ClickerSolutions Training Treasures

Rewarding Non-Behavior

I have always been a bit skeptical of using +R to get calmness. Even though I had seen it work on my client's dogs, it didn't seem reliable enough and I just wasn't positive whether it was their lack of generalizing the behavior or that you just couldn't get true calmness and relaxation through reinforcement. So I thought I would do two things with Tasha, the new Bouvier. First, I would totally reward for calm behavior and use -P for excited behavior I didn't want EXCEPT FOR JUMPING. My next thing was to see if JUST reinforcing calm behavior in and of itself would get rid of jumping or if it would have to be addressed specifically. So I didn't punish (even negatively) jumping, just had people ignore it. (Oh yeah, I use all the people in my classes to train her, so I kind of have a captive audience. I give them discounts if they meet me places and help me train. It's really working out well.)

Well, I'm here to tell you, you can condition calm behavior. I have been focusing on that for the last couple of weeks and it is amazing. When my new Bouv meets someone, she just calmly walks up, lets them pet her once or twice and then lies down (the lying part will be the second half). She WAS NOT LIKE THAT AT FIRST!!!

She is now totally calm in almost every environment I can put her in. The weird part is that it's becoming internal now. In the beginning she was doing it for a reward. "If I don't run up and stomp all over that new person's feet, I'll get a treat and a pet. If I do, the person will turn their back." You could see it in her eyes that she expected the reinforcement. But now, it's just becoming "what she does". She is gradually looking less and less for reinforcement for being calm. I still reinforce her though.

Also, the jumping up has become almost completely extinguished. She only jumps up on two people and only in particular contexts. She jumps up on me when I go to pick her up from her afternoon at the doggy day care (for socialization and dog-dog communication) and she jumps up on her day care worker when she first gets there. I can't GET her to jump up on anybody else or in any other context. It's really strange, but it's exactly what I thought. I think, by reinforcing calm, relaxed (or what seems as relaxed) behavior, you are working operantly and classically at the same time, and once the behavior becomes conditioned, it internalizes. I think the internalization has extincted the jumping "naturally" instead of operantly. She has never been taught not to jump, or even had -P applied for it. It's just that the jumping behavior isn't a part of calm behavior that she now exhibits when she meets someone new.


Anyway, now to start introducing major distractions for the calm behavior. I've got the environmental generalizations pretty much done, I just have to get her to do it when the big boy distractions are coming. That will be the next couple of week's work.

Along a similar line, I did a little experiment with Tasha. The old-timers on the list may remember a thread on another clicker list about a year ago on whether or not the first behavior you clicker train a dog becomes their default behavior. Well, instead of teaching sit first, I taught "down". Well (I know this is purely anecdotal and means nothing), now Tasha's default behavior is to lie down. When she has nothing to do, she lies down, when she wants to show unasked for "compliance" ("see Dad I'm sitting), she lies down instead. She even does it when I let her out at night. If she thinks she's done "going", but I don't think she's done, instead of just sitting down, or standing there, she just lies down. It's really nice in public areas because when I stand around for more than about 10 seconds, she just lies down and looks around.


Doug Johnson
copyright 1999 Doug Johnson


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