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Close the Loop: Training for Optimal Reinforcement

May 25

6:00 am PT


What does your 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 repetition, 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 train it like we would any other behavior. That means we can build fluency and put it on cue. And guess what? Those cues will act as event markers. But just collecting reinforcement, like eating a treat or chasing a ball, doesn’t finish the job. Depending on how and where you reinforce, your dog may already be in position to repeat the behavior, or you may need one or more additional behaviors to bring your dog back to the starting position (and get the toy back, if applicable). 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 your dog back to the beginning of the loop.

Of course, like any behavior chain, to be effective, 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 avoid building unwanted behaviors into loop. In this presentation, we will explore the use and benefits of training specific reinforcement behaviors, including eating food or playing with a toy, to fluency and stimulus control to effectively and efficiently reinforce the desired behavior and reset for the next repetition.

Presented By:

Hannah Branigan

Hannah Branigan, the author of Awesome Obedience, is a self-proclaimed training nerd. With the belief that everyone (dogs and humans alike) learn best in an environment free of criticism, Hannah breaks down complex skills into bite-sized, accessible pieces, and develops practical techniques that leave her students with a sense of achievement and success.

She is on a mission to make training fun and enjoyable for dogs and their handlers, which means optimizing positive reinforcement techniques across species. She is fascinated by behavior and learning, and passionate about bringing innovative, science-based solutions to the dog/human learning space.

Hannah has a background in both human sports and biology. Now she applies that knowledge and experience to the world of animal training and canine competitive sports. She enjoys training and competing with her own dogs in a variety of sports. Her competition obedience DVDs, Obedience FUNdamentals and Beyond FUNdamentals, have received rave reviews from trainers all over the world, and her students have earned advanced titles and in multiple countries.

Hannah is the host of the popular dog training podcast, Drinking from the Toilet, which focuses on the (often inconvenient) intersection between positive reinforcement philosophy and reality. Her mentorship program, Zero to CD, gives trainers a complete, step-by-step blueprint for earning their first level obedience title with curated support along the way.