Instructor: Deborah Jones
Training with Remote Reinforcement
Remote reinforcement devices (such as a Treat & Train, Manners Minder, or Pet Tutor) can offer some unique advantages to your training program. While these devices are often used for behavioral issues such as separation anxiety or crate manners, we are going to focus on teaching and reinforcing specific behaviors. Having reinforcement provided at a distance is highly beneficial to train a variety of obedience behaviors (drop on recall, signal exercise, go outs, directionals, out of sight stays, etc) and a variety of agility skills (contacts, weaves, send aways, etc).
We will begin with the initial introduction to the device and recommendations for the first behaviors to teach. Then we will shape a variety of behaviors (some of which your dog may already have on cue) with props. Next we will cover getting multiple repetitions for a single reinforcement, how to refine behaviors, when and how to use jackpots appropriately, how to increase duration, and how to teach simple discriminations. We will also consider when this type of reinforcement is appropriate and useful, and when it is better to provide reinforcement directly from you. We will alternate between these in our training.
As a bonus, training with a remote reinforcer is simply great fun for both you and your dog! It offers your dog a distinctive type of mental and physical challenge while offering you a fresh way to train!
This class is available as a self-study class.
FE310 Self Study
This "self-study" class purchase will add the class's lecture materials to your library.
There are no participation forums included with this purchase.Number of slots: unlimited
Training With Remote Reinforcement
Pre-class shaping exercises:
These exercises are designed to help you “jump start” your dog’s shaping abilities. Our use of a remote reinforcement device is based on the dog understanding that his behavior leads to reinforcement. I would recommend using a clicker as a marker for this practice.
Here are a few exercises to practice before class begins:
1. Body movement shaping
2. Prop shaping
3. Speed shaping
Week 1: Introduction to the Machine:
target (nose touch)
Treat toss releases
Week 2: Introduction to Props (1):
Week 3: Introduction to Props (2):
Go around a pole
Paw touch an object
2 on / 2 off
Week 4: Duration & Distance:
Delaying reinforcement (duration)
Send aways (distance)
Week 5: Criteria & Cueing:
Increasing position duration & distance
Cueing (verbal & signals)
Week 6: Discriminations & Chains:
Introducing 2 behavior chains
Verbal & signal discriminations
Reinforcing from more than one location
1) Students will need a remote reinforcement device such as a Treat & Train or Pet Tutor. Please familiarize yourself with the basic functions and operation of the machine.
Note: If you have not yet introduced the machine to your dog, please wait for lesson one before you do so. If you have introduced the machine and have seen any issues (such as mauling the machine or fear of the machine) then please stop using it until we have a chance to condition a desirable response and establish proper behavior around the device.
2) Plenty of treats that will work well in your machine.
3) A variety of easily obtained props such as a freestanding target stick, a mat or bed to lie on, a platform for sitting, a jump standard to go around, a target for a paw touch, and a carpet square or foam tile square for stands.
4) A dog with shaping experience will make much faster progress than a dog without. I will provide some pre-class shaping exercises to help you get started.
Week 1: Making Friends with the Machine:
There are a few very predictable issues that might occur when you first introduce a remote reinforcement device.
- Your dog may be afraid of it, particularly the sound.
- Your dog may think it’s a giant food puzzle toy.
We’d like to avoid/minimize both of these issues. The way we introduce the machine, and the first behaviors we teach with the machine, can make a huge difference with these possible problems.
To begin, place the device on the front edge of a table or chair, not the floor. Remove the dish part of the machine from the Treat & Train, or turn the base to chase mode for the Pet Tutor.
The sound on the Pet Tutor (and its remote) can be turned off or set low. Unless you have an extremely sound sensitive dog I’d recommend setting it to low.
For the Treat & Train the sound on the remote can also be set to low. However, the mechanical sound of the treat delivery cannot be changed and is quite loud.
Begin device conditioning with your dog at a distance, ideally in a different room. If you can put up a barrier so he can see and hear the device that would be ideal. Hit the remote to dispense a treat, then pick up the treat and toss it to your dog. Or toss a different treat and collect all the dropped ones at the end of your session. You want to be sure he has plenty of space to move away if he’s nervous or worried.
V4B: Pet Tutor table set-up
V4A: Treat & Train table set-up
V4C: Introduction at a distance
After a few short sessions you should observe a positive response from your dog when he sees and hears the machine. If not, continue conditioning at a distance.
Once your dog seems interested and eager you can let him in the room with the device, but be sure it is out of his reach and you are monitoring carefully. Randomly dispense treats to your dog so that they drop on the floor.
