Positive Reinforcement Training - It Works? Says Who?

Valuable training articles posted by Victoria and other Positively members.

Moderators: emmabeth, BoardHost

Post Reply
User avatar
wholisticdogtraining
Posts: 20
Joined: Tue Aug 10, 2010 9:57 pm
Location: North Coastal San Diego, California

Positive Reinforcement Training - It Works? Says Who?

Post by wholisticdogtraining » Fri Oct 08, 2010 10:58 pm

By Linda Michaels, MA Psychology, CPDT-KA, AKC Canine Good Citizen Trainer -- Victoria Stilwell Licensed Training Partner

If you adopted a pound-puppy, an all-grown-up dog, or have a family dog you'd like to get on the training bandwagon, you'll want to learn about positive method dog training. It's not only dog-friendly, but also the most effective method for training behaviors that last a lifetime, when properly applied.

Here's what some highly respected experts in the field of behavior have to say about your dog and positive reinforcement training.

The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) recommends that trainers focus on reinforcing desirable behaviors and avoid reinforcing undesirable behaviors. For example, if your dog wants to get petted, teach your dog to sit in order to receive the reinforcement of petting. If your dog jumps up on you, turn around and walk away.

You can get the behavior you want from your dog because you manipulate the resources your dog wants: You control the distribution of treats, food, affection, praise, walks, tennis balls — all the goodies and all the toys! In a nutshell, it's that's simple.

The AVSAB "is concerned with the recent re-emergence of dominance theory and forcing dogs and other animals into submission as a means of preventing and correcting behavior problems" (Position Statement at http://www.AVSABonline.org).

It Works? Says Who?

Dolphin and killer whale trainers use their skills creatively to train the largest animals on the planet without the use of force, intimidation, or positive punishment. Positive reinforcement principles were first demonstrated in research by B.F. Skinner (1938) but it wasn't until the early 1990s, with the popularity of clicker training, that the method came into our living rooms to help us train our companion animals in a scientifically sound as well as loving manner. Now Victoria Stilwell, as our most outspoken and successful spokesperson, is at the forefront of the movement leading the way back to scientifically sound, humane, non-aversive methods to solve all types of behavior issues for dogs and their pet parents.

How to Identify a Good Trainer

In the July 2006 issue of the Journal of Veterinary Behavior (JVB), entitled, Good Trainers: How to Identify One", the consensus of veterinary authors recommend that when searching for a good training class or private lesson, you ask, "Are the dogs happy" and "Are the clients participating and happy?" The method a good trainer uses to stop unwanted behavior "should never include physical punishment. Punishment makes animals more reactive, so it increases aggression and arousal". Good training tools to use are listed as: "treats, harnesses, head collars, praise and toys". The JVB asks it's veterinarians to examine a trainer's credentials, experience and education in learning theory, as well as participation in programs of continuing education.

Addressing the Arguments Against Positive Reinforcement Training

The main argument advanced against positive reinforcement training is that training with food rewards is bad and makes a dog's good behavior contingent upon receipt of a food reward.

All living things repeat behaviors that are rewarded, and because food is a powerful reward to your dog, it is a highly effective training tool and speeds learning. Preventing treat dependence is part of a positive training program. After initial learning has been achieved, use the following methods to supplement the occasional food reward:

* Substitute food with affection or toys

* Provide real life reinforcements

* Link behaviors in a "chain/sequence" using just one reward after the last link in the chain.

* Reinforcement randomly

Another misconception regarding positive reinforcement training is that positive means permissive. Not so. Positive method training relies upon teaching well-mannered self-control and boundaries to your pup and good management skills to you.

Our dogs bring us so much joy and unconditional love — we can learn to train them with a method that is fun and promises to enhance the relationship we want to have with them. Start training as early as possible for the best outcome with the least effort!

Originally published in the "You and Your Dog" column of the Rancho Santa Fe Review (CA). Lorine Wright, Editor. All rights reserved.

Linda Michaels, MA Psychology, CPDT-KA. Victoria Stilwell World-class Behavioral Consulting and Training
http://www.WholisticDogTraining.com. 858.259.WOOF (9663) Email: [email protected]
Last edited by wholisticdogtraining on Sun Oct 10, 2010 9:32 pm, edited 2 times in total.

User avatar
Mattie
Posts: 5872
Joined: Tue Jan 09, 2007 5:21 am

Re: Positive Reinforcement Training - It Works? Says Who?

