Shaping Engagement with Harbor

Engagement starts with Dismissal. You can’t ON without OFF. If you don’t control turning your dog OFF, you don’t have a good handle on Engagement. Aleaha & Harbor do some disc work featuring Dismissal and some capturing and shaping of Engagement from the environment.

DOC – Dismiss | Observe | Capture

This is a quick illustration of DOC, our Engagement protocol. DOC stands for Dismiss, Observer, Capture.

You dismiss the dog, observe the dog to gain intelligence for shaping then apply your knowledge and intelligence to capture behaviors that lead to working with the handler.

It is a solid protocol for Engagement, and it is obvious that Aleaha and Harbor have been working on it.

Quick Sessions Make Work Valuable and Fun

The intro session was perfect. Notice how long Harbor hung around hoping Aleaha was gonna play again? He was in it to win it, for sure. Early Dismissal means an additional repetition of releasing the environment to jam – another rep of Shaping Engagement. Each of these successfully shaped reengagements create a reward history of releasing the environment, making the release of the environment more likely to happen.

Quick sessions mean that the work is always engaging, successful, and exciting and always stops too soon, “If only she would let me play longer… I would SOOO play longer… I mean, it’s so much fun!”

Turning off the work quickly, while everyone is high and excited, creates value in that work. Work and interaction become an opportunity. Work is fun.

Change the Criteria, Change the Game

I mentioned above that Aleaha has been doing her homework. She’s been taking toys away from her dogs while playing, as prescribed, which includes putting a target out there for a moment, giving an opportunity for the dog to get it and taking it away if the dog doesn’t hop on the bite. But in this video we can see a bit of a hiccup in the game. The game she intended – get the disc quickly – turned into a game of – am I gonna get the disc or not. This made reinforcing a quick bite difficult and threatens to derail her jam.

This happens with that idea of “taking it away” from the dog, it is common to unintentionally teach to confuse the dog on triggers when working on other things, and “Stay Engaged with Me” is not just any other thing. It is easy to miss this situation starting to happen and to miss the solution or be too cautious to jump into a solution.

The answer is to change the criteria to something easily achieved and make it happen over and over again. Get the behavior you want to start happening and then hammer that.

Simply changing to base level criteria for the cued Bite, the removal from the hand, and reinforcing that a few times and the dog was viciously biting on cue. This cutting through the bullshit tactic of going to the base level expression of behavior with crude efficiency is a handy training tactic that can be used all over the place.

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