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Dog Sports Skills Book 2: Motivation

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I am delighted to announce that as of one week ago, the second book in the “Dog Sports Skills” series has been released and is now available!  Initial reviews are very enthusiastic:).

The book is currently only available at The Dog Athlete (my sales website).  If you purchase both book 1 and 2 at the same time in a series pack, you’ll get a bit of a discount, so take a look at that option.  There are also discounts for group orders of five or more books, so it might make sense to get together with a few friends.

Here is the write-up and the Table of Contents from the website.  Let us know what you think of the book!

 

This is the second book in the award winning “Dog Sports Skills” series by Denise Fenzi and Deborah Jones; this time the topic is Motivation!

Title: Dog Sports Skills, Book 2: Motivation

Authors:  Denise Fenzi and Deborah Jones

Foreword by: Ken Ramirez

Subject Matter:

In this second book in the “Dog Sports Skills” series, Authors Denise Fenzi and Deb Jones take an in-depth look at the topic of motivation.   They talk about what motivation is, and what it is not, along with an illuminating discussion of how a dog is unique in the animal world, and how educated trainers can use that to maximum advantage. They consider a range of options for motivating our dogs, and how a trainer can raise or lower the value of specific motivators to get the exact training effect that may be desired at a given time. Temperament is discussed as it relates to issues of motivation to help the reader understand the strong interplay between temperament, motivation and training decisions.

In addition to explaining how to use motivators in training, this book provides specific information on how to reduce their use so that you can eventually get into the competition ring!

Finally, they provide case studies – lots of them!  The purpose of the case studies is both to cement what the reader has learned in the first chapters and also to help the reader understand how to analyze specific situations and make a plan to apply the concepts.

A student who reads both this book and the first book in the series will begin to develop a deeper understanding of the author’s underlying philosophy and approach.  Each book is more than a stand-alone resource; they are pieces of a puzzle that will eventually weave into a tapestry of concepts, thoughts and applications that create both excellence in training and a very deep respect and understanding for another living being.

Dog Sport Skills, Book 2: Motivation

by Denise Fenzi & Deborah Jones, Ph.D. Copyright 2014

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Preface…………………………………………………………….. 9

About Denise Fenzi & Deb Jones …………………….. 12

Foreword ………………………………………………………… 13

 

 

Chapter 1: Motivation and Learning …………………………………….. 15

What is Motivation………………………………………….. 15

Operant Conditioning …………………………………….. 17

 

 

Chapter 2: The Dog, But Not the Chicken……………………………… 23

The Problem Is ………………………………………………… 25

Beyond Clean Training……………………………………. 26

Everything in Moderation ………………………………. 28

The Solution: Social Interaction……………………….. 31

Conclusion………………………………………………………. 32

 

 

Chapter 3: Types of Motivators……………………………………………… 35

Classic Rewards………………………………………………. 35

Food ……………………………………………………………….. 35

Tug Toys………………………………………………………….. 36

Life Rewards …………………………………………………… 37

Alternative or traditional Rewards……………… 38

Conclusion………………………………………………………. 41

 

 

Chapter 4: Creating Motivators …………………………………………….. 43

Training Motivators – Operant Conditioning…… 43

Creating Motivators – Classical Associations …… 45

Classical Conditioning Affects Everything ……… 47

Conclusion………………………………………………………. 51

 

 

Chapter 5: Factors Affecting Motivation ……………………………….. 53

The Relative Nature of Motivation ………………….. 53

The Power of Choice ……………………………………….. 57

Stress and Motivation ……………………………………… 59

Conclusion………………………………………………………. 61

 

 

Chapter 6: Changing the Value of a Motivator ………………………. 63

Methods for Changing Value ………………………….. 63

Additional Considerations ………………………………. 65

Environmental Considerations ……………………….. 66

The Subtle Art of Redirection………………………….. 67

Conclusion………………………………………………………. 69

 

Chapter 7: Changing Criteria without Losing Motivation……… 71

Improve the Quality of the Behavior……………….. 72

Work Under Adversity ……………………………………. 72

Ask for More Repetitions ………………………………… 73

Raising Criteria for Continuous Behaviors………. 75

Thinking Beyond Exercises …………………………….. 76

Moving Beyond Reinforcements ……………………… 77

Silence: Stressful or Golden …………………………….. 78

Conclusion………………………………………………………. 79

 

 

