Teaching Behaviors as Secondary Reinforcers

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Understanding reinforcement is the key to understanding how dogs learn. Reinforcement can be categorized as either primary or secondary. A primary reinforcer is a reinforcer that an animal needs to survive, such as food, water, or shelter. When you give your dog a treat for sitting on cue, you are using a primary reinforcer. However, when reinforced regularly, the “sit” behavior itself can become a secondary reinforcer.

Getting Started with Non-Food Reinforcers

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The effective use of non-food reinforcers is a critical skill that all trainers will likely use or need at some point in their training career. In this video, Ken Ramirez and his dog Marlin demonstrate the use of clapping as a conditioned reinforcer. Ken begins by teaching Marlin that clapping is associated with yummy food. Once Marlin associates clapping with reinforcement, Ken begins cueing behaviors and then clapping.

Creating a Two-Part Sequence

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If your dog is fluent in more than one behavior, those individual behaviors can be linked together by learned cues to form a sequence! This allows us to teach dogs more complex tasks, such as go to his mat and lie down, without pausing to reward him at every transition. It is also helpful in dog sports which requires a dog to perform a series of behaviors without stopping.

Thinking Outside the Treat Pouch: Secondary Reinforcers

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When you give your dog a treat for a job well done, you are using a primary reinforcer, which is something that an animal needs to survive (i.e., food, water, shelter). While food reinforcers can be extremely useful, adding non-food reinforcers, or secondary reinforcers, will help you expand your skill set by giving you alternatives for influencing behavior. This is a particularly useful tool when working with animals from a distance (competition training), managing exotic animals, performing husbandry behaviors, or any situation where it’s not safe or appropriate to use treats.

Training Another Species to Become a Better Dog Trainer

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Think you’re a great dog trainer? Try training a cat, bird, guinea pig, or horse! Training other species is not only fun, but it will ultimately improve your dog-training skills. Working with another species will hone your observations skills and sharpen mechanics such as clicker timing and reward delivery. Working with another species is an important part of the curriculum of Karen Pryor Academy’s Dog Trainer Professional and Dog Trainer Comprehensive courses! In this video, Dog Trainer Professional student Erica Grier, and Rambo the cat, demonstrate just how fun training another species can be!

Teach Clapping as a Secondary Reinforcer

Julie Gordon All, Homepage blog, News & Events Leave a Comment

When you give your dog a treat for a job well done, you are using a primary reinforcer, which is something that an animal needs to survive (i.e., food, water, shelter). While food reinforcers can be extremely useful, adding secondary reinforcers to the repertoire gives you alternatives for influencing behavior and expands the trainer skill set. Secondary reinforcers are reinforcers that the learner associates with primary reinforcers. Eventually, secondary reinforcers elicit similar responses to primary reinforcers through classical conditioning.