Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A Waffle in My Pocket: Looking at Reinforcers

I am sitting at school. And I just noticed I have a waffle in my back pocket. And fish dogfood in my coat pocket.

Kathy Sdao talked quite a bit about how dogs don't really get bored. We just need good reinforcers and we need to have a high rate of reinforcement. We should be making dogs work for their meals (and not "Sit" set the bowl down.... remember, rate of reinforcement!) with training and food toys. We need to use high value reinforcers to help get good behaviors.

I say a lot of the same things, but it was good to hear her say it, I'll be more comfortable talking to students, I'll be more comfortable knowing that I am not completely crazy.

What really stuck out about feeding and reinforcers was when Ken Ramirez emphasized that training is not a luxury. It is not really an optional thing. And it's actually important for maintaining a high quality of life for dogs.

Kathy talked about her friend ET the Walrus and how he knew a billion behaviors, not because he was inherently smart or that the trainers had all day, but because the trainers have to provide enrichment for him, and there are only so many simple and husbandry behaviors to teach.

Last year at the same conference, Lore Haug DVM was emphasizing that our senior pets need training to maintain cognitive health and prevent cognitive decline, and this fits right in with how important, and how underestimated, training can be.

And so, I was trying to be a Very Good Trainer last night. I took sausage and fish dog food and waffles to train my dog. We took a favorite toy and a new toy. I rested my dog and planned my sessions. I worked him at his very best and did not work him if he was not his very best. We had short sessions, we broke them up. I reinforced generously. He worked for his food. We did some work with new behaviors, as well as working to further the behaviors we already have started.

But I left the sausage at home, I talked with someone else about my trainer. I didn't put my timer back in the bag afterwards. And I didn't put away my treats. So here I am, at school, after having gone to the store. With a waffle in by back pocket.

1 comment:

Crystal said...

I love this post so much. I've been giggling about the idea of having a waffle in my pocket all week. It's a great visual that helps me remember to use a wide range of reinforcers... and good ones, too!