Chapter 8: Maintaining Motivation When Your Dog is Wrong 81

Non-Reward Markers: Neutral or Not?……………. 81

Using NRM’s Correctly …………………………………… 83

Teaching the NRM ………………………………………….. 85

The Cheerful Interrupter…………………………………. 86

Using the Cheerful Interrupter with Heeling ….. 88

Conclusion………………………………………………………. 90

 

 

Chapter 9: Temperament and Motivation ……………………………… 91

What is Temperament? ……………………………………. 91

Temperament Tests …………………………………………. 92

Developing Motivators in a Puppy ………………….. 94

Less Than Ideal Temperament…………………………. 96

The Impossible Training Problem ……………………. 98

Conclusion………………………………………………………. 99

 

 

Chapter 10: Case Studies on Motivating Different Temperament Types ……… 101

Sadie: Asking the Right Questions ………………….. 101

Jack: The High Drive Bro…………………………………. 104

Sydney: The Cool Cucumber …………………………… 106

Lacy: The Fragile Nerd ……………………………………. 107

Jem: The Fearful Friend …………………………………… 109

Fred: The Enthusiastic Explorer ………………………. 110

Tony: The Chow Hound ………………………………….. 113

Cracker: The Big Bully …………………………………….. 115

Pickles: The Small and Nervous………………………. 118

Conclusion………………………………………………………. 119

 

 

Chapter 11: Case Studies on Motivation and Problem Solving 121

Problem One: Retrieve…………………………………….. 122

Dog #1: Zen …………………………………………………….. 122

Dog #2: Morgan………………………………………………. 123

Dog #3: Star …………………………………………………….. 123

Problem Two: Sit Stay Exercise ………………………… 124

Dog #1: Hannah ……………………………………………… 124

Dog #2: Katie…………………………………………………… 125

Dog #3: Harvey……………………………………………….. 126

Problem Three: Forging in Heel ………………………. 127

Dog #1: Race……………………………………………………. 127

Dog #2: Dash…………………………………………………… 128

Dog #3: Dare …………………………………………………… 129

Problem Four: Directed Retrieve……………………… 130

Dog #1: Copper ……………………………………………….. 130

Dog #2: Max ……………………………………………………. 131

Dog #3: Quackers ……………………………………………. 132

Problem Five: Teeter ………………………………………… 133

Dog #1: Smudge………………………………………………. 133

Dog #2: Bruiser ……………………………………………….. 134

Dog #3: Bay …………………………………………………….. 135

Problem Six: Hold and Bark in IPO …………………. 136

Dog #1: Lox …………………………………………………….. 136

Dog #2: Soja…………………………………………………….. 137

Dog #3: Lewis …………………………………………………. 138

Conclusion………………………………………………………. 139

The signal Exercise

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Today I stood in front of the mirror and took a good look at my signals for the Utility signal Exercise.  They’ve evolved quite far from where I started with my first Utility dog!  Let’s look

1) You can see my original signals here:

Fifteen years ago I was working with a very speedy dog, and I realized that she was consistently anticipating the recall when I was giving the down signal, so I decided to switch to a “moving” hand and a “non moving” hand.  Now, if the left hand moves my dogs know that they will be doing a stationary activity, and if the right arm moves they can come running in immediately.  I have liked the results so I still use this approach.

The new series looked like this:

My next evolution was my recall signal.  I realized that I could not send my dogs out and then recall them back with a signal  because they could not distinguish between the signal to take the right hand jump from my recall.

Here is my old recall signal followed by a cue to take the right hand jump.  Pretty similar to a speedy dog!:

So, I changed it.  Here is the recall signal that I am using with Lyra:

Then Brito came along and by a fluke of training I taught him to offer a fold back down when I did something completely different with my left hand.  So now his “down” signal looks like this:

All of these signals are fine.  Just take a moment to stand in front of a mirror and go through your signals in random orders.  Can you tell instantly and clearly what the signal is going to be?  Make sure your signals are distinct from start to finish.  For example, does your sit signal look like your down signal when you return your hand to a neutral position?  I have seen signals that look like these, and the dogs are often confused.  Understandably!:

While dogs seem willing to adapt to almost everything we throw at them, I’m pretty motivated to use signals that are as clear and crisp as possible, so that they can respond instantly and with confidence.

To recap, Here are Lyra’s current signals:

and here are Brito’s:

Take a look at your signals; pick whatever is both comfortable and clear, especially from 50 feet away!

 

 

Brito – Developing Sustained Focus

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Have you ever thought about how you use your energy in training?  Do you use it to reward good attention or do you increase your energy and interactiveness when you lose your dog?

