Notes from ClickerExpo (Friday)

January 24, 2011 at 3:49 am 21 comments

This was my very first time at a ClickerExpo – a major annual animal training event – and my brain has been bursting with information and new ideas for Dog Training-related drawings!

For those who want a short and clear summary of what Clicker Training is, here’s one good article.

Sarah our trainer was there and I met some really nice people. To my Doggie Drawings clients and Boogie’s blog readers, you were probably there too and if I had known what you look like, I would’ve said hello!

It was so great to be at an event with dogs present. I didn’t bring Boogie because, as you know… he’s a reactive fella, and he would’ve been insanely bored during the seminars 🙂

Many of the seminars that I was interested in were scheduled at the same times so it was hard to decide which one to go to.  If time and money were no object (and if I didn’t miss Boogie too much) I would have registered for the full three days and spent the weekend at Newport Beach.

Karen Pryor : Opening speech.

It was such a blast to see and hear  Karen Pryor in person. I loved her book “Reaching The Animal Mind” which is what inspired me to learn about clicker training in the first place. 

Karen showed a video of a clicker-trained rhino doing a SIT, DOWN and ROLL OVER (!)- which was a great example of training without the use of physical contact or force …not something that you can do anyway with animals way larger and deadlier than the average reactive dog.  The thing that fascinates me so much about Clicker Training is the claim that it works for ALL animals… wild ones, tame ones, zoo animals, farm animals, and even your regular household fish.

This kit was sold at the ClickerExpo store.

Seminar 1: Cecelie Koste – CLICKERTRAINING 101

As much as I wanted to sit in on Ken Ramirez’s talk on “Aggression” which everyone was raving about afterwards, I am really glad I chose Cecelie Koste’s Foundation Level seminar  because…wow,  I finally understand the language that dog trainers use!!! Cecelie was very clear in explaining all the concepts of Operant Conditioning, and how these apply to the Clicker Training methodology. I loved the video examples and I took a ton of notes, which I will eventually re-share on this blog as drawings.

First, Cecelie explained the difference between Classical Conditioning (developed by Pavlov, for changing emotions) and Operant Conditioning (developed by Skinner for changing behaviors). The latter is what Clicker Training is based on.

There are some Operant Conditioning concepts that I have always struggled with, and I know that I am not alone. Whenever trainers mention the terms Positive Reinforcement, Positive Punishment, Negative Reinforcement, and Negative Punishment as the Four Quadrants of Operant Conditioning,  it is SO HARD not to think of “Positive” as meaning “Good” and “Negative” as meaning “Bad”, when these are really abstract terms that refer to the act of  “Adding something”(+) or “Subtracting something”(-) in the training process.  Similarly, the term “Punishment” means “decreasing a behavior” and not the act of doing something nasty.

A lightbulb went off in my head yesterday morning. The way I understand it now is that these consequences WORK IN TANDEM, AS PAIRS.

The way Cecelie explained it, Positive Reinforcement works in tandem with Negative Punishment, and Positive Punishment works in tandem with Negative Reinforcement. Personally, I don’t get why they still have to be thought of as “quadrants”… It’s easier to remember them as twosomes.

Cecelie Koste:

Positive (+)  Reinforcement = Adding GOOD STUFF that your dog will work for. Treats, praise, petting, toys, sniffing, etc. to increase a behavior.
Negative (-) Punishment = Removing or Delaying the GOOD STUFF (treats, praise, petting etc) to decrease a behavior. Like a “Time Out”

Positive (+) Punishment = Adding BAD STUFF like shocks, pinches, leash pops, scolding etc to decrease a behavior.
Negative (-) Reinforcement: = Delaying or Escaping the BAD STUFF (shocks, leash pops, scolding etc)  to increase a behavior. Like a “Warning”

Furthermore, here’s what I picked up — there are always TWO BEHAVIORS  going on at the same time if one is being reinforced and one is being punished.

[click on picture to see it larger]

Even though this all seems like common sense from my own varied training experiences with Boogie, it is interesting to get a scientific breakdown.

With the +R/-P training – the dog walks on loose leash because he gets to move forward and get paid with food. With the +P/-R training – the dog walks on loose leash because he is avoiding having his neck choked. The first pair of consequences +R/-P is what Clicker Training is about and  has been proven to be much more effective than +P/-R because the dog remains happy, un-stressed, and eager to learn.

Cecelie talked about the concepts of Extinction and Variable Schedule of Reinforcement and how it contributes to Shaping new behaviors.  Other concepts covered: PRIMARY & SECONDARY REINFORCERS, HULL’s DRIVE THEORY, THE PREMACK PRINCIPLE, CUES, why BACKCHAINING is more effective than FORWARD CHAINING (Boogie and I have done some backchaining work with Sarah – scroll down). Like I said, more food for thought –> more ideas for illustrations! 🙂

Seminar 2: Kathy Sdao – On SHAPING

Kathy Sdao is such an amazing, enthusiastic, passionate and entertaining speaker! Never a dull moment. I have watched some of her DVD seminars but this live presentation was so much better. Quotes and notes to follow.

