Shape the Classical Condition and Maintain and Manage Operant Drive with Enriched Marking | a Play+ Sneak Peek

A textbook positive marker, always followed by a discrete cookie is an initiative transfer from handler to dog.

When a traditional positive marker is given, directly followed by a discrete cookie the dog has satisfied the process, achieved the subjective aim, and seized the initiative: Carpe Cookie!

Enriched Marking via Play+ allows markers to be given without ceding initiative and also allows the Dog | Handler | Team to shape a desired classically conditioned tone and to build, manage, and maintain drive and engagement.

Enriched Marking with Inceptive and Expectant Markers creates a dynamic communication system that takes advantage of the dipolar mental-physical pole structure of Play+ allowing the handler to increase or reduce the challenge, focus on the skill, or manage drive simply by choosing how the cookie happens after the marker.

Expectant Markers – Mental Pole

In the Play+ methodology, expectant markers are a form of communication between the handler and the dog that serve to both acknowledge a performed behavior and indicate that another behavior or opportunity is imminent. They create an expectancy within the dog for the next piece of interaction. An expectant marker is not a reward in itself but rather an assurance that the desired opportunity for play or work is coming. It’s a way of saying, “Good job, now get ready for what’s next!” This creates expectancy in the dog to resolve the ambiguity and keeps them engaged and eager to achieve the next part of the game or training session. This proves that Next! is a cookie.

To deliver an Expectant Marker, simply give your positive marker (or a wait as a marker) and pause until you get Attention. Reinforce Attention with the next cue, trigger, or discrete cookie. That’s it. 

Experience Initiative Transfers

The Expectant Marker maintains the Handler’s initiative and teaches the dog how to pass the initiative off to the handler at the appropriate time or when the team’s aim is unknown.

For example, in the game of “This, Wait… Next!”, the “Wait” serves as an expectant marker. It is delivered when the feet hit the pedestal, as a marker. Wait is a potential Trigger. So what’s gonna happen?

The handler wait’s for Attention. This creates a moment of Aporia, a cooperative impasse, that the dog resolves by looking to the handler and achieves the presentation of the next behavior or opportunity. This pause generates expectancy, an expectancy for what’s next that needs to be resolved.

Inceptive Markers – Physical Pole

Derived from the Latin “incipere,” meaning to grasp, take to hand, or begin, “Inceptive” captures the idea of a marker that communicates the successful achievement of the pieces of behavior while allowing us to grasp it or bring them ready-to-hand. Inceptive Marking signals the beginning of Next in the successful termination of Now.

When the dog-handler team is performing at its best, the details of their actions and behaviors become transparent – both to them and to observers. This transparency makes it difficult to analyze and understand what exact elements are contributing to the success. It’s as if the performance becomes a seamless, undifferentiated flow where individual actions and behaviors merge into a coherent whole. This poses a challenge for training as it becomes harder to isolate and replicate these successful elements.

To deliver an Inceptive Marker, simply mark a key criteria in the chain and reinforce with the next behavior in the chain or a consequent presentation of the next cue.

Inceptive Marking: Making Things Ready-to-Hand and Ready-to-Paw

By highlighting key actions and moments, inceptive marking acts as a guide, bringing skills and behaviors ready-to-hand for the handler and ready-to-paw for the dog. The use of inceptive markers directs the focus of both handler and dog to the important aspects of performance, fostering a deeper understanding of the sequence and purpose of each behavior in a chain. This anticipatory marking cultivates a shared rhythm in the play, enriching the cooperative aspect of the Dog | Handler | Team dynamic and supporting the continued development of skills.

Same Old Marker – Novel Consequences | Achievement, Initiative

These are not new markers. They’re just a positive marker or “Wait” or the next cue given in the timing and spirit of a positive marker, the enrichment is in how the cookie goes down.

Expectant Markers leave the game up in the air with no resolution to be had. The dog mentally and physically participates in solving the conundrum by handing over the initiative to the handler and eagerly awaiting the Potential Trigger. Exciting stuff, who knows what’s gonna happen…

Inceptive Markers are used to drive the physical pole and to avoid initiative transfers while allowing the dog to move on and continue to achieve. This is where we crank out successful reps of the behavior to make things exciting.

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