Last weekend I was fortunate enough to have been able to attend Jane Arden’s level 1 workshop on clicker training a reliable recall and controlling chase behaviour. This is something close to my heart as Mossy is a be fan of chasing fast moving objects (cyclists, joggers…even prams!). While I have managed to get this under control using high value treats I was still curious about why she did this.
Jane gave a very interesting and informative talk with a practical element in the afternoon where the training exercises could be practised with those who brought their dogs along.
Jane talked about predatory chase and the motor patterns that are involved in this, eye-stalk-chase-grab bite-kill bite-dissect-consume. Luckily most dogs stop the sequence before kill bite! She then went on to talk about breed specific differences for herders, terriers, gundogs and mixed breeds. In relation to Mossy (a collie cross) this would explain her chasing behaviour as border collies tend to have a motor pattern of eye-stalk-chase! This reiterates the work of Raymond and Lorna Coppinger in their book ‘Dogs’ which is well worth a read as it looks at dog behaviour from the point of view of a biologist.
Two types of rewards were discussed, our rewards which are used to reinforce behaviour (like treats ect) and environmental rewards (which most people would call distractions). Environmental rewards involve the chase of deer and hare, as well as other less appealing things like eating animal poo! Because these environmental rewards (especially chase) can be so enjoyable it is hard to reinforce recall using our rewards. Jane provided a different way of looking at how to increase our rewards by trying to incorporate predatory games. This could be done by chucking treats and allowing the dog to sniff it out or throwing it and getting them to catch it, helping to tap into their motor patterns of sniffing and chasing.
Building a Strong Reward System
- Test rewards for effectiveness (what rewards work best…ball, cheese, ham, fish??)
- Have a varied set of rewards
- Spend time strengthening rewards
- Try to make your rewards predatory (chucking and allowing to sniff out or catch)
- Use conditioning to increase your set of rewards
- Toys can be paired with predatory games
- Add duration to rewards (longer play or giving more than one treat)
This is just a small taster of the things that jane talked about so if you are interested in knowing more keep an eye out for her workshops!