Recently our author Morgan Spector was the guest on the Clicker Solutions Dog Book Review list, discussing his book Clicker Training for Obedience. Toward the end of a month of answering questions he responded to a post from a newcomer with such thoughtful and useful encouragement that we would like to share it with all of you. Here it is, with permission:
An e-mail exchange between Karen Pryor and Richard Orser:
Richard: If you wouldn't mind, I would like to ask a question: If I am reinforcing several behaviors (by clicking/treat) e.g., sit, sit/stay, & come, I am making these behaviors more likely to occur when I am around the puppy (10 weeks old). But, then I have to further shape each behavior to occur only when I present a certain hand or verbal signal (a different one for each behavior).
My name is Emma Parsons and I am the Training Director here at Sunshine Books, Inc. I have just finished teaching a six-week clicker training course at the Tufts Veterinary School of Medicine in North Grafton, MA. Nine students attended, mostly first and second year veterinary students. A master's degree student and a practicing veterinarian also joined us as well.
From Aidan Bindoff: Most of you would be aware that the golden retriever excells in obedience, tracking, retrieving etc. This all-purpose dog is well known for its intelligence and ability to obey instruction, and cats are well known for their ability to lie around all day and look pretty, right?
I'm very interested in the question of dogs learning by observation. The 'decisive' paper that proved that dogs don't learn by observation was a very limited study, I believe, involving two dogs with no particular reinforcement history, in which the observer dog failed to learn some task... And somehow it went into the zeitgeist as a firm conclusion, one I was totally prepared to believe in myself, at one time. I thought that dolphins do learn by observation, and dogs don't. Then I started giving seminars, and seeing all kinds of observational learning going on.