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Thread: Victoria Stillwell on positive reinforcement training

  1. #41
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    People use "positive training" when they mean "reward based training".

    For prey animals - one of their fav rewards is "safety" but another they will work for is food. ie if you go out every day and feed them off the back of the ute, they will follow the ute to the next paddock for their feed - and you don't need a good sheep dog.

    Applying an aversive and then removing it when the animal does what you want - is negative reinforcement - but I prefer to call it "escape training" ie the animal escapes the the aversive by doing what you want. This is how prong collars, choke collars and zap collars should be used. It is also why you need really really good timing. Eg with the choke collars - and this is often how I see them used - if you never release the pressure the dog never learns what you want. A lot learn to ignore the pressure and you damage their trachea long term.

  2. #42
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    True. I try the "no treat punishment" when we do clicker training sessions. If she ignores the cue, I walk away and she misses out.

  3. #43
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    With my dogs I try to set them up for success as much as possible to reduce the chance of failure to begin with. If they fail a couple of times I then review if they really understand what I am asking them and I will split it down so they do succeed. I find by doing this the failure rate really drops. This results in most of the time being able to reward the dog which increases the dogs drive to work.

    Setting the dog up to succeed by teaching in small increments is the key I think to positive reinforcement training which to my mind is essentially reward/ positive reinforcement based training with the aim to be to reduce the witholding of rewards or negative reinforcement to a minimum. But you also need to be able to transfer value and the dog should be able to function without you always having a reward in your hand.

    If you work it right and always set the dog up to succeed by splitting things right down to small chunks, like with backchaining, and capturing and reinforcing all the desirable behaviours you should rarely have to use the negative. I an learning not to rush just split, backchain and reinforce. Sometimes if I have rushed I go back to the beginning again.

    I have never found the need to use any type of collar that exerts pressure. I have never used one or have any intention of using one.


    Yes with sheep you can move them around with food sometimes, my whethers will follow a ute which is not particularly handy if you need to yard them.

    A dog comes in handy when you are trying to get 50 or more lambs and their mothers into the yards for vaccinations and marking. They can be very uncooperative as the safety of their lambs is their priority not food.

    Particularly when there is plenty of pasture so offered feed has no value you really appreciate a good dog. I just spent a fun weekend vaccinating and marking lambs and I was very glad to have a good dog especially as my set up is very broadacre with 50 -100 acre paddocks and not conducive to easy handling. My sheep are not strong flockers and they run in all directions with their lambs. Food is not on their radar at all.

    When working dogs on sheep there is no need for treats. The dogs instincts and desire to work is so great that you work with that.
    Last edited by Kalacreek; 10-25-2012 at 11:13 PM.

  4. #44
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    Yes, I didn't mean you never need a good sheep dog but it does make things easier if the sheep think of you as a source of food not fear.

    I had my horse trained to come when he saw the food bucket - which gradually changed to - when he saw my car - since the food came in my car and I parked next to the paddock. He remembered that car even after I retired him to a different farm and only visited once a year or so in that car. When I first got him - he used to do several laps of the paddock as fast as he could in the hopes that I'd go away - I think. Or it was his idea of fun. I used to just wait him out.

  5. #45
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    Yes I often walk among my sheep and run them through the yards quite a bit with the dogs to get them used to the whole idea as they had never been worked by dogs before. When I first got them they were wild out of scrub country and a real challenge. Good thing by BC is a patient and strong dog, not put off by aggression. Now most of them will allow me to come pretty close and will come now when I start to feed them. However they are still pretty feisty to handle and I rely on my dogs and they are still crafty creatures and keep my dogs on their toes LOL. But they have come to trust me a lot more. One old ewe allowed me to assist her lamb when it was in trouble after its birth but chased my mother out of the paddock when she tried to help.

    Horses are lovely and very smart creatures, I miss owning them but I dont have the time anymore. I rescued an abused horse once who was very easily upset and and he was probably the first creature that I started to learn more about the benefits of working with more positive reinforcement and calming techniques.

    There is much to learn about working with animals, it never ends really.

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