Choosing a good reinforcer
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Choosing a Good Reinforcer. We can break up reinforcers into two categories Primary-Anything the dog finds intrisically valuable and is needed to survive. Food, water, shelter. Food for this course

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Choosing a Good Reinforcer

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Choosing a good reinforcer

Choosing a Good Reinforcer


Choosing a good reinforcer1

We can break up reinforcers into two categories

  • Primary-Anything the dog finds intrisically valuable and is needed to survive. Food, water, shelter. Food for this course

  • Secondary- Anything that is paired with a primary that gains value over time. This can really be anything you can think of but we’ll stick with pets, praise and play

Choosing a Good Reinforcer


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Please read: Don’t Bring a Knife to a Gunfight

  • The type of food reward you select MUST have the motivational equivalent to the level of distraction

  • Distractions can be broken up into the following categories

    • No Distractions, Low, Medium and High

Choosing a Good Reinforcer


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No Distractions- An environment where the dog doesn’t seem to pay attention to its’ surroundings

  • Inside your home, familiar surroundings around your home etc.

    Low- An environment where your dog pays a little attention to its’ surroundings

  • Outside on walks, somewhat familiar territory like neighborhood stores that you go into frequently

Choosing a Good Reinforcer


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Medium- An environment where your dog spends more time focusing on objects in the surrounding area but is still able to focus on you

High- An environment where your dog spends most or all of its’ time energetically focused on objects in the surrounding area and has a difficult time not reacting to them

Choosing a Good Reinforcer


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  • Note: All distractions are subjective and will cause different reactions in different dogs. It’s up to you to determine what is “triggering” your dog to react to a certain distraction

  • If you think your dog is experiencing fear or could potentially become aggressive then contact Chris and schedule a time to talk

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  • Note: Just as all distractions are subjective, the same can be said about all reinforcers. Not all dogs will go crazy for prime rib and some dogs will do just about anything for kibble…it’s up to you to determine the VALUE of each reinforcer

  • Value Levels of reinforcers are low, medium and high

  • Value levels of reinforcers should always be determined by your dog and you should never assume that your dog will work for it.

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Low-Your dog will work for it if there are little or no distractions.

  • Kibble, some biscuits

    Medium- Your dog will work for it in somewhat challenging situations but will still check out from time to time.

  • Soft, meaty treats

    High-Your dog will readily work for these in pretty much any situation (as long as there is evidence of fearful or overtly aggressive behavior.

  • Hot dogs, chicken, canned food

Choosing a Good Reinforcer


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  • You always want to make sure you are using the right reinforcer or blend of reinforcers for each situation.

  • If you are using something that is too high value then you run the risk of reducing the value of your other reinforcers

  • Always strive to use the lowest value reinforcer in any situation while still maintaining good behavioral control

  • Please read: “Forming a Reinforcement Exit Strategy”

Choosing a Good Reinforcer


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