Friday, January 14, 2011

Marco Learns a Lesson

Today I let Marco out to load up in the van and he ran to the training building. You might think this is a good thing, and of course, I am very pleased that he is so excited to train that he felt compelled to short cut the whole process. Unfortunately, that meant he eliminated a critical element--- ME!!

  Even if I am only going to my training building, I load up the dogs and drive there so that 1) they are contained in crates until it is their turn and 2) they learn that jumping in their crates and going for a ride leads to good things. 

So today, when Marco ran to the kennel, I recalled him. He did not come.  Instead, he jumped up against the door several times, hoping it would open to the Land of Fun Things.  I do admit to calling him one more time, giving him the benefit of the doubt, being a puppy-head and all. He still failed to respond. I said "nope" and retrieved a long line.

Then I retrieved Marco.  I did not call him and give him a chance to redeem himself or do something for which I would have to reward him, I just snagged him up.  I did not correct him or yell at him.  I simply walked him back to the house, and he bucked like a little bronco when he wasn't allowed to sniff the ground or run around as he preferred.  I calmly took him inside the house and put him back in his crate without a word.  And then I did something unspeakable-- I took out ANOTHER DOG instead of Marco!! Momma, Noooooo!!!! Not fair! Not fair! I let Pre out and put him in the van, went to the building and trained dogs for about an hour before returning to see if Marco had appropriately processed his lesson.

This time, I attached the long line to his collar, just in case I would need it (do not want to create an issue with grabbing his collar and having him associate it negatively) and let him out of the crate and out of the house.  Smart little man that he is, he did not run off.  He stayed with me, and focused on me and I rewarded him with treats for that and he happily hopped into the van.  Success!

If he had decided to run to the kennel the second time, I would have calmly retrieved him and placed him back in his crate.  He would go without training and without his meal until the next learning opportunity.  For a little doggie who loves training and loves to eat, this is a powerful motivator!  If I had yelled and yanked and punished, it would have been associated with me putting hands on him and retrieving him.  If I had spent my anger doing that and still taken him to training, he would have been further rewarded for running away.  He might think , "so what? a little yelling and I still get to do what I want!"  Instead, I took away what he wanted. In behavioral terms, this is a negative reinforcer.

Withholding reward is a powerful tool in learning.  Use it.