+61 (0)418 348 804

Von Forell Precision Training

Are you ready to take control of your dog training?

Extract – How To Achieve Precision Obedience With Your Dog

How To Achieve Precision Obedience With Your Dog - Extract

Food training is unreliable without the unpleasant physical sensation of hunger.

When the dog is experiencing an unpleasant level of hunger the trainer may commence food training. The trainer’s ability to motivate and influence the dog’s behavior will reduce piece by piece as the consumption of food triggers the release of leptin into the dog’s body incrementally relieving the unpleasant feeling of hunger.

Hunger helps drive behaviour but what happens when hunger/desire is no longer a driver because the dog is saturated with food or a distraction is greater than the desire for food?

You are then……………………..

‘Positive Feedback’ Loop

Positive feedback loops are interesting because they cause considerable shifts in behaviour. They enhance or amplify changes; this tends to move behaviour away from its equilibrium state and make it more unstable. Effectively when a dog is not in its ‘idle state’ or ‘equilibrium’ it is in a potentially unstable state. It is important to understand this because too much elevation of drive can be counterproductive to learning and it is essential that the optimal emotional state is achieved for each and every dog to maximise ‘quality’ learning.

A positive feedback process that runs its full course properly is initially reinforcing in one direction, and eventually, it is liable to reach a climax after which it becomes perpetually reinforcing. This perpetually rewarding event must be established before any negative learning is applied so that the dog loves the behaviour that it believes it created. This love to perform the behaviour is a critical process for spirited behaviour to be exhibited with genuine commitment.

But the truth is that positive feedback processes do not necessarily run their full course; in the case of training systems that are not well thought out, positive feedback……………………………………

Arousal Levels

You may notice that you perform better when you are just a little nervous. For example, you might do better at a competition/event if you are excited about participating or do well on an exam if you are somewhat anxious about your score. In psychology, this relationship between arousal levels and performance is identified as the Yerkes-Dodson Law.

What impact can this have on behaviour and performance?

The Yerkes-Dodson Law suggests that there is a relationship between performance and arousal. Increased arousal can help improve performance, but only up to a certain point…………………………….


What are they and what do they mean?
The first signal the clicker.

In the physical world, any quantity exhibiting variation in time or change (such as an image) is potentially a signal that might provide information on the status of a physical system, or convey a message between observers.

In nature, signals can take the form of any action by one organism able to be perceived by other organisms. Signals range from the release of chemicals by plants to alert nearby plants of the same type of a predator, to sounds or motions made by animals to warn other creatures of the presence of danger or food.
Examples of signals we use when training dogs.

• Motion
• Sound
• Pressure
• Images
• Olfactory

A typical role for signals is in processing information however in dog training;……………………….


Reflex, Opposition Reflex, Reflection

“A good dog trainer can be defined as knowing how the predictability of action will influence another action (behaviour)” John Sear USA.

There are talented handlers and trainers usually women that have an intuitive and uncanny ability when interacting with dogs, horses, ‘animals’ and when I observe their gifted work ethic it is evident to me that they naturally understand this phenomenon. I have discussed this concept in my seminars, workshops and with many colleagues over the years. Some glare at me with a look of confusion or anguish and while others agree to humour me, only to have their work display the lack of comprehension.

Reflexivity is a concept that has been around since the 70’s in social sciences and anthropology, and I have felt the need of introducing it within the canine training community. I now include it in all my teachings, perhaps the concept may be of interest not only for the training of dogs but all animal training and the improvement of the human condition.

Up until recently, I have had tremendous difficulty in attempting to describe what I am observing during my time with dogs. Like anyone who strives for a better understanding and cooperation between man and dog relationships, I am always looking for a more scientific and descriptive way of discussing learning systems alongside all the ugly variables of behaviour.

For me observing dog behaviour especially during protection training or any training for that matter is like gazing at a photo of a galaxy.

There are…………………………

What is Opposition Reflex?

Sometimes we encounter dogs that appear to be persistent or may have an instinct to resist guidance from humans a kind of opposition to our intended will. Opposition infers or can be confused with conflict, resistance, challenging or disagreement and anyone hearing this term may believe this misunderstanding about dogs.

Reflex is an impulse, reaction or spontaneous effect to stimuli. It can be confused or perceived as a dog being stubborn, unsafe, dangerous or an unwilling participant.