Post by Mattie » Sat Oct 09, 2010 2:46 am

Thank you that is worth keeping Image
[url=http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v312/Nethertumbleweed/PIXIE.jpg][img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v312/Nethertumbleweed/th_PIXIE.jpg[/img][/url]

User avatar
Nettle
Posts: 10713
Joined: Sun Apr 13, 2008 1:40 pm

Re: Positive Reinforcement Training - It Works? Says Who?

Post by Nettle » Sat Oct 09, 2010 12:39 pm

Yes indeed.

However beware of using the examples of training dolphins and other marine mammals. They simply respond to a cue by doing something completely natural to them - and get a reward.

Dogs however are frequently required to do things that are UNnatural to them. There are times when the drive to do something natural but unwanted by the owner exceeds any reward any human can give.

Therefore there are times when no amount of positive training will work - we have to use management instead - close the door, pick up the food, put away the toys, build a fence, put the dog on a lead, drive to a safer walking venue.
A dog is never bad or naughty - it is simply being a dog

SET YOURSELF UP FOR SUCCESS

User avatar
wholisticdogtraining
Posts: 20
Joined: Tue Aug 10, 2010 9:57 pm
Location: North Coastal San Diego, California

Re: Positive Reinforcement Training - It Works? Says Who?

Post by wholisticdogtraining » Sun Oct 10, 2010 6:54 pm

Thank you Mattie! And Nettie too.

Let me see if I can address Nettie's responses. I'm not wishing to make an across the board comparison between training captive dolphins and training dogs, but rather to make a dramatic and revealing statement about the lack of the need for the use of force/aversives in both species in order to get fantastic results.

At first glance it may seem that dolphins are performing natural behaviors and dogs are not, but let's take a closer look. Afterall, what do we teach our dogs but to sit, lie down, run--Come, wait -- all natural behaviors. Perhaps we train them to jump through a hoop which is not "natural" to a dog or a dolphin :wink: But they both "jump" naturally. Their training, in terms of difficulty or method can't truly be identified as natural or unnatural to the scientist. It has been said, there's no such thing as an unnatural behavior. If it were not of nature, it wouldn't or couldn't be done.

But do the captive dolphins and the dogs perform substansively different behaviors? I don't think so. They are both using "performance muscle postures" practiced for human amusement or benefit.

Natural vs unnatural behaviors: Hmmm. :idea: From what I've learned of captive dolphin behavior (I've done some study of dolphin behavior in the wild which is quite a different-- naturally :mrgreen: ),the behaviors in the tank are more "shaped" than they are "captured", that is, occurring naturally. This is how incremental learning, and back-chaining enter into captive dolphin training as facets of shaping. Have you seen goldfish playing soccer? That's one of my favorite training videos that demonstrates the ease that even a fish can learn an "unnatural" behavior they would not otherwise be performing.

All animals can be shaped to perform any behavior as long as that species, or rather, more correctly, that individual is physically capable of performing the behavior. So perhaps, lure-reward, or more likely in the case of the dolphin, shaped behavior is mostly what we're seeing in my opinion.

Capturing would be the means of identifying and rewarding an entirely natural behavior that the animal is performing on its' own. However, the dolphins are trained, for example, to jump higher than they naturally would, jump at different intervals than they would in nature, make tighter turns, swim in tandem, etc. and they are most notably in an unnatural environment.

So dolphin performance may appear natural, with not nearly the repertoire of the dog, nevertheless, viewers may not appreciate the nuances of the trained tricks they're witnessing with marine mammals.

Positive Reinforcement language: Right! Such a sticky subject! I only use the term +R because it's well-known in the public, but as you so rightly point out, management is absolutely part of "positive-method/non-aversive" training with dogs as well as with dolphins. Keeping the dolphins confined in the tank, or casting a net to prevent them from swimming out into the ocean in the more dolphin-friendly venues, are both types of management technically speaking, no?

One of the behaviors that Nettie referred to that may need to be managed are naturally occurring "self-reinforcing" behaviors. Self-reinforcing behaviors are behaviors that are inherently reinforcing and require no external reinforcers. These were once called instinctual, then called fixed action patterns, and even more recently, modal action patterns. And yes, when dogs want to do what dogs want to do and people want to stop them, management is one tool the +R trainer uses.

The operant quadrant and the types of techniques that are acceptable for so-called +R trainers include the use of another quadrant but that's kinda technical to the field of psychology, and there are some who argue we need new terminology. The average reader isn't really interested in all the complexities of learning, just more suitable behavior, from the perspective of the humans, without the fall-out of +punishment.

