Finishing Work with Michael Ellis

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Finishing Work: Reducing the Frequency of Rewards and the Use of Punishment with Michael Ellis

This DVD will cover how to prepare your dog for a competition. People have asked, “What kind of competition?” The answer is every type of dog sport competition. This new DVD will teach people who train with markers (conditioned reinforcement) how to wean their dog off food rewards and/or toy rewards in preparation for taking their dog into any dog sport competition. This is an extremely important skill to learn because to do it correctly and still maintain motivation and drive is an art form.

The DVD is also going to teach trainers how to introduce their dog to punishments. We will explain when it is appropriate and when it is inappropriate to use punishment. We will also explain how to approach this work based on the temperament and the drive of individual dogs. Internal dogs are trained differently than external dogs; hard dogs are trained differently than soft dogs. Trainers must learn how to tailor their training program according to the temperament, the genetics, and the drive levels of their dog.

Our training is directed to those who use a positive training system, or in other words, those who use a foundation of markers or clickers in their work.

DVD Outline

  1. Introduction
    • What this DVD is covering, why we are doing it, how it fits in with the rest of our DVDs, and how it will be laid out.
  2. Definition of Terms
    • Positive Reinforcement / Negative Reinforcement
    • Positive Punishment / Negative Punishment
    • Aversive
    • Reward vs. Reinforcement
    • Stimulation / Arousal Level
    • Generalization
    • Over-Shadowing
    • Learned Helplessness
    • Self-Reinforcing Behaviors
    • Competing Motivators
    • Internal vs. External
    • Active "Stressor" vs. Suppressive "Stressor"
    • Primary Reinforcer
    • Conditioned Punisher
    • Conditioned Reinforcer
    • Escape and Avoidance Training
    • Reward Based Training
  3. Rewards: Methods for reducing the rate/number of rewards. YOU NEVER ELIMINATE THEM.
    • Schedule - continuous, variable, random.
    • Value/Quality
    • Intensity
    • Duration - Variable duration of reward event, effect on attention (engagement), and energy available for next behavior.
    • Use of Conditioned Reinforcer without Primary Reinforcer
    • Expectation of reward type as motivator (dog must expect "better" reward if it is to work longer and harder for it), the fallacy of "jack potting," and rewards as a way of controlling behaviors (i.e. not rewarding slow behaviors).
  4. Punishment: Types, concerns, and our philosophy on punishment (punishment is punishment!)
    • Negative Punishment
    • Positive Punishment
      1. Discomfort: traditional tools like training collars and electronic collars.
      2. Social Pressure
      3. Psychological Pressure/Surprise
    • Conditioning Punishers: Punishment "Marker"
    • To "Mark" or Not to "Mark"? - "Markers" more personal than some other forms of P+ or P-.
    • Punishment as it pertains to self-reinforcing behavior and competing motivators.
    • Traditional tools of punishment and their use as guides in the teaching process.
  5. Concerns
    • Fear and P+
    • What can dogs know? Heeling? Fronts? Small qualitative differences.
    • Mistakes vs. Disobedience
    • P+ to improve "quality" of behaviors.
    • Classical conditioning and involuntary behaviors
    • Inconsistency and the application of aversives.
    • The role of frustration and the use of P- -- "good" vs. "bad" frustration.
    • Problems related to reducing the rate of reward while adding P+.
    • Pitfalls of pre-emptive corrections - the dog must have the chance to escape or avoid - learned helplessness. Stove vs. static electricity.
    • Suppression: a false sense of understanding and the allure of temporary fixes.
  6. Tangents and topics of general interest
    • Getting ready for competition and when to "stretch" your dog.
    • Classical conditioning revisited - it's use in preparing for competition.
    • Dopamine "Spikes" - One must be careful when considering the efficacy of negative punishment after an expectation of reward has been created and fluency in a given behavior has been achieved. The dopamine "spike" happens when the availability of reward has been signaled, so the withholding of actual reward may not affect behavior as desired.
    • Factors affecting speed in execution of behaviors.
    • Basics of electronic collar conditioning and the dangers of superstitious associations.
    • Overshadowing as an impediment to finishing work.
    • Condition a CP vs. using one - the difference and what can go wrong.
    • Active "stressors" vs. suppressive "stressors" and what that means for the use of punishment. How is the dog wired?
    • Revisiting good frustration and its effect on duration of behavior and effort.
    • Generalization - where the real work lies.
    • Can your dog do what you are asking? Can you beat Kobe in a game of one on one basketball? Can desire and punishment overcome genetic wiring?

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