Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Recalls when trained with and without R-

Over on the yahoo list clickersolutions, a lively discussion about poisoned cues is underway. The only research supporting the hypothesis that R- will indeed poison a cue is a single-subject experiment that hasn't yet been published.

So I will do a little anecdotal study (we can hardly call this an experiment) to explore how Vanya responds to a new recall cue trained entirely without R-, versus a new recall cue trained with 20% trials backed up with R-

The R- will be pressure from a long line when he doesn't immediately respond. (For those who get confusing about operant conditioning terminology, when you remove something (negative: pressure on the line) to reinforce, or increase the frequency, of a desired behavior (running toward me), that's negative reinforcement.

Here's what we'll do: train two new cues (let's call them A and B). One I'll train with R-; one without. Start from the very beginning with each cue. Train each with increasing levels of distractions. I'll set up the training protocol on Vanya's blog, in case anyone is curious.

Then have a neutral handler (known as The Friend) come in for the experiments themselves. My friend won't know whether A or B was trained with R-. She will give the cues, under increasing levels of distractions, and she will record how promptly, how enthusiastically, and how reliably under distractions, Vanya responded to A versus B.

Then I'll train the same cues for another set of time, to see if the responses change with greater levels of proofing.

Nope, this isn't scientific, but it will help me learn what works better for my particular dog. I'll report on the results here, for those who might be curious.

Training plan, more details about methods,  and logs for the new recall cues are posted here: http://sites.google.com/site/thevanyaproject/training-logs/recall-cues-a-and-b


  1. Hi! I just found your blog from the functionalrewards list. I happen to live in Madison WI so I was excited to read about your experiences with Vanya right here in Southern WI! I have a reactive, dog-aggressive dog named Dottie and, my bigger project, a boxer/GSD mix who is both dog and people aggressive named Gustav. His blog is: operationgustav.blogspot.com (I seriously considered projectgustav, btw!). I'm a grad student at UW-Madison where I study young children. Anyway, just wanted to drop in and introduce myself, as we're not so far in space and situation.

  2. Hi Cynthia,
    When we get back to Madison in the fall, I'd be happy to meet and practice BAT or another technique with our dogs. We have one calm, elderly female dog who can be a decoy, and 3 plush dogs which make great decoys too. And if we keep enough distance, we can each work with a reactive dog. I have a training partner up here in northern WI for the summer, and it's really helpful.

  3. Great! I love up north, I just got back from camping in the Wabeno area and sometimes go up near Hayward to use a friend's cabin. You're lucky to get to spend the summer up there.

    Both my dogs are reactive to dogs, so that would be wonderful, thanks for the offer. It's hard to find training partners who are committed. I'd also love to chat about the training options here in S. WI, sounds like we've used some of the same people.

    Have a great summer.