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Kay Laurence | Learning About Dogs | Long duration delays

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The Effect of Anticipation

Example: Long delay reinforcers

first published July 2018

– outline

During the 1980s I was involved in training dogs for search and rescue on the hills in South Wales.
These hill areas are all populated with sheep and/or birds and tourist-walkers that are in need of rescue.
Many of the dogs selected for rescue work are of sheepdog heritage, either collies or shepherd types.

Training among sheep

Author: KL

It was quite common to have a dog undergo several months of training for the search and indication behaviour and then when exposed to working in the hill environment begin to take an interest in stock work. This is likely to end their career as working in this hill areas is with permission from the sheep farmers.

Young dogs would be trained early with many ball and tug games, from 8-24 weeks old. This games is then used to teach the indication behaviour. The toy would then be taken away by the casualty who along with the training would play with the dog on a successful find.

During the playing games the dog would be exposed to the scent of sheep, either playing where sheep were recently grazing and gradually building the exposure to playing in a field of sheep.

The long-term effect is the use of the scent of sheep to maintain an anticipation of the game-with-people which can be achieved when the person/casualty is found. This was successful provided the dog’s early learning in the sheep field is maintained and reinforcement on find and indication is 100%. Dogs would be searching for up to 2 hours.

This protocol can be used in similar situations where a dog is exposed to a foreseeable cue, and that cue or environment used to anticipate a strong event.

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