In an ideal world, your dog has a spectacular Conditioned Emotional Response (CER) to training; your dog loves to work and learn.  In an ideal world, you have a dog that understands the idea of “offered focus” (see Fenzi Academy if you need help), and who chooses to interact with you and your training games.  In an ideal world, you are selecting training environments that allow your dog to succeed, but at the same time provide distractions that your dog can master.  In an ideal world, your dog is set up to make good choices all the time.

But most of us do not live in an ideal world, so we need plans for those times when we run into less than ideal circumstances.  I do not believe in begging dogs to work, nor do I believe in correcting them to try and force attention, so…what’s left?

My training yard is surrounded by trees with squirrels.  It just so happens that Brito’s favorite thing to do is to watch them out the windows while he chatters and vibrates from head to tail. There are so many windows and so many squirrels that management isn’t going to work; I’m stuck training in Squirrel Hollow.

I rarely teach in my yard because he can’t concentrate that hard when he’s working on new behaviors, but I do practice and proof there.  Most of the time I spend on engagement – making time spent with me worth his while.

For a long time, I trained when the squirrels were less likely to be outside.  I kept him on leash or on a long line.  I trained with the highest value motivators I could find and at Brito’s best times of day.  But now I take more risks.  He is off leash and we do more complicated behaviors that take him further away from me. That means that sometimes he loses his focus.  Indeed, in most sessions he loses attention, and about one out of every five sessions he runs off and I have to get him back.  We’re progressing, but I’m far from relaxed.

When I train in the yard, Brito has 110% of my attention at all times.  I give all of my energy, and I work hard to train short sessions that will keep him engaged.  And if I see the slightest loss of attention, I deal with it immediately.  How I respond depends on how hard I think he’s locking in on an alternative.  Ideally, I give only enough help to allow him to succeed.

Let’s look at this video I took today: 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oah7cIQRBHg

1 sec – right off the bat I lose him to a smell near his ball.  I move in quickly while I playfully threaten to steal his ball. He does have the temperament trait of “possession” so that catches his attention and causes him to engage with me.

17 seconds – he locks in on something in the distance – I move in and take his ball;  he hears my playful voice (a soft lure), and he knows from my tone that I’m taking his toy.  A soft lure is using anything that is relationship based (voice, body movements, praise, etc.) to get the dog back.  Offered focus is better but I’ll use a soft lure if needed, and you’ll want to ensure that your best interactions and praise are when he is already paying attention, not when you are re-engaging him.  On this occasion a soft lure works and he re-engages.

24 seconds – he looks towards a squirrel tree – I stop asking for behavior and move towards his tail.  This often re-engages dogs because you disappear from view and they notice your movement. It works this time; I get him back.

47 seconds – I lose him to the same tree and move around to his tail.  This works but I lose him again rather quickly.

51 seconds – I lose him and this time I get to his tail before he notices me.  I could have either backed up or called to him if I really thought he was going to run off, but he turns and stays in the game.

1:40 I lose him again and I use the squeak of the ball to get him back.  This was an error on my part – squeaking the ball is a hard lure.   A hard lure is basically begging with the motivator, and while this is a good choice if you really think you are going to lose the dog, it is not a good choice if you don’t truly need it.  I wanted to get back to work so I took the easy way out when I should have prioritized our distraction work. 

2:06 I lost him briefly but simply moving slightly towards his tail brought him back

On balance I am pleased with this session. He is able to perform three second behaviors (front, bounce, sit and down hand signals, and back up) and in most instances I asked for two or three of these behaviors before rewarding.  He was also able to chase his ball up to fifteen feet way from me and still return directly.  Finally, we had several opportunities for Brito to choose me over work – and with the exception of the one hard lure, he did so with little help from me.

It’s worth noticing how much engagement and attention I give to him when he is doing well.  That is the time to give both my best energy and also my classic motivators. 

Three second behaviors, easy chains, and high arousal

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In a recent blog, I talked about the value of three second behaviors in distracting environments. I suggested setting the dog up for success by using simple behaviors so that your dog can develop the habit of accuracy and love of work, regardless of location.

There is another time when three second behaviors make a lot of sense.  This is when the dog wants the reinforcer so badly that they are working on the edge of unhealthy frustration.

Some frustration is good and drives behavior.  Realistically, if a dog doesn’t care about what you have to offer, then you’ll see rather poor quality behaviors.  Your dog has to care, and caring and frustration are closely linked.