The opposition reflex also regarded as the Freedom Reflex and was discovered by Ivan P. Pavlov (1849-1936) the 1904 Nobel Prize winner. Opposition reflex is inherited as a survival instinct. It is also called Thigmotaxis. This is the response an organism naturally has towards physical contact with a solid or fluid substance. The response to physical contact will either be positive or negative Thigmotaxis.

When the dog moves away from the stimulus, it is negative thigmotaxis. When the movement is towards the stimulus, it is………………………

Interactive Conflicts (Negative to Positive)

Without question, dogs are born with an inability to deal with aversive stimuli. Any prospective working dog enthusiast attempting to make the best possible choice when selecting a puppy will encounter multiple issues in deciding which traits are quintessential for a quality working dog. However, there is one primary emotion which alters behaviour and stands out amongst all others. That is fear, and it is one of the most limiting feelings a dog or human could have.

Although it is a natural and life-preserving response, fear in dogs is exhibited in degrees and is either a genetic inclination and or learnt. There are natural fearful responses to strange events. When choosing puppies, the wisest choice would be to select the puppy with the least amount of adverse reactions making sure to avoid puppies that exhibit unnatural fears.

We should ask ourselves the question; why some puppies show sensitive responses while the siblings don’t.

There are two potential outcomes when selecting a puppy………………

Mindset for Learning

The Dog

Before we can teach a dog anything we need to ensure that we remove all the potential inhibitors, this also applies to the human element the ‘handler’. Familiarisation and a pleasurable association to a new environment are essential so that it liberates the mind of any constraints. Correct environmental exposure for dogs during their developmental phase is quintessential for optimal learning and must be established before deep uninhibited learning can occur…………………………

The Handler

What sets those who accomplish great things apart from those who fail to realise their ambitions? You might guess intelligence, an appetite for risk, or even creativity. Those are all sensible-sounding suggestions, but that’s not what science has found.

According to work by pioneering psychologist………………………..

Classical Conditioning or Respondent Conditioning

With a Twist you won’t believe

Classical conditioning is what happens when an animal learns that signals or events link together. It is the linking of two signals and most important the emotion the second single delivers. It is also known as Pavlovian learning. When one thing happens, another thing will follow.

In the case of dog training, it links a new ‘unconditioned signal’ to a ‘known signal’ that provides a positive outcome. Likewise, the opposite can occur in which an unconditioned signal can be connected to an adverse outcome. The exciting thing about classical conditioning is that the response also becomes involuntary, that is the dog is unable to control its response when paired.

This conditioning is also non-contextual in that classical conditioning overlaps to other environments almost instantaneously and does not require the repetitiveness necessary with operant and instrumental learning.

The Reward

Many times, rewards are taken for granted, and the assumption is that the reward we offer is a reward solely because the trainer says it is with little consideration for what the dog feels and exhibits in its behaviour.

A reward is only as good as its value to the dog. Too often our perception of a reward is in fact not rewarding. The value a dog holds in the reward is something that is built by desire, propagated by pleasant association and the motivation it creates due to necessity like hunger or genetic compulsion – to chase and engage anything that moves.

Take food, for example; we ask our dog to sit still, place the food bowl on the ground so that the dog can eat it. The motivation to eat will depend mainly on the dog state of hunger or how much of a pleasant taste it provides, so palatability is essential for motivation alongside hunger. At the core of that mouth full of food and when the unpleasant feeling of hunger decreases, a pleasant feeling is established like a human would say ‘yum’. At the very core of that ‘yum’ the earliest brain processing in a rewarding experience is the release of the chemical called………………………….

Definition of reward

In neuroscience, the reward system is a collection of brain structures and neural pathways that are responsible for reward-related cognition, including associated learning (primarily classical conditioning and operant reinforcement), incentive salience (i.e., motivation and “wanting”, desire, or craving for a reward), and positive emotions, particularly emotions that involve pleasure (i.e., hedonic “liking”).

Terms that are commonly used to describe behaviour related to the “wanting” or desire component of reward include appetitive behaviour, preparatory behaviour, instrumental behaviour, anticipatory behaviour, and seeking.

Terms that are commonly used to describe behaviour related to the “liking” or pleasure component of reward include consummatory behaviour and taking behaviour.

The three primary functions of rewards are their capacity to…………………………….

Food Motivation

A well-respected trainer and breeder told me many years ago and I quote;

“The way a dog eats is the way he is.”

