Clean Run Magazine - February 2008 - 43

When Pigs Fly What Is an Operant Dog? Why Should I Care? By Jane Killion, photos by Louis B. Ruediger Last month, we discussed how research has shown that Pigs Fly dogs can, under certain circumstances, be quicker to learn how to do things than biddable dogs. In scientific studies, when faced with a complex series of obstacles and mazes with a food reward at the end, the Pigs Fly dogs performed better than biddable dogs. “A complex series of obstacles and mazes,” that sounds a lot like an agility course, doesn’t it? The Basenji worked his way right through the course and figured out how to get to the food. The Sheltie “gave the subjective impression of standing around and waiting for someone to tell him what to do.” What this tells us is not which breed or type of dog is smarter than the other, but which training approach will be most profitable with each dog. Okay, so now you know where your Pigs Fly dog excels: independent problem solving. I would guess, if you take a look back at your training program, you will see that you have done a lot of showing, telling, and luring your dog to get him to do the behaviors you want. Chances are it never occurred to you to just stand there and let your dog figure it out on his own like the dogs in the study. That is what you are going to learn to do now. You may be shaking your head and wondering how that could possibly work. You know for a fact that if you let your dog off leash right now it is highly unlikely that he will run over to the agility equipment and perform the behaviors you desire without any prompting from you. You are probably correct in this assumption, which is why your first task as the handler of a Pigs Fly dog is to make him operant. If your eyes glazed over when you read operant because it sounded like a boring scientific term, don’t worry. All operant means in the context of dog training is: • The dog realizes that he gets a reward if he does something that you want • He tries to get those rewards by offering you different behaviors February 08 | Clean Run The first thing you have to do is teach your dog to want to work. Instead of nagging your dog with requests for behaviors, teach your dog to offer behaviors. dog, he may just stand there, sniff around, lift his leg on a jump standard, zoom in circles—whatever he finds interesting. Chances are, if he is a Pigs Fly dog, he is not going to solicit your attention by offering behaviors. He is not operant. Now, if you take my dog, Ruby, and let her loose in an agility ring without telling her what to do, she is going to run out and start working the yard. She will sit, lie down, go over a jump, hit the seesaw with her paw, go through a tunnel, and lie down on the table. After each behavior, she will look at me to see if she is going to get a reward for it. She will keep offering any behavior she can think of until I reward her. Ruby has learned an important and abstract concept: her actions will work on her environment to produce a really great reward, so she is going to keep trying until she gets that reward. She loves this game and will bunny hop around the yard while trying to figure out what behavior will win a treat. Flying Pig-tionar y: Operant: Psychologist and researcher B.F. Skinner coined this term in connection with his research on laboratory rats. He placed them in a box where, if they pressed a lever, food would appear (commonly known as a “Skinner Box”). At first the rats understandably rambled around in the box; they had no idea that there was anything they could do to create a wonderful consequence like getting food. Once they discovered that pressing a lever made food appear, however, they not only kept pressing that lever for food but also, if the lever did not work, they tried all kinds of other behaviors to get the food. Is your dog operant? Take him out to an agility ring and let him loose. Just stand still, look at your dog, don’t say anything, and wait. What will he do? Depending on the Ruby offered to take this jump without any prompting. She seems to be asking, “Is this the behavior that will make the click happen?” It is important to note that Ruby learned to be operant, and your dog can, too. Ruby was so reluctant and slow as a young dog that she could barely be persuaded to break out of a walk, and she had no desire to play with me. I conditioned her to become operant and to love playing this game with me more than anything else, and you can condition your dog to be operant, too. 43

Clean Run Magazine - February 2008

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Clean Run Magazine - February 2008

