Close the loop: Training reinforcement as a behavior

Hannah Branigan
Presentation given at the 2019 Conference

What does the dog do when he hears a click? Chances are, he doesn’t just sit there like a bump on a pickle. Whether you want it to or not, your event marker will function as a cue for some behavior. And then after the reinforcement is collected, you must somehow get your dog back to the starting position again for the next rep, because the movement cycle isn’t complete until the animal is in position to repeat the behavior.

If we consider the reinforcement collection as a behavior itself, we can pair specific cues with each reinforcement procedure, and those cues will act as event markers. Depending on how and where you reinforce, your dog may already be in position to repeat, or you may need one or more additional behaviors to bring the dog back to the starting position (and get the toy back). So the entire training loop may actually be functioning as a behavior chain, with each link serving as the cue for the next behavior, all leading the dog back to the beginning of the loop.

Of course, like any behavior chain, to be effective (and get the cleanest loop), each behavior in that chain must be fluent and under stimulus control. By being aware of this effect, the behaviors you want included in the chain can be deliberately trained to optimize the effect of your reinforcement procedure and to avoid building unwanted behaviors into the loop. In this session, we will explore the use and benefits of training specific reinforcement behaviors to fluency and stimulus control to effectively and efficiently reinforce the desired behavior and reset for the next repetition.

Click here to return to the 2019 Conference Program