Placement of Rewards

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Postby pitbullmamaliz » December 12th, 2012, 5:58 pm

This is a brilliant blog posting from Denise Fenzi:

If you want beautiful heeling, there’s something you need to know.

It’s more important than your reward structure. It’s more important than verbal markers or clickers. It’s more important than throwing corrections into your training.

It’s where your dog receives the reward for their work, regardless of the quality of that work. Where that reward process starts and where it ends. It’s perfectly fine to reward a dog that is out of position; just make sure that the reward placement makes them more likely to be correct the next time. And dont’ mark the incorrect work; just reward in a manner that fixes the mistakes. Dog is lagging? Throw the toy straight ahead. It’s ok if you throw when they’re still lagging; they’ll get better and better even if you do nothing else.

Many trainers believe it’s not important -that as long as you mark a behavior with a “yes” or a clicker then you can give the reward anywhere you want.

They’re wrong. It’s as simple as that. You see, I used to believe that too; all that mattered was the marker – the “yes” or the “click”. Then I battled a forging problem for a few years, until a pet dog trainer suggested that I change the placement of my reward. I wasn’t inclined to listen to her (“just” a pet dog trainer), but to be polite I decided to give it a try.

It worked in a matter of days. She was right. I hate it when other people know things that I should know.

Markers are nice, but placement of reward is far more important. This is brought home to me every single time I teach a seminar or train a dog in a private lesson. If I could have either a marker OR excellent reward placement, I would take reward placement, hands down.

The rest of this blog is specifically for Gretchen and her wrapping, forging, crabbing Rottie. Gretchen, once we change the position of your reward in heeling, you will stop tripping over your dog in a matter of days.

The reward must be given in a position that inconveniences the dog if they are out of position. Forging? reward behind. Crabbing, reward to the dog’s left. Wrapping? Behind and to the left. This technique works for all training, not just heeling, but today I’m going to demonstrate heeling.

Almost all of my own dogs will develop a tendency towards these sorts of problems – it’s normal and typical of dogs that are trained in drive. They like the game. They want to watch your face. They want to see the toy you are holding. So they get closer and closer to it – I doubt they even know they are doing it. If I lose vigilance for any period of time then these problems will come back, so correct reward placement never ends.

Here’s a video of correct reward placement for a dog prone to wrapping, crowding and forging. I also do specific moves in heeling which help Lyra learn to control her body, but this blog isn’t about that today, though it is certainly demonstrated in the video. This blog is about rewarding her position. You’ll notice Lyra’s position is pretty good; not perfect but on the way to being both accurate and pretty.

The first minute or so demonstrates reward position when I use a tug – I have her spin away from me before she gets the toy. The second part demonstrates reward position when I throw the toy – to her left and slightly behind. If she were seriously crabbing, I’d change the position of the reward to be further back, so she’d have to turn even harder to the left to get the toy.

If I were using food the same principles would apply. Feed where you want the dog’s head – high up and on the OUTSIDE of the head, if your dog is likely to wrap. Or throw the food. Behind, to the side, or both.
"Remember - every time your dog gets somewhere on a tight leash *a fairy dies and it's all your fault.* Think of the fairies.""
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Postby Hundilein » December 12th, 2012, 9:50 pm

This is so true! I first had this pointed out in a seminar I went to several years ago and I use it all the time now. I used to tell my basic manners students all the time, "reward the dog where you want him." So many people trip over their dogs constantly because they've actually taught the dog to cross slightly in front of them when walking. Reward the dog at your side instead of letting him cross in front to get the reward and he'll stop tripping you.

As the author points out, this works for other behaviors, too. One of the ways I first learned to work on down at a distance was to throw the reward behind the dog. Gradually the dog figures out that he can get to the reward faster if he stays farther away from you.
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Postby pitbullmamaliz » December 12th, 2012, 9:52 pm

"Click for behavior, treat for position!" I remember the first time my trainer told me to hold Inara's leash in my right hand and treat from my left. I truly felt crippled. But it kept me from getting all twisted and encouraging Inara to crab in front of me. I hate tripping over a kind-of heeling dog!
"Remember - every time your dog gets somewhere on a tight leash *a fairy dies and it's all your fault.* Think of the fairies.""
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Postby Jazzy1 » December 17th, 2012, 7:40 am

Thank you for this; polishing up our dreadful heeling is one of my New Year's resolutions!!

I only recently heard about the reward placement concept while watching a Leerburg (I think it was Ed Frawley) video on marker training...and it made such intuitive sense; but wasn't something I had ever previously considered!
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Postby TheRedQueen » December 17th, 2012, 4:54 pm

So many of us are right-handed...and it gets in the way when we want to reward for left-side heeling! I've really had to train myself to reward with my left hand...and the heeling is so much better!
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Postby furever_pit » December 22nd, 2012, 12:15 am

Wonderful post!
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