The ABC of training:  Antecendent –> Behavior –> Consequence

“We can’t manipulate behavior directly. We can manipulate events just before (Antecedents) and just after (Consequences) a behavior.”

“The most fundamental law of behavior is that Consequences drive Behavior”. Which I guess is like saying that we work in order to get paid, not because we were asked to. Or that Boogie barks at the mailman not because of anything the mailman did, but because the barking *causes* the mailman to go away. I can see that this applies to the BAT work that Boogie and I have been doing, where the “consequences” = “functional rewards”.

99% of “Stubbornness” is trained. Clicker training gives the animal a sense of AGENCY. “I made her click!”. It teaches animals that they have control, they can change their world.

“Shaping is the heart and soul of clicker training”.

Prerequisites for Shaping behavior:
1. Clear goal behavior, visually and verbally.
2. What is the 1st criterion that is clickable? Choose something that he already does.
3. Ability to SEE.
4. Click-Treat mechanical skills… click precisely, and click often.
5. Click MOVEMENT. “The Dead Dog Rule”: don’t click non-behavior (eg, silence or stillness)
6. A hungry and confident animal
7. Very small delicious treats

Kathy demonstrated a Shaping/targeting exercise with a dog in the audience (she placed a bottle down on the floor in front of the dog) and it was kinda funny to see this little pup Olivia do some of  the same stuff that Boogie does. Several times, Olivia sat down and waited for the treat instead of moving forward to offer new behaviors. (Yay! My dog is not a freak!) I loved that Kathy explained what her own mistakes were in this exercise, which shows that even a veteran master animal trainer isn’t perfect. 🙂

Seminar 3: Kay Laurence – On MICROSHAPING

I had registered myself for a Learning Labs Workshop with Kathy Sdao to see real live dogs being shaped but at the last minute I changed my mind and attended Kay Laurence’s seminar instead… mainly because I was curious to get another perspective on the same subject.

Kay was very impressive and funny (very dry British humor) and had very strong opinions on the Ethics of dog training.

Training should be Learner-Centric, not Behavior-Centric.” ie, just because you can train it doesn’t mean you should. Kay Laurence is not a fan of YouTube videos of dogs trained to walk on their two front legs. “Shaping is working with a natural movement, not teaching an unnatural one”. (I wonder if she is referring to Neo and Tuxedo…) Kay believes that a lot of training is done for the trainer’s ego or with no respect for the animal.  One example being female animals who are trained to stand perfectly still for breeding purposes… 😦

She is also not a fan of the “101 things with a box” game or “freeshaping” because it lessens the effectiveness of teaching precise behaviors and causes confusion for the dogs.

A lot of the  stuff she talked about was perhaps too advanced for me…  Most of the technical details went way over my head and perhaps are more relevant to dog owners who do Obedience competitions and have to get very precise “beautiful” behaviors from their dogs.

“Shaping is 90% planning and 10% training”. *Yep, the planning part is the hardest for me!

It is better to do 10 x 1 minute sessions, than 1 x 10 minute session. There has to be a clear agenda for each session.

You want a high 95% success rate. “Success is measured by the rate of reinforcement not the speed at which the final behavior is achieved”. The dog is reinforced frequently, for tiny increments of improvement.

From what I understand, Kay’s “Microshaping” method is not so much about shaping or clicking the outcomes. (eg, dog touches ball) It focuses on shaping the micromovements –  accurate, refined muscle movements (dog lifts paw) so that the dog is very clear on what he is doing and you get high quality behaviors.  She showed a few videos where a dog was clicked for repeatedly moving his paw to a specific position. And then she added the target object in the same place where his paw would go and clicked the dog for putting his paw on the object. A different protocol from the one where you first present the target object in front of the dog, then click his movements towards it.. as Kathy Sdao had done. (Sarah and I have done something similar with Boogie)

She also showed videos of a dog standing on dome-things (targets) and pointed out the different muscles moving on the dog’s body when she changed the positions of the targets. Whoa. I guess one would need a really expert understanding of a dog’s physiology and natural movement patterns to train this way.

Kay Laurence:  “Some people taste a dish and know how to cook it. I can look at a behavior and know how to teach it.”

All in all, that was a fantastic learning experience, and if money were no object next year, I would do it again!

Entry filed under: Events, Training.

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21 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Susan Kennedy  |  January 24, 2011 at 4:41 am

    So glad you went to Expo…and what great choices of workshops…great descriptions…I’ll be at the Chicago Expo..can’t wait.
    Susan and Luna(we love the art you did for us)

    • 2. lili  |  January 24, 2011 at 5:49 am

      Hi Susan, I wondered if you were there! Would’ve loved to have said hi in person!

  • 3. barrielynn  |  January 24, 2011 at 4:49 am

    Totally awesome recap!! And, completely cool that you so dug my two favorite presenters from last year’s CE: Kay Laurence and Kathy Sdao 🙂 I wonder how Kathy Sdao feels about Click To Calm by Emma Parsons who presented at last year’s Expo with her idea that you do not click non-active behaviors? I have some issues with that I honestly wanted to take clickers away from people at last year’s conference because I felt they were ‘dulling their scalpels’ clicking non-behaviors LOL!!

