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How do you get your dog to "work for you not a scrap of food etc."

This is a discussion on How do you get your dog to "work for you not a scrap of food etc." within the Dog Training and Behavior forums, part of the Keeping and Caring for Dogs category; Rewards systems for kids are effective, if you use them correctly. The concepts in this article apply to dogs as well as children....

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Old 09-21-2017, 09:13 AM
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Rewards systems for kids are effective, if you use them correctly.

The concepts in this article apply to dogs as well as children.
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Old 09-21-2017, 10:45 AM
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Originally Posted by kmes View Post
A little food for thought...
The examples of service and military dogs working without food or toy rewards. Gotta remember that they are often still trained via balanced methods. In dogs trained with aversives either primarily or even just in the mix, negative reinforcement (removal of aversive) is a large driving force in their behavior. They are never working for just that praise.
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I had the opportunity to train with a military explosive detection dog handler, who had spent time in Afghanistan. Yes," balanced methods" but maybe more of a positive reward emphasis is placed on detection dogs which is more practical because of the specific task ( scent detection ) versus other applications of military and LE K-9s. Ball drive and other similar drives which are hard to shut down is probably preferred in most venues however exceptions certainly exist when the dog might be working in a more "public" arena. The reward used in detection training that this individual went through at Vohne Liche Kennels was a tennis ball, so some actually do work for "toy reward". His black lab has more ball drive than most might imagine possible. The use of a remote tennis ball launcher near the desired scent article was the method used to deliver the reward. Dog finds article and poof, tennis ball is launched. In the war zone, he carried tennis balls with him and upon discovery by his dog on task, he always would reinforce the behavior, too important not to obviously.

Even though as you suggest some of these military and LE detection dogs aren't just working for praise, they seem to become competent in their task working for a simple tennis ball, which certainly isn't P+. And yes, I know that's not the entire "story".
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Old 09-21-2017, 11:58 AM
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@DriveDog, is your thread directed towards pet behaviors or sports/work-related behaviors?

To me, there is a huge difference. Pet behaviors, once a dog understands what I want, I reward infrequently/at my convenience. Sports-related behaviors, I pretty much always reward with a toy/treat.
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Old 09-21-2017, 12:05 PM
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Drivedog, others commented that service and military dogs appear to work for only simple praise. I was pointing out that that likely is not the case as with balanced methods, dogs work to avoid or to end aversives.

Yes, toys as rewards are common. However, that is still a tangible reward.
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Old 09-21-2017, 12:07 PM
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Originally Posted by kmes View Post

Yes, toys as rewards are common. However, that is still a tangible reward.
Of course.
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Old 09-21-2017, 12:15 PM
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Arrow Military & police k9s in the USA: the change from traditional pos-P training

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Originally Posted by Markie View Post

... Dogs can be "trained off" of material [rewards] - I've seen military dogs in training & they don't get a reward for everything they do.

[Not only] potty-[training for] toddlers -- I meant all ages.
Would you give a 17-YO a piece of candy for [using] the bathroom [toilet, vs voiding in her or his underwear, or on the floor, or in their bed]?
No, you wouldn't.
re the 17-YO & proper use of a toilet, vs voiding elsewhere:
any normal teenager or indeed, any child over 6-YO will pay heavily for juvenile behaviors; once in school, other children will torment any child who can't hold their bladder, has diarrhea, etc. "Accidents" get a tremendous amount of attn, & the kid who had one is mercilessly teased - it's fodder for years of reminiscent pokes at tender spots.
Simply avoiding the social-hell of teasing consequent to any violation of proper bathroom-etiquette is an extremely-potent reward.
Clean clothes, a clean bed, not needing to bathe again, are also powerful reinforcers to older children. // A 15-MO doesn't care if their diaper is messy; a 3-YO most certainly does.


Military working-dogs / MWDs in the U-S armed forces, like U-S trained cop-K9s, used to be trained very harshly. // Explaining requires some history.

I've written about the U-S armed forces in WW-2 & their desperate need of dogs for the front-lines - to run wires for communications, to sniff-out booby-traps, alert on land-mines, find hidden weapons caches, alert on enemy soldiers, & more. They asked citizens to DONATE their dogs - to serve their country. // Thousands of ppl responded.

The Army had a "make 'em or break 'em" policy; a dog had 8-weeks, later shortened to just 6, to be combat-ready. Needless to say, they "broke" a lotta dogs - the failure rate was at least 60%, which is dismal returns on a huge effort. The sheer amount of time & money spent feeding / tending / exercising / on vet-care, etc, was staggering, let alone the hours of training.

