, and so on; and can be developed gradually. Bob and Marian Bailey might consider this simply another example of a shaping schedule.

Clicking Training for Obedience: Morgan Spector

In this breakthrough book, Morgan Spector shows you how and why to use clicker training, the technology of operant conditioning and positive reinforcement, to train your dog. Whether you're starting off with a new puppy or headed for the Obedience ring, these step-by-step instructions will work for you. Morgan answers all the familiar questions about clicker training: "Why can't I just use my voice?" "What if the dog doesn't obey?" "When can I get rid of the food?"

A Word about "Compulsion"

From Chapter 2 of Clicker Training for Obedience. Many trainers who dip their toes into the waters of operant conditioning still reserve for themselves the option of "making" the dog do an exercise at some point in the training process. The theory, expressed in different ways, boils down to the notion that "the dog must know that it doesn't have any choice but to obey when I give a command." In response, I pose two questions:

The "Drop in Motion"

From Chapter 3 of Clicker Training for Obedience. While this is primarily useful for the obedience exhibitor, it is an invaluable safety net for the pet owner as well.

One of the biggest bugaboos in competition obedience training is the drop on recall....How do you get the dog to be alert to drop without losing speed on the recall? How do you keep speed on the recall without losing the drop? It is the stuff of which murky legends, rumor, and innuendo are made. One top handler is reputed to hit his dog with his hat. Some handlers use a throw chain. Some now advocate using an electronic collar. The grain of reality in all this is that the drop on recall is probably the most common cause of failure in the Open A ring.

Clicking the Show Dog

"Shaping" is a new technique for turning show dogs into winners. My friend Barbara loves Great Danes and enjoys showing her dogs but her new Great Dane, Heather, was frustrating her. Barbara showed Heather in her first puppy class at 8 months. When the judge leaned over to touch the dog, Heather ran behind Barbara and wouldn't let the man near her. Heather disqualified herself because of her seemingly poor temperament. She was terrified of strangers. It looked as if Heather's show career was over before it had begun.