Spoilt dogs and intermittent ratios

Blog comment to Patricia McConnell about intermittent ratios of reinforcement.
By Laure-Anne Viselé, July 2010

Introduction

Big oooooops on my part in my approach to Roger’s training. Here I am preaching good training practices to the world, and I just got myself caught with a classic mistake: continuing to systematically use treats long after the behaviour is on cue.

Patricia McConnell wrote an aptly named article on a similar subject “What’s in it for me“, so I took my chances and wrote to her. I am curious to see what she suggests.

My comment

“Hi Patricia. Love your books, by the way.

Great article, thanks for posting it.
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I am having a related problem with Roger, my 5 year old fox terrier mix.
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I am hooked on rewarding with treats, and never seem to have the heart of thinning out my ratio. He has become treat-wise, and in a walk or any other setting, he soon susses out that it’ll be a voice-only reward day, and just doesn’t work that keenly. By work, I mean sitting or coming back when called. I don’t want to make my cues irrelevant, so I don’t like non-compliance situations.
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Thankfully, he hasn’t become habituated to the food rewards and continues to work keenly for even a measly piece of his normal kibble.
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I think half the problem is that he’s a shelter rescue and I guess I am overcompensating for his past of neglect.
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Thankfully, he is an extremely balanced dog and does not have any behaviour excesses of notes.
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How can I unhook myself from that vicious circle?
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Laure -Anne”

Any comments?

I would value your comments if you have an opinion to share on the subject.

  • Are you encountering the same difficulty in switching to an intermittent schedule?
  • Do you also have the tendency to spoil your shelter dog to compensate for its past?
  • Have you tried some techniques successfully?

Don’t be shy, put it out there, leave a comment.
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