Station Training. It’s not just for sea lions! – by Helix Fairweather
This is PART 2 of a new series of guests posts by the trainers at CyberDogOnline.com, an online (clicker) dog training workshop that Boogie and I were enrolled in last year. This continues from PART 1: Premack Pearls. Read my personal review of the Cyber Dog Online course in this earlier blog post.
STATION TRAINING. IT’S NOT JUST FOR SEA LIONS! – by Helix Fairweather
Look closely at the two dogs in the photo! While they appear to be two cute dogs (which they are!) sitting on little chairs (which they are!), they are also two dogs who have been trained to wait “on station” while the other dog is being trained.
BJ (now at the Bridge) is the dog on the right; Marcus is the dog on the left. Both boys are Havanese and both boys *LOVE* training!
Have you had the experience of trying to clicker train one dog while the other one fusses, vocalizes and carries on in his crate because he wants to be part of the action? Many people have written to me with that exact problem.
The Premack Principle to the rescue! The Premack Principle (thank you, Dr. Premack) tells us that we can use a behavior that is very likely to happen to reinforce (i.e. make stronger) a behavior that is not intially very likely to happen. When I started the station training with BJ and Marcus, it was clearly not likely either one would remain on his chair if the other were getting clicks and treats. However, it was very likely that either dog would zoom in upon hearing his name and eagerly participate in training.
Clearly, I had a great Premack setup. The dogs want very much to be the working dog. Any time your dog wants something Very Much (and that something is allowable), you have a Premack situation in the making.
To put the Premack Principle to work, I needed the dogs to be able to jump up on their chairs on cue and to be able to leave their chairs on a release cue – so a little foundation training is necessary first. Marcus was the first “working” dog. The “working” dog is the one who will be on his feet in a training session. I chose a very simple behavior – not something new, not something complicated, but rather something simple that he knew very well – a nose touch to the hand is a good choice!
Even though Marcus was the “working” dog, the dog who is really being trained is the dog on station! To start with, I cued BJ onto the chair and immediately started offering my hand and cueing Marcus to “touch”, click/treat. At first, I cued Marcus for only one “touch”/click/treat. If BJ was lying down on the chair, I would cue “OK” to release him from the chair, followed by a cue to Marcus to get onto the chair.
Round and round we went – “on the chair”, do a rep of hand touch with the “working” dog, “OK” to release the dog-on-station, “on the chair” for the other dog and so on.
The reinforcer for being the dog-on-station was the opportunity to become the working dog.
The reinforcer for being the dog-on-station was the opportunity to become the working dog. It’s a bit of a coordination challenge at first – perhaps a good idea is to practice without the dogs so you can get the order worked out!
After a few rounds, I started extending the “working” dog’s training time. What I watched for now was any sign from the dog-on-station that indicated he was settling into being on the chair. The *instant* I saw a sign of settling in = “OK” to release him from the chair and wham! he was now the “working” dog.
It took only a handful of sessions for these two dogs to get it – that being on station meant you would soon become the working dog. And that, dear readers, is the utter power of Premack.