Installing the Off Switch
The Off-Switch is notoriously difficult in working dogs and positively trained operant critters. It appears that teaching them that their behavior creates and shapes their immediate and future consequences can lead to trouble controlling the flow of behavior. Who would have thunk it?
Having an off switch is a critical life skill for all working dogs, handlers, and teams. Not having an Off Switch means, by definition, you cannot turn the thing On at will. If you can’t turn the thing On at will (or Off), you don’t control the thing. This includes Engagement.
DOC – Dismiss | Observe | Capture – Not My Job…
Dismissal is a time to observe the dog. Linda runs her dogs. Kit, the Frisbee Dog is “being bad” wanting to play while we’re hanging out between sessions. That doesn’t sound like bad behavior to me, how about you? Linda makes things happen, as a person and as a trainer. Her ingrained and natural response is to make the dog stop with the ball.
But the dog is only doing the ball to get Linda’s attention and to make something happen. Linda’s interaction creates the interaction with Kit. Good, bad, or indifferent the Ball Mauling got her attention.
Linda has dismissed the dog and the only thing that will get her attention is dropping the ball and or looking at her. She has no responsibility at this time. She can afford to shape the behavior and because she has no responsibility she can honestly observe the dog and choose when she wants to interact and mark the criteria.
Dismissal gives the handler time and freedom to freeshape behavior and/or the energy level of interaction or situation.
Energy and Engagement Levels
The “Capture” part of DOC can. be used to shape and control energy levels and particular types of Engagement.
I can dismiss to make the dog higher. I can dismiss to keep the dog high. I can dismiss to slow the dog down and ease up the intensity of our training session. Etc, and on and on. Hope that makes sense – Dismissal can be used to create, maintain, and reinforce specific energy levels of play.
In addition to the general energy level of play a particular type of Engagement can be shaped. Aggressive, pushy, or assertive, behavior can be reinforced by selecting hard aggressive target criteria – the whiplash lookback, for instance, with fast and aggressive bite/roller reinforcement can be used to pump up lower drive dogs. Easy, softer criteria with low energy bite work or disc play can be selected to slow dogs down.
The criteria and type of reinforcement after the Capture can and does shape behavior, energy levels, and Drive.