Friday, July 1, 2011

A Mini Lesson on Secondary Reinforcers

Tonight at 4-H practice we had a super short lesson on secondary reinforcers.  As they aren't allowed to use food in the obedience ring, we need to be sure to have lots of ways to motivate and reinforce our dogs.  They may typically enjoy petting or praise, but we want to work up to the dogs as excited as possible.

Primary reinforcers are the things that animals need for survival....the one we mostly utilize in training is food*.

Secondary reinforcers are anything else that can be reinforcing, often they are things we pair with primary reinforcers.  

We worked on introducing a few different things as secondary reinforcers.  For each one we said the word/did the action and then fed the dog five tiny treats.   We repeated this 3-5 times for each one, enough so that I could see the kids were using the correct order.

  • 1+ "magic words"
  • Gently holding the collar
  • 1+ types of specific petting (specific location, duration, intensity, number of pats)
  • Clapping
And then we did a super short session on how we incorporate these into 'real' training.  For behaviors the dogs know well (sit, down, shake, etc), the order of events:   Give the Cue. Dog does the Behavior.  Secondary Reinforcer. Primary Reinforcer.    Again, we did it enough times so that I could see that the kids had the proper order of things.

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