Clean Run Magazine - February 2008
Contents
Editorializing: Barbarians at the Gate?
Tip of the Month
Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Agility…
Backyard Dogs
On Course with Annie Lehman
Basic Turns
Trainer’s Forum
Do You Have a Preferred Handling Speed?
Foundation Fundamentals: Dealing with Distractions, Part 2
Case Study: The King of the Off-course
Conquering Ring Nerves: How Do I Stop Shaking When I Step to the Line?
Sports Retraining for Agility Athletes
When Pigs Fly: What Is an Operant Dog? Why Should I Care?
Power Paws Patterns: Number Three
Cece’s Gym Exercise of the Month: Increasing Challenges on the Ball
Spy Kids: Balance in Training
Skill of the Month
When the Click Doesn’t End the Behavior: Conditioning a Release Signal
Shelter Champs: Dunk
Distance Challenge
Letters
Agility Organization Update
Nested Courses for Mardi Gras
Course Diagram Keys
Clean Run Magazine - February 2008 - Clean Run Magazine - February 2008
Clean Run Magazine - February 2008 - 2
Clean Run Magazine - February 2008 - Contents
Clean Run Magazine - February 2008 - 4
Clean Run Magazine - February 2008 - Editorializing: Barbarians at the Gate?
Clean Run Magazine - February 2008 - Tip of the Month
Clean Run Magazine - February 2008 - Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Agility…
Clean Run Magazine - February 2008 - Backyard Dogs
Clean Run Magazine - February 2008 - 9
Clean Run Magazine - February 2008 - 10
Clean Run Magazine - February 2008 - 11
Clean Run Magazine - February 2008 - 12
Clean Run Magazine - February 2008 - 13
Clean Run Magazine - February 2008 - On Course with Annie Lehman
Clean Run Magazine - February 2008 - 15
Clean Run Magazine - February 2008 - 16
Clean Run Magazine - February 2008 - Basic Turns
Clean Run Magazine - February 2008 - 18
Clean Run Magazine - February 2008 - 19
Clean Run Magazine - February 2008 - 20
Clean Run Magazine - February 2008 - 21
Clean Run Magazine - February 2008 - Trainer’s Forum
Clean Run Magazine - February 2008 - 23
Clean Run Magazine - February 2008 - 24
Clean Run Magazine - February 2008 - 25
Clean Run Magazine - February 2008 - Do You Have a Preferred Handling Speed?
Clean Run Magazine - February 2008 - 27
Clean Run Magazine - February 2008 - 28
Clean Run Magazine - February 2008 - Foundation Fundamentals: Dealing with Distractions, Part 2
Clean Run Magazine - February 2008 - 30
Clean Run Magazine - February 2008 - 31
Clean Run Magazine - February 2008 - Case Study: The King of the Off-course
Clean Run Magazine - February 2008 - 33
Clean Run Magazine - February 2008 - 34
Clean Run Magazine - February 2008 - 35
Clean Run Magazine - February 2008 - Conquering Ring Nerves: How Do I Stop Shaking When I Step to the Line?
Clean Run Magazine - February 2008 - 37
Clean Run Magazine - February 2008 - 38
Clean Run Magazine - February 2008 - Sports Retraining for Agility Athletes
Clean Run Magazine - February 2008 - 40
Clean Run Magazine - February 2008 - 41
Clean Run Magazine - February 2008 - 42
Clean Run Magazine - February 2008 - When Pigs Fly: What Is an Operant Dog? Why Should I Care?
Clean Run Magazine - February 2008 - 44
Clean Run Magazine - February 2008 - 45
Clean Run Magazine - February 2008 - 46
Clean Run Magazine - February 2008 - 47
Clean Run Magazine - February 2008 - 48
Clean Run Magazine - February 2008 - Power Paws Patterns: Number Three
Clean Run Magazine - February 2008 - 50
Clean Run Magazine - February 2008 - 51
Clean Run Magazine - February 2008 - Cece’s Gym Exercise of the Month: Increasing Challenges on the Ball
Clean Run Magazine - February 2008 - 53
Clean Run Magazine - February 2008 - 54
Clean Run Magazine - February 2008 - 55
Clean Run Magazine - February 2008 - 56
Clean Run Magazine - February 2008 - Spy Kids: Balance in Training
Clean Run Magazine - February 2008 - 58
Clean Run Magazine - February 2008 - 59
Clean Run Magazine - February 2008 - 60
Clean Run Magazine - February 2008 - 61
Clean Run Magazine - February 2008 - Skill of the Month
Clean Run Magazine - February 2008 - 63
Clean Run Magazine - February 2008 - 64
Clean Run Magazine - February 2008 - When the Click Doesn’t End the Behavior: Conditioning a Release Signal
Clean Run Magazine - February 2008 - 66
Clean Run Magazine - February 2008 - 67
Clean Run Magazine - February 2008 - 68
Clean Run Magazine - February 2008 - Shelter Champs: Dunk
Clean Run Magazine - February 2008 - 70
Clean Run Magazine - February 2008 - 71
Clean Run Magazine - February 2008 - 72
Clean Run Magazine - February 2008 - Distance Challenge
Clean Run Magazine - February 2008 - 74
Clean Run Magazine - February 2008 - 75
Clean Run Magazine - February 2008 - 76
Clean Run Magazine - February 2008 - Letters
Clean Run Magazine - February 2008 - 78
Clean Run Magazine - February 2008 - Agility Organization Update
Clean Run Magazine - February 2008 - 80
Clean Run Magazine - February 2008 - 81
Clean Run Magazine - February 2008 - Course Diagram Keys
Clean Run Magazine - February 2008 - 83
Clean Run Magazine - February 2008 - 84
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