V5: Device introduction close (still on table)
If your dog wants to sniff and investigate the machine do this while you’re holding it so he cannot paw at it or attempt to remove treats on his own.
If your dog seems comfortable around the machine and is excited about getting free cookies then it’s time to start training some initial behaviors.
Even if your dog has these behaviors on cue we want you to shape them as if they don’t. One of our goals in using remote reinforcement devices is for our dogs to become more independent and operant in the learning process. If we constantly tell them what to do, rather than let them discover it on their own, we will not achieve that goal.
1) Back away from the machine!
This behavior will keep your dog from physically interacting with the machine once it is within reach. Start as you have been doing your conditioning with the machine on the edge of a table or chair and the treats freely falling on the floor when dispensed.
At this point your dog is likely rushing towards the machine when given the opportunity. Now we’ll teach him that backing away from it causes reinforcement to happen. Give your dog an initial treat to begin the session, then wait for any slight movement away from the machine. It will be easiest to observe if you either sit next to the machine or just slightly off to the side.
When your dog looks up at the machine to see why it’s not raining cookies he is likely to shift his weight backwards. You want to capture that and dispense cookies at that point. Capturing backward movement takes a good eye, so observe carefully.
As with all shaping keep your sessions to 30 seconds. You can take a break for a few minutes and come back for another session, then break, and so on, as long as your dog remains interested and enthusiastic.
V6A: Backing away from machine on table
V6B: Backing away from machine on floor (Zen)
V6C: Backing away from machine on floor (Helo)
2) Standing target for nose touch
The Treat & Train comes with a nice freestanding target. The stick can be removed from the base.
Step one: Touch the target in your hand:
If your dog already has a nose touch to your hand behavior then the nose touch to the target will be fairly easy to teach. Hold the end (red ball) of the target stick in the palm of your hand and present your hand as you normally would for a touch. Reinforce any movement towards your hand, eventually reinforcing only actual nose touches.
Step two: Touch the target in the stand:
When your dog approaches and touches the end of the target stick in your hand you can then place it in the stand. In early training I will keep the target close to me and may continue to use my hand as part of the target for a few sessions.
I will transition to have the target between my feet so I can control its movement.
V7-9: Early steps of nose target behavior
Next I begin to place the target at a distance from me, but closer to the machine to start, adding more distance with successful repetitions.
V10A: Adding distance to the nose target
Notice in this video that I am calling Helo to me (you can reinforce from your hand here) and then releasing him with an "OK". He then chooses to touch the target which I reinforce from the device.
V10B: Nose target adding distance & recall work
3) Lie down
This behavior is designed to keep your dog from mauling the machine. It should be introduced after you’ve worked on backing up and the nose touch to the target.
Think about how you would shape the movement of lying down. Any actions that will lead in that direction (looking at the floor, weight shift backwards, and so on) can be reinforced. This behavior can be challenging to shape, so let’s see how it goes for you and we can troubleshoot as necessary.
V11: Shaping lie down
4) Treat toss releases
In addition to receiving reinforcement from the device, we will also be delivering treats through a treat toss or from our hands, depending on the exercise.
The treat toss release should have its own unique verbal marker. This marker is only used when your dog is being told to chase something (treat or toy) that you’ve thrown. I use “get it!” for these types of reinforcers. You can use any marker you want as long as it is specific to chasing the reinforcer.
V12: Treat toss releases using “get it!”
A sampling of what prior students have said about this course ....
Training with Remote Reinforcement is a very nice course for anyone who wants to work on their general training skills. The course is useful to learn how to use remote reinforcement of course, but also just very useful to think about reinforcement, work on focus, work on your timing and shaping skills and has some excellent work for object discrimination in the last week. I really enjoyed it and looking forward to tweaking the things I learned to use for our agility training.
This class provides a great introduction to and refining of shaping while learning with the remote reinforcement device an extra bonus I did not expect! I recommend this class to anyone looking to expand their training toolbox. I saw my dog grow in both confidence and thoughtfulness through this class. Highly recommended! - Tracey B.
This was a great course. Many of the exercises seem simple but there are many layers to the concept being taught and it is awesome to see the dogs work through them. Thanks Deb and Judy, we very much enjoyed this and look forward to using this tool a lot more in the future.
The course was really helpful in learning how to introduce and use the T&T. I'm glad I took the course.
I've had my dog for 5 years now and I thought he pretty much knew the basics but re-learning them with the machine really helped solidify the commands. He's so much more clear and enthusiastic about them now and for some reason the machine wore him out way more than our standard training sessions. Plus I could do it all from my couch in the air conditioning!