The seminar will outline the pros and cons of the five basic reward-training techniques: 1. Physical prompting, 2. Lure/reward training, 3. Shaping (often with a clicker), 4. All-or-none reward training and 5. Autoshaping. The main focus will be Lure/Reward Training — the quickest way to put behaviours on cue.

The science of lure/reward training pretty much comprises:

            1. Request, 2. Lure, 3. Response, 4. Reward.

When teaching a dog to perform a behavior on cue, we always know 1, 3 and 4. The art of dog training is discovering #2 — the most effective lure. A lure is a stimulus that reliably and instantly causes the dog to perform the desired behavior.

Off-leash Lure/Reward Training has three stages:

  1.        To phase out food lures
  2.        To phase out food rewards and replace them with life rewards
  3.        To increase reliability by calmly insisting on compliance

 STAGE ONE comprises teaching dogs what we want them to do, i.e., teaching dogs ESL — English as Second Language — teaching English (or Spanish or Japanese) words for doggy behaviors and actions so that we may instruct the dog what to do. Food lures are phased out once the dog learns the meaning of hand-signals — after only 6-12 trials in the very first training session. Simply instruct owners, “Put the food in your pocket, take one step back, ask the dog to come and then 1. Say, “Sit”, 2. With an empty hand, signal the dog to sit, 3. When the dog sits, 4. Praise the dog and throw a tennis ball or offer a food reward if the dog’s sit was above-average. Thus, hand-signals are used as lures to teach the dog the meaning of verbal commands. Once lures have been phased out, the basic training sequence becomes 1–3–4. In a sense, the Request has become a verbal lure.

STAGE TWO comprises motivating dogs to want to do what we want them to do. Ask More-for-Less, i.e., expect more behaviors for fewer food rewards, employing a Differential Reinforcement schedule from the outset — only rewarding the dog for above-average responses with better responses receiving better rewards and the best responses receiving the best rewards. Then completely phase out food rewards by replacing them with Life Rewards and Interactive Games

STAGE THREE comprises teaching the dog that on occasions he must comply without causing fear or pain. Even though a dog may understand the meaning of the verbal command and has been motivated to the max. to want to comply, there will be occasions when he doesn’t.  However, there are infrequent occasions when absolute compliance and reliability are essential for the dog’s wellbeing and safety. Now, before we start insisting on compliance, we need to objectively assess comprehension and motivation and objectively calculate response-reliability — how well does the dog understand the meaning of our instructions, how well have we motivated him to want to comply and how reliably he responds.