Tuesday, June 7, 2011

What Happens After the Click: Part I

We often focus on the behavior, how to get behavior, maintain it, shape it, and use it.  There is this little tiny space of time and the little tiny bit of behavior that has  been fascinating me recently.   All that stuff that happens between the click and when the reinforcer is received.

Beginner students focus on all that behavior happening pre-click. And then they learn to click, give a reinforcer (often food).  Some learn about clicking and play. Some learn about utilizing other types of play (with or without the click).

But as we get a bit more experience and especially as we focus on competition or precise behaviors, we really do need to think about everything that happens.   Because every single thing that happens before the reinforcer being delivered could increase in frequency.   

Now onto some examples:

Stay Behaviors:
We click. We reinforce. If the dog gets up after the click, there are options, here are just a few.   a) Some people do not reinforce.  This however, is less common with people who are utilizing clicker training in many areas and uncommon with people who are very comfortable with clicker training. We risk the click loosing value.    b) We toss the reinforcer and keep going, using an easier criteria next time or modifying as needed.   We can recognize that the getting up was also reinforced.  c) We recognize the getting up as a result of the click. "The click ends the behavior" and some people find this desirable.   Someone at the seminar was horrified that my dog did not get up on clicks. The person thought I was not using him to his full potential, that my click was broken and it was treating my dog like he was not very smart.   The click and go is created and maintained by reinforcers tossed, thrown, somehow away.  While the dog works for the click and to get the click, we recognize that the movement, the run and chase and leaping away from the stay has also been reinforced.  Is this always bad? no. Can it work? Yes. The humans have -got- to be clear about the click before any toss or you get into some messy and problematic things.         

But we can look at it more closely.   What about a dog who doesn't get up after the click, but does some extra little paw twitches?  This is Griffin on his Stand for Exam training.  He has this little anticipatory paw patter thing.  It happens after the click.     I clicked and so I must reinforce... but it's always a dilemma.  With Good stand, click, paw patter, treat.   That paw patter is reinforced. And if I do a lot of repetitions, that is a lot of paw pattering being reinforced.  That is paw pattering increasing. 

My solutions for now?
- Not training. It doesn't improve his stand, but it does prevent the paw pattering from getting worse.
- Separately working on me moving towards him, with food, and reinforcing for stillness there.
- Tossing the food away after the click.  I'm afraid of this and getting messy things in with our behavior.
- Or, at moments where he is doing well, release and then mark-reinforce the release.   Only ever releasing when he is very still.

One of my training obsessions is placement of reinforcer. Where you place that reinforcer can not only help minimize unwanted things between the click and reinforcer, but we can maximize the things we do want, the speed, the movement, the path, the behavior.    More on all of this after-click-before-reinforcer tomorrow.


Erin said...

When we are teaching Go To Bed with our Guide Dog puppies, they often get up after our click. We use the food to lure them back onto the mat or into a down. For example if we click when the dog is in a down and he pops up into a sit, we give the piece of kibble on the mat so the dog has to change its position a little to get the treat. Whether he goes totally back into a down doesn't matter, it still encourages this. This helps to reinforce the stay and/or introduce the down. Perhaps there is a position from which you could give the food that would decrease or eliminate the foot movement.

Kristen said...

That's a great use of "placement of reinforcer." I've been trying different placements on the stand for exam. My hand flat and low, my hand flat and below chin height, between my fingers in those position.

Thanks to your great response...I'll try: Set on the floor between paws. MY "away" position behind or off to the side rather than front. (as his foot movements are typically in my direction, forward).