    • 4. lili  |  January 24, 2011 at 5:52 am

      Hi Barrie, That’s an interesting point re: clicking non-active behaviors. I think this is why I like BAT for reactivity because I am clicking movements. Boogie always appears calm. Even when he is in fact tense and about to bite someone. He’s not a vocal dog.

      Interestingly this year there was a rule about not using clickers at the expo so you would’ve enjoyed it 🙂 No clicks at all!

      • 5. barrielynn  |  January 24, 2011 at 2:13 pm

        I think overall I get more bang from my buck doing an in depth seminar with just one person but yeah, the no clicking at all would be GREAT! Maybe next year they will allow only useful clicks 😉

  • 6. Crystal  |  January 24, 2011 at 4:53 pm

    Thanks for the notes! I’m going to ClickerExpo in Chicago in March and just can’t decide what to see… and this made it harder! Now I want to see Kay Laurence’s microshaping, but I was planning on going to Top OTCH…. oh, decisions!

    • 7. lili  |  January 25, 2011 at 12:28 am

      Thanks for commenting, Crystal. I think Sarah (our trainer) went to Top OTCH. I will be picking her brains on her ClickerExpo experience.

  • 8. Andre  |  January 24, 2011 at 7:32 pm

    So glad to see you went, even for just a portion. It really is good value for the money so perhaps the best money to spend on workshops/lectures you could have done this year. Also so glad to see a dog owner go and get stuff out of it and finally understand what the 4 quadrants of operant conditioning really mean. 😉 I mostly just teach ABC to new students.

    • 9. lili  |  January 25, 2011 at 12:27 am

      Hi Andre, I am glad that I went! I am not sure I fully understand the 4 quads if given different training scenarios… it’s complicated stuff! For instance I have been told that Negative Reinforcement isn’t always *BAD*… or necessarily paired with Positive Punishment….
      ABC – this, I understand 🙂

      • 10. Andre  |  January 25, 2011 at 4:37 am

        yes, -R is not always bad. BAT is -R in fact. One can go crazy worrying about what quadrant one is using so for the most part, ABC is a more useful model for not going crazy!

  • 11. barrielynn  |  January 24, 2011 at 7:37 pm

    Your 4 Quadrants drawing is drawing 😉 a lot of comments on Clicker Solutions:

    • 12. lili  |  January 25, 2011 at 12:24 am

      Thanks for letting me know, Barrie! I am joining this group now…

  • 13. Lee Carr  |  February 2, 2011 at 10:32 pm

    I believe the reason why the quadrants are so hard to grasp is because when you explain -P, I think you are “taking away the dogs access to reinforcement”, so -R… but your way of explaining it makes it easier to remember -P.
    Thanks for the drawings. I’m enrolled in Karen Pryor Academy and I think your pictures do a better job of explaining than some of the course content!

    • 14. lili  |  February 2, 2011 at 10:44 pm

      Hi Lee, thanks for commenting! And thank you for the compliment!
      I think the leash-pulling problem is easy to grasp in terms of the 4 quadrants but if you gave me another behavior scenario, I’d probably struggle with the concept. For me, the Positive/Negative distinction is harder to grasp. I GET that a behavior is being encouraged or discouraged… but the adding/removing distinction kinda depends on WHOSE behavior we’re talking about – the dog’s? or the trainer’s? Right?

      • 15. Crystal  |  February 2, 2011 at 11:12 pm

        I agree- the quadrants are really confusing, especially since they often work in tandem.

        As for the adding/removing distinction, it refers to what is happening to the subject (ie, the dog). So, is the dog getting something? Then it’s positive. Is he losing something? Then it’s negative. Does that make sense?

  • 16. lili  |  February 7, 2011 at 7:39 pm

    Hi Crystal –

    Yes, that makes sense.

    Though, it’s possible for more than one quadrant to work at the same time, right? For example, when I lead Boogie away from the trigger, I get that this is Negative reinforcement because the source of stressed is ‘removed’ but it’s clear that the rewards of space and food are being ‘added’ at the same time so it feels more like R+ for Boogie, and R- for me.

    • 17. Crystal  |  February 7, 2011 at 7:44 pm

      Yes, the quadrants ALSO work together. I typically don’t worry too much about which quandrant I’m in. While I enjoy thinking about the science, while I’m actually training, I just focus on increasing or decreasing a behavior, and I do it in dog-friendly ways. It hurts my head less that way! 🙂

  • […] Four Quadrants of Operant Conditioning Image by lili.chin My ClickerExpo experience:… *UPDATE: Negative Reinforcement isn't necessarily BAD. Some trainers say that it should be […]

  • […] My ClickerExpo experience:… […]

  • […] film is by Jessi Badami, whom I met at Clicker Expo last year. We sat next to each other in the Kay Laurence seminar, chatted, exchanged business cards, and kept […]

  • […] The Four Quadrants of Operant Conditioning Image by lili.chin My ClickerExpo experience:… […]


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