The military could "afford" to WASTE so many potentially-useful dogs only because they got them for nothing.
At the end of the war, the military Admin wanted to save $$$ & kill them all; a general got wind of the plan, was aware of the phenomenal service these dogs had provided, & blocked it, in a white heat of anger; every dog that had served, was to be decommissioned & sent home. Only a very few couldn't give-up their well-taught paranoia of strangers, & go back to civilian life.

After WW-2, the U-S military again didn't want to spend $$ on maintaining or breeding a K9 corps; they let it lapse. Then came Korea, & soon after, VietNam, & once again, the armed forces desperately needed dogs they didn't have.
But this time, they didn't want them to be someone else's property - there would be no 'release to civilian life', these would be U.S.A.F. property - like a rifle, a tank, or a ship. // They still trained harshly, & still had at least a 50% failure rate, but failed dogs filled slots away from the front-lines - base perimeter-patrol, contraband detection, etc. // At the end of VietNam, the military abandoned all the dogs in service as "surplus equipment", just as they did the tanks, personnel carriers, & millions of dollars' worth of other gear.
They were left barking in their kennels, ceded to the tender mercies of the S Vietnamese Army, whose soldiers were terrified of them. // It's unlikely many survived for more than a few hours; we know that each dog saved, on average, 1,000 soldiers from crippling injury or death; individual dogs with outstanding records were well-known to the N Vietnamese Army, & had individual bounties on their heads, as incentives to kill them.
Abandoning them was among the worst acts in U-S military history, because it was so needless; bringing them back would not have cost much, & was the least we could do, given their service.
They were still young, healthy dogs - we could have used them, elsewhere, for years, if we didn't want to retire them. // They told k9-handlers the dogs "couldn't come back b/c they'd carry diseases to the U-S", which was an outright lie; many handlers fought bureaucratic tape to try to save their dogs.

Post-'Nam, we still needed dogs - if anything, far-more of them, as IEDs & hidden bomblets were becoming weapons of choice in political struggles, plus thousands of square-miles of many countries had been seeded with land-mines from the air - the "wars" might be over, but there were civilian deaths & injuries every day, with limbs lost, sight gone, etc; often, ppl who were already struggling: farmers, trying to plant crops. // We could no longer "afford" to waste these increasingly-expensive dogs. They cost too much.
Training methods - tools, handling protocols, scheduling - began to change.// The military actually 'got it' earlier than civilian police forces: motivational training produced better results, not just "fewer failures" but absolutely better performing dogs.

So... back to the present:
I don't know where / on what base U saw the MWD in training, nor do i know what stage of the dog's training U observed [& there's every chance that if U asked, the handler or trainer wouldn't/ couldn't tell U].

MWDs in training are rewarded with toys & play - so far as i know, the military hasn't 'discovered' the power of Real-Life Rewards like delivering their meal, off-leash time, opening the door, etc; they stick to bumper, Kong, bringsel, Frisbee, tennis-ball, etc.
MWDs in training work to play; even once deployed, dogs at the front are played with, by the handler, as a training-reward. // They can't play fetch with the dog while under enemy fire, or when searching for IEDs along a roadside - but they keep the dog's morale up & their desire keen by training & rewarding, during downtime.

I am also happy to report that, after decades of argument, Federal legislation was passed; the military allows *some* - not all - MWDs to retire to civilian life, in adoptive homes. // Many go to their former handlers, or to ex-K9 handlers whose dogs died in service; quite a few go to civilian families, who just want to give an ex-soldier a loving home for life.

U-S civilian police-forces haven't gone entirely to pos-R; some backward Depts are still extremely-aversive, Ex, the Baltimore, Md, PD, where a handler was filmed using a prong-collar with double-handed "corrections" so violent that it was a wonder the dog's head stayed connected to his body, & also repeated strong shocks delivered by a shock-collar - all under the direct observation AND ORDERS OF the PD K9-training supervisor. - He can be heard giving the officer orders, on the UTube clip of the "training" session.
There have also been high-profile criminal prosecutions or firings of police officers who have been caught abusing their k9s; one especially-notorious case involved a NC state-trooper, but everyone in the NC barracks quietly acknowledged that he was fired b/c he was "caught" on video, not b/c he did anything worse than other troopers.

So there's still much work to be done, to bring the dawdling units of U-S state & local police Depts into the modern era, & convince them to trash their outdated aversive tools, harsh handling, etc, & like the E-U, embrace positive reinforcement.

For one thing, U-S k9s, military or civilian, won't be able to duplicate what E-U k9s can do, if they keep training with punitive tactics; that's a big motivator, too.

- terry

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Old 09-21-2017, 01:11 PM
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Originally Posted by San View Post
@DriveDog, is your thread directed towards pet behaviors or sports/work-related behaviors?