Considering all things being equal and the dog is healthy the above statement appears to have merit. The response we are looking for when it comes to appetite is a highly motivated response to all foods and not just tasty treats. Within reason, a dog should be a consistent eater and not question what he is eating. Many dogs have a lack of appetite not due to overeating. What we don’t want is an animal that eats because insecurity drives their appetite. These dogs typically east fast and almost seem like they are hoarding their food to stop others taking it from them. These dogs also resort to…………………………..

Event Marker

Introduction to the Clicker
There is a seemingly limitless source of information available on clicker training, and I thoroughly encourage you to educate yourself on the subject of conditioned reinforcers. However, for the benefit of novices, I will provide a detailed foundation.

Try the following simple experiment:

Take a ball and hold it at arm’s length. Now drop the ball and try to say the words “Good boy” at the exact instant the ball is at the halfway point. If you had trouble connecting the praise to the midpoint of the ball’s descent, do not blame your timing. To mark the exact instant, the ball is at the halfway point, you have three alternatives – and two of them do not work.

• First, you could begin saying “good boy” before the ball hits the middle.

• Second, you could start the phrase…………………………..

Information/Concentration and Motivation

Information / Concentration and Motivation

Every method of training should attempt to coordinate two fundamental aspects of behaviour:

• Concentration to enhance the process of learning

• Motivation creating drive and the desire to maintain behaviour

The most effective methods provide the dog with an environment for concentration with the information needed to understand the task and link the behaviour to some motivation that ensures reliable performance. The advantages and disadvantages of a method of training is evident when viewed from this perspective. Strictly speaking, motivation is used to describe the forces which act on or within an animal to activate and direct behaviour.

For instance, the most common……………………………

What Is Learning?

It has been said that ‘teaching is the art of suggestion’. Put more rigorously, it could be more accurately stated that ‘learning occurs when outcome and the expectation differ.’

The implication of having learnt something is that a change of behaviour is the direct result of something connected to past experience.

My dictionary defines learning as:

1. To acquire knowledge or skill through study, instruction, or experience: to learn Greek; to learn to ski.

2. To become informed of or to become acquainted with;

3. To gain (a habit, mannerism, etc.) by experience, exposure to example, or the like; acquire, e.g., She learned patience from her father.

Additionally, we must acknowledge that ‘Learning’ can also be stressful. Acknowledging this encourages empathy when teaching our dogs and handlers. The secret is to create an environment where learning is exciting, inspiring and most importantly encouraging so that it moves touches and inspires the individual (subject). Additionally, our dogs’ benefit when they understand that every behaviour……………………..

What Is Motivation?

Motivation is recognised as a critical factor which influences a given behaviour will be performed, and the frequency of intensity of its performance. Therefore, motivation plays an integral part……………..

How About This For Motivation?

Dear Homeowner,

This is your bank manager and I write to inform you that should you miss another mortgage payment the bank will have no choice but to repossess your property!

• Is that enough motivation to maintain your mortgage payments?

• Has the bank manager damaged your whole view on life and stopped you from operating positively and constructively?

Nothing would make me happier than to see humanity living in complete harmony, respecting each other and acting responsibly, utopia would be ideal, sadly this is far from the truth hence why nature has rules that have consequences, and we are part of that equation, and yet many fail to accept that they need to adhere to societies rules, regardless of their motivation or motives…………………….

Behaviour Chains and Back-Chaining

Mini-chains represent the breakdown of target behaviours and back chaining can represent each corresponding component of the entire routine. Therefore, each component has its mini-chain events that require logical event sequencing.

A behaviour chain is an event in which units of behaviour occur in sequences and are linked together by learned cues. Back-chaining, which means teaching those units in reverse order and reinforcing each unit with the signal for the next, is a training technique most understood by dogs. We use this technique to take advantage of the intrinsic nature of the event. The most critical aspect of back-chaining to remember is that you must establish a behaviour that provides a positive outcome first. Back-chaining is also about classical conditioning. The target behaviour offers a reliable positive outcome / function.
The key to understanding behaviour chains—and why they create reliable behaviour—is to know……………………………………………

The Cure For The Lost Dumbbell

“What can you do to train against the mishap of a dumbbell bouncing out of sight?
Here’s one recipe. Teach the dog to hunt for and find the dumbbell by scent, for a click and treat, indoors, around the house—then outside; under furniture, in clumps of grass, under ring gates. Then establish that if the dumbbell is in sight, pick it up and bring it; if it’s not, find it by scent, then pick it up.”
Do you see the picture?