But if your dog cares too much, then if your dog perceives an excessive delay between reinforcers then this can cause sufficient frustration that the dog is no longer able to think.  When this happens we say that the dog has gone “over threshold.” These dogs scream, whine, spin. bite, and basically lose control of both their physical and mental behaviors.  This is especially common in working venues such as IPO, field work, or any activity where the dog is extremely attracted to the activity or the chosen motivator.

When the dog expresses these undesirable behaviors, some trainers say that ‘controlling reinforcers” doesn’t work in training because the dog becomes unmanageable and refuses to cooperate.  I would argue the opposite; controlling reinforcers always works, as long as three conditions are met:  1) the handler asks for a reasonable amount of work for each opportunity to access that reinforcer, 2) the dog is 100% clear on what they must do to earn the reinforcer and 3) there is no chance for self rewarding, especially in the initial learning stages.  As the dog becomes aware of what is required to earn reinforcement, frustration decreases while compliance increases.  The dog then channels their energy into completing requested behaviors as quickly as possible to whatever level of criteria the trainer has held.  To get to this point requires breaking behaviors down into small and manageable pieces.

When I first trained Lyra for a chance to play fetch in the pool (her highest value motivator) I was asking too much and her frustration behaviors were obvious and non-productive.  This eroded her accuracy and made it very difficult to work her close to the pool. This summer I got smarter and broke her training down much further, and the frantic behaviors went away rather quickly.  Here is a video from last summer when I was “lumping”.  Allowing a dog to work in this frantic state is not good training:

By contrast, here’s a video of Lyra this summer.

Note that now she is both “clear headed”(another way of saying “under threshold”) and enthusiastic.  This year, rather than asking for long behavior chains that are likely to be faulty under excessive frustration, I ask for three second behaviors first and then string them together.  As Lyra demonstrates the capacity to perform, then I ask for more.

In this second video you can see that I start with a simple three second behavior – “find front” on cue.  This behavior is easy for her.  Next I ask her to hold the dumbbell quietly in front position. This is more challenging for her when excited but she has mastered this skill, so I now have a chain that includes both front and hold.  Next,  I add a simple retrieve on the flat.  I could have placed the dumbbell and had her retrieve in my direction only which would have broken this chain down further, but I forgot:).  Finally, I ask for a dumbbell retrieve where she also has to “find front”.  This is the more difficult because it takes longer and there are several components to complete in order to be correct.  (Stay, retrieve directly, sit straight, and hold quietly).

Slowly and over time, I can increase the quantity of behaviors and the chains that I request, and her head stays “clear” because she knows exactly how to win.  This is not the time to hurry; be absolutely certain that the dog can complete each behavior correctly under lower levels of distraction before asking more.

Before moving from the easiest behavior, you must be convinced that your dog understands the relationship between getting what they want (a chance to swim) and what you want (an accurate behavior or chain).  If your dog does not understand that they have absolute control over the situation then you will encounter undesirable frustration behaviors.

If you do encounter frustration behaviors, end the session.  Next time, ask for a behavior or a chain that you feel very confident is easy to perform, and then build from there.  If you are including precision work (fronts and finishes) consider pulling those out of the chain to allow for more success, at least initially.

Remember that as a general rule, you want at least two successes for every failure.  If you’re exceeding that, rethink your training plan.  If your dog is beginning to wind up with vocalization, spinning biting, etc, be aware that you are building frantic behavior into your chains, and those can become extremely difficult to extinguish.  End the session and when you re-start, shorten the chain.

If your high arousal motivator is “portable” and you can take it to dog shows (food, toys, etc) then work up to using it as the final reward for all of your competition behaviors in a long chain.  If your high arousal motivator is not portable (for example, the swimming pool), then the value of the motivator is limited to providing muscle memory and habit.  For example, if I work Lyra on her dumbbell hold in the pool area, her retrieve away from the pool is always much better because of the habit she has developed.

 

Ob-ility

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As most of you probably know, I own the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy where I teach one or two classes each term.  

Starting on August 1st, I’ll be teaching “Ob-ility” for the second time.  The first time around was a whole lot of fun for all, and I have every expectation that we’ll have just as much fun this time too!

But…what is Ob-ility?

Ob-ility 1 is a fast paced and movement oriented way to teach obedience skills.  After learning the basic exercises for “fly” and “thru”, I’ll demonstrate how to use them to teach any dog several fundamental obedience exercises.  All dogs will be introduced to the ob-ility method of teaching the broad jump, high jump, recall, directed jumping, and gloves (no retrieves required!).  Dogs who enter the class with more obedience skills may also be introduced to the obility method of drop on recall, retrieve on flat, and the signal exercise.  We’ll work with the skills that you and your dog possess, and add a few new ones to keep you busy!  This class is appropriate for any dog or puppy with or without fundamental obedience skills. The only requirements are a basic off-leash recall, enough focus to have your dog ten or fifteen feet away without losing him, and a safe environment for your off leash dog to practice!