To me, there is a huge difference. Pet behaviors, once a dog understands what I want, I reward infrequently/at my convenience. Sports-related behaviors, I pretty much always reward with a toy/treat.
Mostly for pet behaviors as that would be more the focus of this forum. However, "sports related behaviors" or other tasks above and beyond standard pet behaviors which I train my dog in because it is practical as well as beneficial to the overall "product". This type of behavior cannot be rewarded always as you well know and also described in an earlier post. Mondio and French ring as well as IPO competitions allow for no material reward being present as you cited. So, I assume you meant when training sports-related behaviors you pretty much always reward. Hopefully, I have that correct.

My overall curiosity was regarding the methods some in here might use to fade material reward above and beyond randomness. I appreciate that many have dogs which work for food, most certainly will, and many have dogs which will work for ball/tug rewards, again many a dog certainly will. I know what I have done to try and create my current dog's skill set to be motivated in the absence of any food/toy reward because it seems to make everything better but more work to get there. I think it was Kmes who might have said earlier that the actual commanded behavior might become the reward in itself. I like that viewpoint and I believe this is what I am probably seeing in my dog. I build the anticipation up front, as much as the dog can handle without breaking discipline and have had good results by using this building of anticipation and getting the dog in the proper mode, no material reward is needed. I hope you understand what I am trying to say. I try and train/play everyday with my dog. Sometimes I might have the tug, most times I have nothing except praise and a slap on the ribs for her. Send outs/returns with a crisp platz at high speed, position changes at a distance (no creep), tight finishes on return, parking, covers, focused heels, prancing ( as I call it, dog high steps), weaving through my legs, jumping over obstacles etc.. these are the exercises I work on with no food/toy rewards. I suppose I could and originally I did when I taught the behavior but that isn't my goal. I just don't want the dog to work for food/toys because of the obvious.
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Old 09-21-2017, 03:36 PM
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My dogs worked really for me without the toy when I have them sledding, pulling something they really seem to like it. I don't have to say a word but the command and they go. We get done I say way to go team then they go outside and run around in the yard. I have noticed that puppies when I get them get the concept not to work with a treat or anything. I have rescued three husky pups that have been work with by someone else and it took me about a year to get them to work for the toy not the treat like they were used to. When they get to my house they don't get treats, they get love and a toy that's all. Huskies are stubborn by nature so the time is cut in half for other dogs probably. Once I get them to work for the toy it usually when it starts cooling off and they start pulling things tires, logs, bikes, sleds, wagons, don't worry they are above the age of nine months. I love what my pack of huskies will do for me I really don't have to do much. I do carry the toys around or I act like I have them but they don't get them tell the end of the day :-)
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Old 09-21-2017, 03:44 PM
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I think with some commands, it just become automatic. Potty-training is probably a good example of that. My Aussie was an outdoor dog for a very long time (parents' choice) and when she became indoors, she was automatically potty trained because, hey, she'd developed the habit of going outside.

It's kind of like when you're in the lake and you want to, uh, "go" but it can take some effort to do so because toilet training is so ingrained in us.

I think sometimes it can be difficult to pin down exactly what the "reward" is, but IMO, there usually is one. It doesn't have to be toys or a treat, but I think it is truly rare for a creature to work for absolutely nothing at all. Anyone see the episode of Friends where Phoebe is trying to prove to Joey that there IS such thing as a "selfless good deed," but she can't? Because even when you're doing something you don't want to there is that feeling of accomplishment, pride, happiness that you've helped someone, etc.

When the behavior itself is the reward that's probably the real jackpot. I think that's what @Markie describes with her Huskies sledding. Huskies were bred to do that, so of course they love it! And I think you get into the premack principle a bit because when you add control (ie, you go the direction I say, stop when I say, etc.) the reward of those commands is the ability to continue doing what the dog loves - sledding.

I'm not much of a hunter but I imagine it would be much the same for my very driven working Cocker. He'd hunt birds all day and the action would be a reward in itself.
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Old 09-21-2017, 04:21 PM
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Anyone see the episode of Friends where Phoebe is trying to prove to Joey that there IS such thing as a "selfless good deed," but she can't? Because even when you're doing something you don't want to there is that feeling of accomplishment, pride, happiness that you've helped someone, etc.



When the behavior itself is the reward that's probably the real jackpot.
Yes, that episode related to the same debate I was having with mother and father years ago. The Friends episode was much more entertaining than our discussion we had about it however.

You're another voice of the enjoyment/reward can be created/generated by the behavior itself. When Kmes first mentioned it early in this thread, I had to really think about it but the more I think about it, the more it makes sense. Now, I need to learn the best way to get there quicker than I have previously.
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