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Variable Positive Reinforcement Schedules

For those of you who believe that you don't have to yell, hit, or abuse your animal in anyway to train them, this article is right up your alley. I have a surefire way so you can get what you want without the abuse and this method will last the lifetime of the dog. It is based in sound psychological principals and one does not have to be a rocket scientist to use it. There are four items needed to be able to use this method.

One is small bits of cooked liver. The second item is hands to be able to get the liver into the dog's mouth. The third item is a baggy (small plastic bag you can place in a pocket in a shirt). The fourth item is verbal praise when the dog does what we want. Doesn't sound to complicated so far does it? First let's investigate why liver.

If you notice the first items that are eaten by a predator (carnivore) when they down an animal is the innards. The innards are eaten first because they are the first to go bad and they have tremendous nutritional value to keep the carnivore satisfied until he has to hunt again. The liver that is purchased at your local grocery store will have the same effect on your dog. They will not be able to resist it and the power of the liver over the dog will help us accomplish what we need to do. The liver can be cooked anyway you want: fried, baked, roasted, whatever suits your pleasure. It should be soft to the touch whereby you can cut it in 1/4" wide X 1/4" long squares. That was your first item.

The second item I don't think needs explaining, hands will do it just fine. The third item is a little tricky. You need a place to put the liver when you need it so a front pocket of a shirt is a great place but so you don't ruin all your shirts, I suggest putting the baggy in the shirt pocket. Thereby the liver can be placed in the baggy, it is accessible, and you don't ruin your shirts.

The fourth item, and it must be done religiously, verbal praise when the behavior is accomplished.

Now for the easy part. Let us use the sit for an example. Everytime when you are teaching the sit and the act has been completed immediately positively reward your dog with a piece of liver. This constantly rewarding the dog with the liver will set up a baseline. A baseline is, to the dog, every time I do a sit I get this great treat. Every dog is different but usually around 50-80 treats will establish a great baseline. Now let me explain why we cannot keep giving a treat every time the dog does what we want (for instance the sit). If we continue to stretch out the baseline (continually giving the food) and we stop giving the food within a short amount of time the dog will stop doing the sit (the behavior will extinct). We don't want that and we also don't want to continue cooking liver for the rest of our lives. So here is the trick.

A variable positive reinforcement schedule (VPRS) will make the command we have taught the dog become rock-hard. He will never stop doing the command once it has been set in baseline. After the baseline has been established we then will dole out the liver variably. In other words the dog does the sit, we then right after baseline praise the dog (which we have been doing right along, verbal praise) and don't give the liver. The next time we give the liver. We withhold the liver for two times, then give on the third. We withhold the liver for five times then give the liver. We are going to work this system up until we are only giving the liver every one hundred times, but continue with the variables. The behavior will never extinct because the dog never knows when the liver is coming and will enact the taught behavior every time.

This VPRS can be used for any taught behavior. It can be used to stop bad behaviors. It works every time without fail.

Written by Neal Seaman

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2810 Wise Road, Conway, South Carolina 29526
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