Rewarding with Action

Tough Luck

At Pawsitive Vybe, Dogs don’t earn cookies, they earn the opportunity for cookies. When the mark leads to opportunity, dog’s are conditioned to take advantage of the situation to take advantage of their opportunity.

If the dog drops a cookie and doesn’t care enough to pick it up, we’re not going to go deliver it to them. It’s like a paycheck… if you don’t want to cash it, your boss isn’t going to take it to the bank and cash it for you.

If we present a cookie as reinforcement and the dog doesn’t go after it, we take it away. They’ll go after the cookie the next time. If we mark a behavior and the dog doesn’t pursue their cookie, we’re not giving it to them. We’ll take it away and try again. A missed opportunity is a valuable teaching tool.

We’re using a positive marker to ensure that the dog knows the moment they are correct and have the opportunity to get a cookie. If the handler gives the mark at the appropriate time, and the dog chooses to not go after that cookie, the dog still knows what part of the behavior earned him access to that cookie. A consequence of zero opportunity for a moment ought to contrast nicely. Our dog will start to take advantage of the opportunities presented to them.

Handler as Opportunity

Rewarding with Action helps the dog to understand that working with their handler is an opportunity that should be seized upon. The dogs will start to perform behaviors in order to gain the opportunity to work with the handler. We can transform the opportunity for work into a secondary reinforcer meaning that the dog is going to seize the opportunity to work with the handler just as they would seize a cookie. It also means that they will work in order to work with us. This is a titanic reframe of work for many dogs with ‘low drive’.

Try This

Work one (or all) of this weeks drills with this technique – Mark Eye Contact and Reward with the Action of doing of your Set Up Moves, a Cross, Bite, or Parlor Trick, then reinforce that Action with a Throw or a Cookie.
Max time: 3 minutes