Ob-ility is simply a way of breaking the exercises down so that the movement parts of the exercises are separated from the other parts.  This makes the work a lot more fun and “flowing” for the dog, and allowed you to teach advanced concepts much earlier than is typical.  If you enjoyed Heeling Games, then this might be right up your alley.

Here is a video showing Team Stella from the last Obility class.  After mastering the basic fly and reverse fly, they moved on to broad jump and directed jumping.  Look at how much fun this team is having!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lfjj4ieQtQE

And here’s a video of Lyra working through each of the pieces of an ob-ility drop on recall.  Is it starting to make sense now?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U4EkqZxQ7oU

If you’d like to join me in Ob-ility, then mark your calendars!  Registration opens on July 22nd and class begins on August 1st.  All learning is on-line and prices range from $65 for a bronze spot (observer with access to all lecture materials and a readable forum) to $260 for  Gold spot (extensive individualized video review and feedback in the forum).

This term we’ll be running TWENTY classes, so if you’re unable to get the quality of positive reinforcement instruction that you’d like locally, you might find that this is a truly excellent, and often superior, option to either private lessons or group classes.  Students who start with us tend to stay – and often take three or more classes at a time!

See the entire schedule here, and contact me directly through the “people” link if you need help selecting the right class for your situation: 

http://www.fenzidogsportsacademy.com/index.php/schedule-and-syllabus

Sweeping Changes to AKC Obedience?

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If you’re vested in the sport of obedience, then you may already know that MAJOR changes are being proposed for AKC obedience.  

I’m not thrilled with all of the proposed changes, but I would say that the vast majority are designed to make the sport friendlier, safer, and more attractive to a range of competitors with a variety of personal goals.  

The proposed revisions were offered after soliciting input from the public, and apparently a sizable number of people did take the opportunity to offer their thoughts, so kudos to each of you who gave your opinions!  Clearly the committee listened, and these suggested revisions go well beyond what I had expected.  Once again the exhibitors are being asked to provide input – this time on the proposed changes.  

This is your chance!  Read through the PDF and then speak up and let them know how you feel.

Before you do so, you might wish to keep the following points in mind:

1) Thinking, feeling, human beings worked on this committee. I’d guess that these people gave hundreds of hours of their own time to try and improve the troubled sport that they love.   Their suggestions came from public input and may or may not reflect their personal opinions.  When you make your comments, remember that this was a labor of love. These people did their best; now treat them with respect.  You can be honest in a manner that expresses yourself clearly without mistreating the recommending committee.

2) Before you resist any changes to what you know and love, take a good look at our sport.  Look at the numbers, in particular Novice A.  Look at the average age of the competitors.   Are we really in a position to to freak out over the possibility of change, if those changes might bring new people in to our sport?  If you’re saying  that you’d rather quit than see the sport “dumbed down”, then you may well get your way – when the sport disappears from underneath you.  

As I said earlier, I do not agree with all of the proposed changes, and I expressed that to the committee.  But I’m also aware that it’s not all about me and my personal situation; it’s about the sport as a whole.  

Let’s make sure the committee hears from us.  And if change comes around, support the sport! Train your dog!  Enter trials!  Volunteer to help others who are just now learning the ropes!

http://www.akc.org/events/obedience/obedience_advisory_committee.cfm

Free E-book on Behavior Chains

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Like free stuff?  I’ve got free stuff.

I’ve added a link on my Dog Athlete website for free downloads.  There I just added an edited version of the behavior chains series that I wrote for this blog.  Now it’s all nice and tidy in a 35 page PDF.

If you’d like to have this resource, go ahead and follow this link:  www.thedogathlete.com

From there, select “free downloads” from the left hand menu.

And help yourself.

Like to pay for stuff too?

You can buy  classes at the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy (FSDA) and they’re quite awesome, if I do say so myself.

Class registration opens July 22nd and classes begin August 1st.  We have TWENTY classes running – it’s insane.   If you need some help selecting a class you can contact me through the “people” link on the academy website and I’ll help you narrow it down.

Here’s the direct link to the schedule for the August 1st lineup: http://www.fenzidogsportsacademy.com/index.php/schedule-and-syllabus

 

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