Instructor: Deborah Jones
Welcome! This course is designed to help you truly understand how to use reinforcement in successful and effective training. We will address both the science and useful applications. This is a great class for "behavior geeks" as well as for those who want to work through their own training challenges using positive reinforcement.
Training with positive reinforcement is about so much more than throwing cookies at a dog! It can be used in subtle and sophisticated ways that will improve your training effectiveness enormously.
The first few weeks of this course will lay a foundation. We will focus, first and foremost, on a true understanding of what reinforcement actually is and how we can best use it to our advantage in our training. Many trainers have a general understanding of reinforcement, but not a true and complete knowledge of this concept.
We will focus on some very basic behaviors that your dog may already have in his repetoire. We will experiment with and manipulate reinforcement in order to change the topography, latency, rate, and duration of behaviors to achieve fluency and stimulus control. This will require an understanding of reinforcement value, timing, jackpots, and placement. We will also discuss and use secondary reinforcers and markers and look at their effect on training.
The remainder of the course will be dedicated to coaching each Gold team through their chosen behaviors and skills. We can work on anything from agility to rally to obedience to whatever. Bring us your training challenges!
We will help you analyze your specific training needs, help you develop an effective plan of action, and coach you through the application of your plan.
Our goal is for you to leave this class with an increased understanding of and a new appreciation for the power and value of positive reinforcement training.
There are no scheduled sessions for this class at this time. We update our schedule frequently, so please subscribe to our mailing list for notifications.
For answers to commonly asked questions see our FAQ page.
The Art & Science of Reinforcement Training
*This syllabus is a work in progress
The Art & Science of Reinforcement
Pre-class lecture: Classical & operant conditioning
Pre-class assignment: Reinforcer value & variety
What does your dog need?
What does your dog want?
What do you have available to use as reinforcers?
Week 1: THE SCIENCE
Lecture 1: Primary & secondary reinforcers
Assignment 1: Sorting out primaries & secondaries
Lecture 2: Reinforcement placement
Assignment 2: Where placement matters to you
Exercise 1: Markers: stationary, active, release
Week 2: THE SCIENCE
Lecture 3: Schedules of reinforcement (fixed & variable / ratio, interval, time, duration)
Assignment 3: When to use which schedule
Exercise 2: Developing natural & novel secondary reinforcers
Toys & favored activities
Audible (clapping, snapping, tongue click)
Tactile (touch, stroke, pat)
Behaviors (favored behaviors, tricks)
Week 3: THE SCIENCE
Lecture 4: Reinforcement, emotions, and arousal levels. Using the right reinforcer for the emotional state desired
Assignment 4: Building emotional responses with reinforcement
Using reinforcement to build enthusiasm
Using reinforcement to build precision
Lecture 5: Technical terms: Topography / Stimulus control / Latency / Fluency
Assignment 5: Technical applications
Exercise 3: Behaviors chains & reinforcement
Behavior, marker, primary
Behavior, secondary, primary
Secondary, primary, behavior, marker, primary
Behavior, secondary, behavior, marker, primary
Secondary, marker, primary
Behavior, behavior, marker, primary
Week 4: THE ART
Project Part 1: Personal Project Development
For the duration of this class we will be working on analyzing your issue, developing possible reinforcement-based solutions, implementing those solutions, and analyzing the outcomes. We will approach this project in a systematic step by step fashion.
If you find you solve your issue quickly then you can feel free to develop another project during the course of this session.
Sample project ideas:
Slow drop on the drop on recall
Lying down on the sit stay
Taking a jump on the way to the go-out point
Jumping up on guests
Pulling on leash
Week 5: THE ART
Project Part 2: Personal Project Implementation, Record Keeping & Troubleshooting
Week 6: THE ART
Project Part 3: Personal Project Completion
Prerequisites and Equipment
We will assume that students in this class have a basic and general understanding of learning theory and dog training.
The textbook 'Learning and Behavior' by Paul Chance (7th edition from Wadsworth Cengage Learning) is a good overall resource for basic information. It is NOT a requirement, but can be very helpful if you struggle with understanding the terminology or scientific concepts.
You will need a training subject from any non-human species (dog of course, cat, rat, horse, bird, ferret...). You will also need a variety of valuable reinforcers that you can control.