To recap, the final behaviour in the IPO obedience routine is the send out……………………………………………

Dips In Learning

Environmental stress can be characterised as a force shaping adaptation in changing environments, and it is a property of both the stressor and the stressed. Learning is a stressful event and has its impact on learning as a potential constraint. Care must be taken so that the dog likes to learn and then learns to learn. Many dogs develop an approach-avoidance to learning a new task because previously all newly introduced tasks were interpreted as overly stressful events.

There are occasions when a dog not only stops responding to the stimulus but also stops responding altogether. If you were to graph this sequence………………………

A Little More On The Reward

The timing, amount and the quality of the reward have a direct effect on wanting the reward and then ultimately on the behaviour. Animals work harder to get tasty (appetising) or drive fulfilling rewards like ball, tugs and sleeves. Appetising does and should not always mean ‘tasty treats’. Appetising primarily means a desire motivated by hunger for the dog’s daily food rations. If given a choice, animals prefer small bits of food rather than one significant amount even if they add up to the same amount. But it does not mean that you feed one kibble at a time. This is something to be aware of when rewarding although one must be mindful of the fact that most quality dogs will usually……………………………..

Feedback Systems

Most dog trainers start learning to train dogs similarly. Traditionally we are taught to bring our dogs to class, put a correction chain around their neck, do as the instructor tells us, and most importantly we are to make sure the dog does what we tell him too, no matter what. Right?

Well. Not quite.

In recent years’ dog training methodology has improved dramatically and I believe we are witnessing a dog training revolution whereby established systems of dog training are being integrated with “operant” methods which are creating the most powerful and humane system ever in existence.

In these elegant and tightly-integrated systems, negative motivation and corrections are exploited to establish stimulus control over powerfully-motivated behaviours rapidly; rewards are used to teach and motivate performance, and a sophisticated system of conditioned behaviour markers are used to render it all clear to the dog.

Clear communication systems like the “clicker” that is conditioned reinforces are genuinely ingenious devices and provide a pathway for immeasurable communication attributed to better learning, creating a win-win communication possibility for dogs and their handlers.

On the flipside………………………………

Mistakes, Errors, or Are They?

An error is only a lapse of comprehension, and, the more mistakes your dog encounters, the faster target behaviours are strengthened. Every time your dog makes a so-called error the trainers best response it to (smile), provide no reward, a ‘negative punisher’ and mentally note that this outcome was essential and that perhaps the dog will make one less in the future. With a little patience this experience with create a contrast and the dog will gravitate to what was rewarding.

However, perhaps the most critical connection to make when introducing any form of negative learning (negative punishment and negative reinforcement) is to…………..

‘Release’ – The Process

Phase One 

Item substitution

The first exercise we can teach a puppy is to substitute an item he has the procession of for food. Initially, we need to build value in the item we want the puppy to hold such as a small ball upon a signal to take the ball, I use ‘go’. We can create this connection in a controlled and quiet environment. Once the puppy has developed enjoyment, the value in chasing and carrying the ball we can encourage the puppy to come to us where we present our hand with its regular food as a reward. 

Once this becomes relatively conditioned the ‘verbal’ out signal can then be paired with the dogs releasing action. The visual ‘out’ signal ‘my hand presented with food’ is used to create a “deliberate response” which is to ‘let go of the ball’. Once this occurs……………….

Achieving Stimulus Control

Let’s discuss the problematic meaning of ‘reward’, and the measurable effect it has on behaviour—that is, a response is reinforced when, all things being held equal, the future probability/frequency of a behaviour it follows is increased by the presentation of the reinforcing event. A reward may or may not increase the future probability of the behaviour it follows—if it does, it is a reinforcer.

The technical distinctions between reward and reinforcement are clear; however, the technical language becomes murky when it comes to the term punishment.

It is unfortunate that we do not have a parallel word in English, like suppressant. For one thing, the word suppression refers more explicitly to the effect that punishment has on behaviour and, thereby, avoids the emotional connotations associated with this culturally loaded term. In our reference, the terms reward and punishment are used in this book in the more technical sense of events that differentially increase or decrease the future probability/frequency of the behaviour they follow.