I've just gone over to calling myself a Green/Non-aversive trainer, but I titled my article +R because many folks are familiar with that term. Most other terms +R trainers used in the past have been hijacked, such as force-free, dog-friendly. What to do Nettie? :| Thank you for your compelling comments. Wags, Linda
Last edited by wholisticdogtraining on Thu Oct 14, 2010 10:55 am, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
Mattie
Posts: 5872
Joined: Tue Jan 09, 2007 5:21 am

Re: Positive Reinforcement Training - It Works? Says Who?

Post by Mattie » Mon Oct 11, 2010 1:57 am

Terminology is a bug bare of mine, you say that people understand +P, most ordinary dog owners don't, I don't really understand it either but that is because I am to lazy to try and work it out. I had enough of trying to work out the terminology when I was training to be a riding instructor, too many instructors teaching us came out with the terminology but couldn't say what it meant, when you ask on forums you get different answers or attacked because you don't know, I put this down to the fact that they don't know themselves :lol:

Having working in a pre-school playgroup as well, the principles of training is the same no matter what you teach, children, dogs, horses, dolphins etc. you do have to adapt these to suit what and who we are teaching, it is the same when teaching dogs, the reason they were bred has to be taken into account when training them, you can't train a terrier the same as a collie or retriever. For the ordinary dog owner they are not interested in these differences, only in how to train their dog, for the student these differences are very important so they can work with all dogs and possibly many other animals.

Linda, you and Nettle are the professionals, I am not, I am just an owner who took on dogs with problems and had to learn how to turn my dogs round, I have missed a lot at first because I didn't know what was being said because of the terminology, it is one of the best reasons I stayed here, everything is written in a way that people like me can understand.

A good dog trainer or behaviourist needs to be able to communicate with owners, those that use a lot of terminology are not communicating with them and many are talking down to the owners which they shouldn't do. The words themselves don't matter as long as the person we are teaching understands.

In my horse training days I was told by a very good instructor, if someone doesn't understand what you are trying to teach them after being told 3 times they are not going to get it no matter how many times you tell them, it is up to you as the teacher to change the words and keep changing them until the person you teach understands, that goes for dogs, children etc. in fact for everyone you are teaching.

This is just me and what I think as an ordinary dog owner :D
[url=http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v312/Nethertumbleweed/PIXIE.jpg][img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v312/Nethertumbleweed/th_PIXIE.jpg[/img][/url]

User avatar
wholisticdogtraining
Posts: 20
Joined: Tue Aug 10, 2010 9:57 pm
Location: North Coastal San Diego, California

Re: Positive Reinforcement Training - It Works? Says Who?

Post by wholisticdogtraining » Mon Oct 11, 2010 6:58 am

Hi Mattie!

I absolutely agree that academic theory is not something to discuss with pet parents :) It's even hard to study as a discipline and overly complicated which is why I called it "sticky". There's really no call for pet parents to get into all that. So, as in my original article, I just stay away from a lot of theoretical discussion.

I have a background in psychology but I write a newspaper column, so that's helped me a lot to bridge my academic understandings into real world communication...but I'm not always successful :?

I didn't mean to say that people understand positive reinforcement itself when used in the academic sense, but that the term has come to mean pretty much one thing to the typical loving pet parent. It describes Positive -- love, reward, no pain, treats -- to the average person, yet in practice by professional trainers treating complex problems, it includes a lot of management as Nettie was saying, and also the use of mostly one other principle that removes reinforcement, such as in a time out from rough play. And it just gets more complex from there on out.

Trying to name what we do can be confusing. The main thing is that we here all use LOVE rather than pain to teach. That's what really matters as you so aptly pointed out!

I love your logo, your sparkly posts and that you've worked with horses which is something I've never done but I love them so. I think the reason I chose dog training is because I couldn't work with horses where I lived, so I thought of dogs as small ponies! Thank you :D
Last edited by wholisticdogtraining on Mon Oct 11, 2010 7:52 am, edited 3 times in total.

User avatar
Nettle
Posts: 10713
Joined: Sun Apr 13, 2008 1:40 pm

Re: Positive Reinforcement Training - It Works? Says Who?

Post by Nettle » Mon Oct 11, 2010 7:00 am

Mattie, you are SO not an ordinary dog owner!! Your experience is worth as much as anyone's, and none of us ever stops learning. Qualifications are worth little unless underpinned by experience.

Wholistic - vis a vis "natural" and "unnatural" :) it is good for us +R to be aware of the perception of weaknesses in our methods because those are the parts that will be challenged by the "punishers" .

Unnatural behaviours are often the "don'ts" and related to hardwired instincts. The dog must not kill poultry, sheep, cats etc., should not take off down the lane after an on-heat b itch (or in reverse, the on-heat b itch after a dog), should not "steal" food/possessions, should not run up to other dogs and bully them, should not bite the tradesman, etc ad inf.

