How does a method of dog training remain popular for so long? Results. Consistant, predictable, results. Why has so much controversy not diminished its popularity? Results. Consistant, predictable, results. Amidst the current (and politically correct) trend in Positive Reinforcement Only training systems, what protects and keeps viable the Koehler method? Results. Consistant, predictable, results.
Applied stimuli and the dog’s Pattern of Learning (part one)
Before I get into this discussion I would like to acknowledge those who have suggested that by offering this type of analysis that some of the “magic” will be lost. We hope not, but we would like to correct some of the misconceptions that have followed this method right into cyberspace.
Action®Memory®Desire. This is how the learning pattern of the dog could be abstractly expressed. Here are two examples of how Mother Nature uses this learning pattern to produce [first] a behaviour likely to repeat itself, then [second] a behaviour not likely to repeat.
In our first study a young dog is exploring his new surroundings when he discovers a hole in the fence large enough for him to squeeze through, which he does. Not realizing that he has crossed some boundry his owner’s have tried to define, he continues to “explore.”
An hour passes and his exploration leads him to an object of great curiosity. The scents emitted by this object are absolutely delightful and he moves in for closer examination.
As he cautiously approaches he starts to realize that the source of the smell which he finds so compelling is not the object itself, but something else. A more determined examination of the thing is called for and he starts circling it, barking at it, and finally throws himself against it (actually, trying to jump on it to further explore it’s top surface).
The object tips over with a clang, the lid falls off, and the young dog topples over. As he regains his balance, composure, and orientation he turns back toward the object of his curiosity and Eureka! A virtual cornicopia of smells, flavors, and textures.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch...a search has begun to find out where Johnny’s Christmas present has run off to. Oh, they will eventually find him; along with a bonus feature, the newly acquired skill of dumpster diving.
The action of diving at the can, produced conditions for favorable memory, the desire to again experience the same memory is high. This behaviour will likely repeat.
Our second study offers a different “point” for the adventurous young dog. Again we find him exploring his not so new surroundings when he discovers another hole in the fence large enough for him to squeeze through, which he does.
With his nose to the ground, he navigates his way straight back for his “Horn of Plenty.” But, while in route, he comes across another curious smell and decides to pursue it instead.
The better part of an hour goes by. His determination and persistance, driven by his unwavering curiosity, qualify him as one well bred beagle. Now “locked-on” to the scent trail he hunts it with unknown intent. The scent grows fresher by the minute, the crushed vegetation sweeter...he’s close, very close. Moments later, there it is, the object of his curiosity. But exactly what is it? It too is foraging, it has four feet, a tail, head, eyes, and nose. All in all it’s not very different from our curious little beagle, except for it’s coat.
Resolved to get a better take on what this unusual creature wears as fur, our young dog moves in closure for a look. He cautiously circles it, barks at it, then throws himself at it.
While at the vets office, an hour later, our beagle now knows that “IT” has a name...porcupine. The behaviour of “porcupine pouncing” is not likely to repeat anytime soon.
The two examples above are illustrations of “untrained learned behaviour.” As you can see, it was the consequence of thier action which defined what the dog learned. It was the experience which allowed for this new understanding. Experience & Consequence, this is how Mother Nature intended for her young students to learn.
“Trained skilled behaviour” is learned in much the same manner. The automatic-sit is one exercise which illustrates a skilled behaviour. Note that I have referred to the automatic-sit as a “skilled behaviour” rather than simply “behaviour.” The distinction? The later may represent nothing more than a random act; whereas the former can only express a behaviour which has been taught. The correctly taught behaviour provides us with a fair and reasonable expectation of the behaviour thus making any correction, fair, reasonable, and expected. Both are learned, one is taught. Here is how we use Experience & Consequense to shape, train, and proof the automatic-sit.
This is WHAT we do:
The dog is first taught where, and how to sit. This is done by carefully placing him in the correct position and praising him for the effort. We then teach the dog when to sit by introducing the sit command. And lastly, we challenge the dog’s reliability by requiring him to sit in the face of some very tempting distractions.
This is HOW we do it:
Days 1 & 2 of the second week: Shaping
Give the dog the “Joe-Heel” command and move in a direction of your choosing. As you make the proper turns the dog will correct himself for forging, lagging, crowding, or heeling wide. When the dog has maintained “Pleasant Heaven” for 10 - 15 paces, slide your left hand down the leash and stop at the stitching. This will also stop both your’s and the dog’s forward motion. Now, replace your left hand with your right and use your left hand to position the dog into a sitting position facing the direction you were heeling. Relax the leash and praise the dog. Do this 25X per night...use no command.
Days 3&4 of the second week: Training
Proceed exactly as above except to start giving the dog the command “Joe-Sit.” He should hear the command just before his rear end hits the ground. Relax the leash and praise the dog. Do this 25X per night.
Days 5&6 of the second week: Training
Bring the dog to your starting point and give him the command “Joe-Heel,” after 10 paces slide your left hand down to the stitching ( stopping the dog’s forward motion) place your right hand next to your left hand (you should now be grasping the leash with both hands) bend a little at the knees to put some slack in the collar and give the command “Joe-sit.” Wait 2 seconds for a response, he will either sit (as he has done 100 times previously) for reward, or he will not...in which case you will jerk straight up with both hands thus causing the dog’s head to go up, his rear to go down, and as soon as he is sitting...relax the leash and praise the dog. Repeat this procedure 25X per night.
Days 1&2 of the third week: Training/Proofing
Repeat your previous days work but omit the command. Simply come to a stop, slide your left hand down to the stitching ( stopping the dog’s forward motion) place your right hand next to your left hand (you should now be grasping the leash with both hands) bend a little at the knees to put some slack in the collar (your posture has already become the antecedent for the behaviour), wait 2 seconds for a response, he will either sit (as he has now done 150 times previously) for reward, or he will not...in which case you will jerk straight up with both hands thus causing the dog’s head to go up, his rear to go down, and as soon as he is sitting...relax the leash and praise the dog. Repeat this procedure 25X per night.
This is WHY it works
The dog is allowed to experience both the behaviour (sitting) and the cosequential act of the behaviour (praise). The dog learns from this experience that the action of sitting brings about the consequential action of praise.
What if the dog does not sit? The dog is then allowed to experience both the mis-behaviour (not sitting) and the consequential action of the mis-behaviour (correction). The dog learns that the action of not sitting brings about the consequential action of correction which “causes” the correct behaviour (sit) which brings about the consequential action of praise.
Abstractly expressed, it would look like this:
Shaping: Mechanical Placing®Desired behaviour®Praise
Training: Mechanical Placing + Command®
When commanded to sit the dog is faced with two choices. He may choose to sit with, or without correction. Which would you choose?