An important aspect of dog training involves bringing learned behaviour under the control of cues and commands or what learning theorists call discriminative stimuli. Essentially, stimulus control refers to a process whereby a learned response is rendered more probable in the presence of some random stimulus despite the motivation level in the dog. Sit means sit regardless.

In general, there are two ways in which the probability/frequency of a behaviour is affected by the consequences it produces…………………….

Reinforcing Events

Dogs gain practical information about the physical and social environment through the consequences of their behaviour. Such experiences teach them how to control and m sanipulateignificant events vital to their interests.

The exercise of control over important occurrences reinforces the learning process itself, both in terms of specific behavioural instances and in terms of general learning expectancies. Learning is a cognitively organised pattern that must be mastered before complex behavioural skills can be acquired. In a meaningful sense, dogs are always learning how to learn, and every effort by the handler should be made to help dogs learn to learn and most importantly develop a passion for learning.

Two complementary motivations drive instrumental learning: the maximisation of positive outcomes and minimisation of aversive ones. These complementary motivations correspond to the notions of positive and negative reinforcement………………………..

Amplifying – Target behaviour

The real issue we face is whether positive reinforcement is free of negative effects commonly attributed to the methods of behavioural control known as ‘aversive’. The topic of aversive control makes people uncomfortable, and interestingly relatively few people study it. Much of what has been stated about aversive control is mistaken or at least misleading. Aversive control is an inherent part of our world, and an inevitable feature of behavioural control, as both systems overlap and have elements of both embedded within them because aversive control is not necessarily bad; sometimes it is good. And more to the point, the alternative positive reinforcement is not necessarily good; sometimes it is bad. A stimulus is aversive if its contingent removal, prevention, or postponement maintains, behaviour negative reinforcement or if its contingent presentation suppresses behaviour – punishment. There is no mention in this description of pain, fear, anxiety, or distress nor should there be. 

That is all there is to it. It is the impact on behaviour that is most notable.

Aversive control is responsible for the fact that we…………………

Can aversive control be avoided in creating and maintaining behaviours?

The answer is “no” because positive and negative reinforcement can be understood as a transition from one situation to another. The shift in positive reinforcement presumably represents an improvement. But the production of improvement in conditions may also be regarded as an escape from small aversive states – negative reinforcement, amplifying a ‘desired’ target behaviour.

Inside and outside the laboratory, aversive control in ubiquitous, it seems to be unavoidable, but it can be a form of gentle guidance persuasion if you will. The idea is that aversive control might be acceptable if it generates behaviour with some long-term desired effects. When a punishment contingency is effective, undesirable behaviour is decreased, and the aversive stimulus is almost never contacted. When an avoidance contingency is effective, the desired behaviour is……………….

Empowering dogs to deal with distractions

With all our efforts to establish stimulus control, we need to develop a specific systemised way of varying the dog’s specificity to target behaviour by using a wide range of varying distractions.

For the handler’s sake, it is necessary to expand on the notion of distraction into several different categories of stimuli that compete with target behaviour for the dog’s attention. Each group competes for the dog’s attention in increasing ways.

The first category is simple distracters like a mere noise, an odour or a visual stimulus that makes it difficult for the dog to concentrate on a task.

The second are distracters that have a high value to dogs like other dogs, animals, moving machinery, vacuum cleaners, loud music and any other varying stimuli that modern man’s world can deliver.

The significant part of the difficulty a Police dog or competition dog faces in complying to commands is that the requested behaviours take place in continually changing environments and many varieties of intense stimuli seem to be perfectly calibrated to interfere with a dog’s concentration………………….

Timing and Repetition

Understanding that behaviour is modified by consequences is an essential insight into how dogs learn. Also, timing and repetition also play crucial roles in the training process. For positive and negative learning to be effective, they must quickly be followed by a positive or negative event, within (0.5 to 2.0 seconds). Optimally, a positive reinforcer should be presented immediately after the negative reinforcer is terminated and the target behaviour is emitted, this should not take longer than 3 seconds to resolve.

Further, the connection between the reinforcer and the target behaviour is strengthened by frequent repetitions, 80 to 100 for recognition and 3000 to 6000 for perfection. With practice, dogs learn to expect the eventual presentation of the positive reinforcer as the result of emitting the selected/conditioned behaviour………………..

Call Now Button