Terriers "shouldn't" scrap or go down holes, fighting breeds shouldn't fight, guarding breeds shouldn't guard, hunting breeds shouldn't hunt - except what when and how we say they should. Those are examples of the "unnatural" things we ask of dogs. Those are the behaviours traditionally corrected by force, fear or pain. Here the rewards of doing what we don't want are far greater than the rewards we can offer. The gundog eats the retrieve, the terrier goes down the hole, the collie bites the sheep, the greyhound kills a deer etc.

Regarding the dolphins etc. - I was told of an incident in Florida last year where the original display was cancelled because the dolphins "weren't in the mood", and a reserve team of dolphins was brought in and provided a different and very low-key display. Some days a mackerel just isn't enough :wink: and I reckon one reason the dolphins etc perform for the fish is that the trainers are astute enough to recognise when they WON'T, and don't allow them that option. Management not training.

But for our dogs, there is less leeway. And therefore more challenge to the concept of +R training methods.

We just posted at the identical time :mrgreen:
A dog is never bad or naughty - it is simply being a dog

SET YOURSELF UP FOR SUCCESS

User avatar
Mattie
Posts: 5872
Joined: Tue Jan 09, 2007 5:21 am

Re: Positive Reinforcement Training - It Works? Says Who?

Post by Mattie » Mon Oct 11, 2010 7:57 am

Thank you ladies, I am an ordinary dog owner who had to get off their butt to try and understand why my abused/neglected etc dog was thinking so I could turn her into the family pet I knew she could be. I started like every member on here who comes for help and advice, just look how many are now helping out with the problems because of what they have learnt.

From my experience most people think positive training of our dogs is treats, treats and more treats, even dog trainers think that so what hope do the owners have. When managing our dogs is suggested they throw their hands up in horror, dogs have to be trained not managed, they don't seem to realise that good consistant management also teaches a dog what we want of them. At last I have found someone who wants to train dogs by positive methods, he is still training himself but is on the right track. There is hope for the dogs in this area. :lol:
[url=http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v312/Nethertumbleweed/PIXIE.jpg][img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v312/Nethertumbleweed/th_PIXIE.jpg[/img][/url]

DenHund
Posts: 2
Joined: Fri Mar 25, 2011 11:35 am

Re: Positive Reinforcement Training - It Works? Says Who?

Post by DenHund » Fri Mar 25, 2011 11:56 am

If you do want to review some of the research on positive reinforcement methods and get the information "from the horse's mouth", here are some resources that I've found helpful.

Key important academic articles and position statements:

Bradshaw JWS, Blackwell EJ, Casey RA. Dominance in domestic dogs: Useful construct or bad habit? Journal of Veterinary Behavior. 2009;4:135-144.

Herron ME, Shofer FS, Reisner IR. Survey of the use and outcome of confrontational and non-confrontational training methods in client-owned dogs showing undesired behaviors. Applied Animal Behaviour Science. 2009;117:47-54.
“In conclusion, confrontational or aversive behavioral interventions applied by dog owners before their pets were presented for a behavior consultation were associated with aggressive responses in many cases. Owners of dogs aggressive to family members are especially at risk for injury—and their pets at risk of relinquishment or euthanasia—when certain aversive methods are used. Ultimately, reward-based training is less stressful or painful for the dog, and, hence, safer for the owner.”

Hiby EF, Rooney NJ, Bradshaw JWS. Dog Training Methods: their use, effectiveness and interaction with behaviour and welfare. Animal Welfare. 2004;13:63-69.“Because reward-based methods are associated with higher levels of obedience and fewer problematic behaviours, we suggest that their use is a more effective and welfare-compatible alternative to punishment for the average dog owner.”

American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior position statements on dominance and punishment.“AVSAB’s position is that punishment (e.g. choke chains, pinch collars, and electronic collars) should not be used as a first-line or early-use treatment for behavior problems. This is due to the potential adverse effects which include but are not limited to: inhibition of learning, increased fear-related and aggressive behaviors, and injury to animals and people interacting with animals. AVSAB recommends that training should focus on reinforcing desired behaviors, removing the reinforcer for inappropriate behaviors, and addressing the emotional state and environmental conditions driving the undesirable behavior.”

Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) position statements on Dominance and Dog Training and Defining “Dog Friendly”.

Karen Pryor summed it up nicely in her book Clicker Training for Dogs when she said “train with your brain, not with your muscles.”

http://denhund.com/2010/11/getting-star ... g-methods/

Post Reply