Rewarding with Action

Tough Luck

At Pawsitive Vybe, Dogs don’t earn cookies, they earn the opportunity for cookies. When the mark leads to opportunity, dog’s are conditioned to take advantage of the situation to take advantage of their opportunity.

If the dog drops a cookie and doesn’t care enough to pick it up, we’re not going to go deliver it to them. It’s like a paycheck… if you don’t want to cash it, your boss isn’t going to take it to the bank and cash it for you.

If we present a cookie as reinforcement and the dog doesn’t go after it, we take it away. They’ll go after the cookie the next time. If we mark a behavior and the dog doesn’t pursue their cookie, we’re not giving it to them. We’ll take it away and try again. A missed opportunity is a valuable teaching tool.

We’re using a positive marker to ensure that the dog knows the moment they are correct and have the opportunity to get a cookie. If the handler gives the mark at the appropriate time, and the dog chooses to not go after that cookie, the dog still knows what part of the behavior earned him access to that cookie. A consequence of zero opportunity for a moment ought to contrast nicely. Our dog will start to take advantage of the opportunities presented to them.

Handler as Opportunity

Rewarding with Action helps the dog to understand that working with their handler is an opportunity that should be seized upon. The dogs will start to perform behaviors in order to gain the opportunity to work with the handler. We can transform the opportunity for work into a secondary reinforcer meaning that the dog is going to seize the opportunity to work with the handler just as they would seize a cookie. It also means that they will work in order to work with us. This is a titanic reframe of work for many dogs with ‘low drive’.

Try This

Work one (or all) of this weeks drills with this technique – Mark Eye Contact and Reward with the Action of doing of your Set Up Moves, a Cross, Bite, or Parlor Trick, then reinforce that Action with a Throw or a Cookie.
Max time: 3 minutes

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  1. There is the video with Lupo’s bitework
    Tried it with tug&war ropes which dont bang on the floor (removed the beds too) and the craziness faded. I also presented the opportunity right after marking the teeth off with the “bravo” (Yes!) and he was dropping. I guess no more frisbees in the house until I get a soft surface for the floor. Let me know if you spot anything else too. I am sure there are plenty of stuff in there that need I need to work with.
    Thanks Ron,
    PS: Well spoted with the floor! For two months I just couldnt spot it,

  2. This makes so much sense!! I tried it this morning with the foundational positioning excercise and asking for eye contact each time was huge! It helped Strider to refocus between each move rather than get all over my hand for the next cookie!

    1. Right on, Sarah!

      I like to freeshape eye contact, mark it, then reinforce that eye contact with the opportunity to perform the skill I’m trying to get the dog to do.

      I find that this helps to manage the flow of the session as well as the stability of the dog, and it also pushes the idea that this new skill is a cookie.

      Glad you got that.

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