Septempber 19, 2009
Joyce Kesling, CDBC
Considering drives and motivations when training dogs
The following two youtube videos demonstrate dog training using toys as rewards. When training dogs, I like to think about what dogs do naturally, some more than others. Dogs expressing parts of the prey drive not intended would be considered faults. Border collies for example don’t naturally express “eye” they need the right environment to express that characteristic. Without it, they probably wouldn’t make a good working and/or herding dog.
In this first video, Boudicca is demonstrating learned behavior take and give (release). Training this behavior should be included in all puppy training. Rules are essential to maintain training new behavior during the acquisition phase, but also for maintaining already trained behaviors. Note, how I emphasize my cues, hand signals and body language. When we lack this type of consistency we can expect inconsistent behavior from our dogs. However, this is not the same quality of precision one attempts to achieve in show obedience trials, however providing clear cues for behavior is essential, otherwise even pet/companion dogs may become anxious and frustrated. Make sure you watch for my mistakes.
In this second video, Boudicca is demonstrating how we can train dogs using parts of their natural prey drive using an internal reinforcer, rather than external. This would be especially helpful for some dogs who might naturally express that behavior given the right environment.
In the previous video, I used a variety of objects to generalize the behavior. In this second video I get her started with my goal behavior, catch. I then add the distraction, dropping a ball at my side, she should stay focused on me not the other object. I pre-selected a soft bone shaped toy to use as the throwing object, this helps her catch a large object and express the kill bite part of the prey drive.
The purpose for training this type of behavior not only teaches bite inhibition further but includes impulse control and cooperation. When dogs willingly trust us to release objects, from their jaws and teeth and willingly retrieve objects to us, demonstrates very desirable manners and skills every owner should want for their dog.
Note, how I continually use toys as rewards rather than food treats. I use food treats to get a desirable behavior but move away from them to life rewards, especially play behaviors sooner than later! When you consider internal and external motivation and drives, I’ve found incorporating rewards in training that stimulate internal motivations rather than relying on external motivators might be necessary for some dogs. Teaching dogs to rely on food treats for good behavior can be compared to how we use food to satisfy unmet needs, resulting in eating disorders.
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Joyce D. Kesling, CDBC
P.O. Box 15992
Sarasota, Florida 34277
The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated. Mahatma Gandhi 1869 – 1948
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