Positive reinforcement (treats, praise, etc) is the fastest way to teach a dog new concepts and to help him retain those behaviors. Recently, there seems to be a great deal of shift within the dog-training world taking place. Many trainers are now incorporating very positive training techniques (beyond the norm of puppy teaching and praise for a job well done) and abandoning, at least partially, the dominant pack-mentality approach.
The problem with a purely positive (in the sense that no punishment or negative reinforcement is ever, or at least in the traditional sense, used) approach to training is that at some point the dog’s gratification for misbehavior outweighs the reward he would receive for compliance.
A balanced training methodology that incorporates both positive and negative reinforcement in appropriate measures and that builds toward the end-goals of the dog–and that always takes the dog’s personality into consideration–will produce a more reliable and confident dog-and-handler team.
The clicker is one program used by proponents of positive-only training. It has, however, begun to leak into the training regimens of many well-known gun dog trainers, George Hickox among them. How these trainers incorporate the clicker though, is to use the sound to mark and reward a desired behavior to help teach and ensure future repetition of it. When the trainer is confident the dog understands the behavior (be it touching a target, holding still, sitting or scratching its butt), commands can be taught and the e-collar can be overlaid.
This balanced approach is an excellent way to teach a gun dog desired behaviors from puppyhood. The steps taken by D.T. Systems Pro Staff dog trainer Chad Hines of Willow Creek Kennels in Little Falls, Minn., allows the e-collar to be incorporated into training very early as well. One of his methods is to use the clicker training in conjunction with the vibrate setting on a D.T. Systems collar. This low-impact negative reinforcement (meaning the dog removes, or turns off, the vibration by carrying out a behavior) allows a foundation of collar conditioning to take place very early on (and that can later be seamlessly switched to more conventional electrical stimulation).
In this release from D.T. Systems, Hines answers the most common questions he receives from dog owners about positive and negative reinforcement, clicker training and using vibration on an e-collar. Be sure to check out the two videos “Clicker Training with Your New Puppy” and “Vibration Conditioning to ‘Here’.”
What is Positive and Negative Reinforcement Training?
The famous behavioral psychologist, B. F. Skinner, defines positive reinforcement as an increase in the future frequency of a behavior due to the addition of a consequence immediately following a response. Giving (or adding) food to a dog contingent on his touching the target is an example of positive reinforcement (if this results in an increase in the future behavior of the dog touching the target). Negative reinforcement, on the other hand, is an increase in the future frequency of a behavior when the consequence is the removal of an aversive stimulus.
How do you use Positive and Negative Reinforcement?
The backbone of Willow Creek’s training technique is positive and negative reinforcement. We look to increase the likelihood of a behavior in the future by teaching positive reinforcement and following up with negative reinforcement, albeit mild with the vibrate conditioning.
Nearly all commands are taught with a clicker and a food reward (positive reinforcement). This develops a very consistent, reliable dog by creating the desire for a positive reaction. Although counterintuitive, using the term “negative” in animal training does not mean it is bad. The negative reinforcement can simply mean something is taken away. So when using the DT Systems H2O 1820 collar, the vibration is taken away. We hold the vibration button down and wait until the dog touches the target, help them if needed, then release the button, taking away the mild, effective form of negative reinforcement.
How do you use a Clicker?
We start clicker training puppies as young as seven weeks old. A treat is placed in the hand between the pointer and ring finger, with the middle finger receding to provide backing so the treat does not slip out. This “target” is presented to the pup and we allow him to take the treat from our hand. As soon as the pup touches the hand we “click.” After about 30 repetitions most dogs will be watching for the target very closely. If the dog is not interested in the food reward we can remove morning feedings and train before we feed or find a better food reward. Hot dog slices work extremely well when nothing else seems to elicit interest. We usually use 2-4 sessions, at 30 repetitions per session, before moving on to vibrate conditioning.
How do you use the Vibration Feature?
The trainers at Willow Creek Kennels have found the vibration feature on the DT Systems H20 1820 collar to be very consistent and easy for dogs to understand. As with any new stimulus, it can take a dog a bit to desensitize to the sound and feel of vibration. This sensitivity makes the collar more effective because it mildly annoys the dog and he will try to shut it off. As a human, imagine someone gently poking his or her finger in your arm at the same time asking you to say uncle. If you said uncle, the poking stops. We basically do the same with dogs with the vibration feature. We ask the dog to do something and when they complete the task the vibration stops. Vibrate conditioning goes even quicker when combined with clicker target training.
How Do You Teach Using the Vibrate Feature?
The vibrate conditioning is very simple once we have a dog who is clicker trained to target. The session is started with a clicker target and once we have the dog focusing on the target the vibrate button is held down until the dog touches the target. Vibrate is negative reinforcement, but also becomes a cue that we are asking the dog to recall. The important part of successful negative reinforcement is having a positive stimulus (food reward) come after the negative stimulus (vibrate). Again, we use 2-4 sessions, with 30 repetitions per session. When the dog is proficient with the vibration cue we start adding a verbal whistle, or here cue, before the vibration.
Food rewards and vibrate conditioning can be used to develop and strengthen a variety of behaviors. This concept can be used for sit, whoa, stay, place, conditioned retrieve, kennel, etc. Incorporate vibrate conditioning into your training to develop a consistent, reliable hunting companion.
For more information on the D.T. H2O 1820 or other DT products, log onto the D.T. Systems website at www.dtsystems.com_, write to_ firstname.lastname@example.org_, or call a Customer Service Specialist at 214-350-9446._