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Triggers To Reinforcement

Posted on 03/09/12 150 Comments

The first newsletter in my new series Focus for Work was sent out today. For those of you that are working on the homework assignment I am using the blog as a place for your to comment.

Would love to hear your thoughts on the series and your assignments.

For those of you not on the newsletter, I have asked everyone to write down anytime their dog receives reinforcement from any source for a 24 hours period and write down the two events that preceded this reinforcement. The idea is to track what a dog does to prompt or Trigger Reinforcement in his everyday life.

Today I am grateful for John and John (B & H) putting up a big brand new white board WALL in my office Β . . . Β it is the little things in life:).


  1. Lisa Yarn says:
    Wednesday, July 18, 2012 at 1:59pm

    I’m not sure if this the right place to put this question, but I have thought so much about what I am inadvertently reinforcing ever since I read this newsletter. I think some things are coming together in my mind as a beginning trainer. Here goes:

    I just took Finn, my papillon, out and thought, I’m going to walk with him and not use the gentle leader, because he doesn’t like it and why not just be patient enough to teach him without it?

    We went out to a quiet street. We haven’t been out for walks there for a long time because it’s so hot we are inside all the time. He was instantly overwhelmed with the sensory input – even though it was just smells and quiet sounds – very rare movement of people, animals, or cars. At first I tried to get him to walk by my side without pulling, but he was beside himself. So it struck me to become completely Zen. I don’t have to go to work, I have all day, and why not just start from the very beginning. It’s like he got a brand new owner at that moment.

    So I just stood there and waited for him to look at me. And I spent the next 30-45 minutes doing that. I did not make it stressful. I just sat next to him on the quiet street, and relaxed and watched his eyes and body and mind working as he responded to it all. I waited and waited for him to look at me, and when he did, I clicked and treated. There weren’t many looks, so not many clicks and treats, but neither of us worried about it. That is, he didn’t worry about it – I was thinking and teaching myself not to worry, and I relaxed into it.

    After a while I needed to start home, but I wanted to avoid the pulling, so every time he pulled against the collar, I stood still and didn’t say anything, and waited for him to look at me. Again, he would stand there forever and just stare forward and pull, but I didn’t move. When he looked, I clicked and treated and we moved a few steps as long as he was heeling next to me. I didn’t expect him to watch me like in a formal heel, I just wanted him to walk nicely in that position. Sometimes he just sat down and looked forward, completely relaxed, looking around. It took a very, very long time to get back the few yards home!

    My big question the whole time was, “Am I teaching him what I want to be teaching him? What am I really shaping?” I was trying to get him to be cued in to me and realize that we were only going to go forward if he walked next to my leg without pulling. But when I stood still and let him pull against the collar for a long time until he looked at me, and when I just let him sit there until he looked at me, was I reinforcing something else?


  2. Helen Jensen says:
    Friday, May 4, 2012 at 7:35pm

    I have been working through “Triggers To Reinforcement” which is going to be quite a learning curve for me. I really see how important the right triggers are to get the action I want from my dog. Right now the biggest challenge is to get her to focus on me during training.Distractions take the forefront indicating I am not a high value. I am determined to become that and have the dog love that scenario. I am now retired and finally have the time to work with my dog. I have a 2 yr. old 45lb. female lab, who is high energy and wants to know “What’s Next!” Your messages and videos are full of info. Thank you so much


  3. Bunny Jochim says:
    Monday, April 16, 2012 at 10:52pm

    Hi Susan, I just signed up for the newsletter “On Being a Good Student”. In browsing through your web site I read something about the Focus on Work series which talks about how to establish triggers. My 3 yr old Papillon loves to train and work agility, but I always reward with either a treat or tennis ball which he is thrilled to receive. After reading the article I realize this enthusiasm could slow down. How do I go about training triggers to transfer some of his enthusiasm to me?


  4. Ana Zuluaga says:
    Sunday, April 15, 2012 at 10:41pm

    Hi Susan! I just started to read your letters, I love them.
    I have 3 border colies
    Samba 4 years old, very focused on me and allways ready to work and play with me, I reinforced that when she was a puppy, she allways brought me toys to play with me. I used to have toys every where in the house. She is always at my sid and she is not interesting in playing with the other dogs in the house if I’m not participating.
    Acqua 2 years old, she grow up with other 3 dogs, samba, and 2 more dogs, she most of the time where playing and spending time specialy with one dog, she is focused on me when we do agility, the rest of the day she is not by my side, when we do agility she does many laps around me like she was herding me, sorry my english is not good, do you undertand what I mean? She does specially when I got lost doing some excersice or she makes a mistake, how can I correct that behavior? Because I call herd and give a reward, tug or a cokie.
    Astro 10 months he is focused on me but no like Samba, and he is growing up like acqua, playing too much with other dogs. That is incorrect? What can I do, I work all day and my dogs are with a person who take care of the house, to have the focus that I have from Samba? I love the way she is πŸ™‚ thanks


  5. Cindy Hill says:
    Wednesday, March 28, 2012 at 8:03am

    I have never received the third newsletter, help!


  6. Robert Daigle says:
    Tuesday, March 27, 2012 at 11:45pm

    How can I get the old newsletters?


  7. Emmi Schneider says:
    Sunday, March 25, 2012 at 6:07pm

    I am just catching up on reading my emails and I read the first installment. Amazing! My BC definitely “deflects punishment” when we’re working on shaping. He’s 7 and we started clicker training almost two years ago and I had a hard time getting him to offer behaviors so I think I probably developed a tendency to “help” him, cue him with body language, etc. and he quickly learned how to initiate that. Thank you Susan! You (again) gave me something very helpful to work on.


  8. Milena Tulk says:
    Thursday, March 22, 2012 at 11:56am

    I didn’t receive the first newsletter in the Focus on Work series. Have found the second and third installments to be SO useful and informative.
    Looking forward to starting from the beginning!
    Thanks so much!


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