Following up on my previous post, I have had two sessions with Siog. We did some work at liberty and she was brilliant. She stayed with me, interested and connected. Snap on the lead rope and I definitely felt resistance at times. Interesting!
I am collecting data - trying small exercises to collect information about how she acts. I believe I may have inadvertently "poisoned" a cue during our sessions and that is why she is offering resistance at times. A poisoned cue is when you mix positve reinforcement with an aversive.
Picture Siog and I walking down the road. Now and then I click and reinforce her for maintaining a good pace, or staying beside me, slowing down when I ask her to, stopping ... any number of things. Well done!
But, Siog, like any youngster, has her wily ways and she might decide to grind to a halt in the middle of the road (whhhhy?) or lag a bit and then nip behind me, tork her head and drag us to the side of the road (whaaaat?) or (and this is even worse, so you'd better sit down ...) she will occasionally bite me!
Sometimes, this catches me off guard so I don't stop her in time, and sometimes (oh-oh here comes the confession ...) I get annoyed with her (rarely but it can happen.) Good clicker trainers never get annoyed! Good clicker trainers don't react, they have strategy for refocusing, redirecting, backing up and shaping in successive approximations. As I become more educated in positive reinforcement, better at mechanical skills and more clicker savvy, I am able to put all these great things to work but any aversive, bad or delayed reaction on my part can screw things up and this is called a poisoned cue.
Katie Bartlett sums it up really well, from:
understand the significance of poisoned cues for clicker trainers, you have to understand that in
clicker training, a cue means that if the animal performs a certain behavior in
response to the presented cue, it can earn reinforcement. A poisoned cue
means that when the cue is presented, the animal can earn reinforcement if it
does the behavior correctly OR it can expect some kind of aversive if it does
not perform the behavior. Because the cue is no longer just an indicator
that something good could happen, the cue itself becomes ambivalent. To the
animal, it now predicts either reinforcement or punishment and this means that
the animal has a mixed emotional response to the cue."
I'll bet you anything that it's the lead rope that has been "poisoned," probably by me putting too much pressure on when she tries to take off or tug to the edge of the road or not stopping her in time, so that she inadvertently ends up a pretzel.
Now my job is try to sort this out and luckily everything can be retrained.
For more information about Poisoned Cues, here are some links:
Jesus Ronsales-Ruis, a behaviourist from the University of North
Texas did a lot of research into poisoned cues and their effect on animal
training. There's a DVD in Alexandra Kurland's series of a
lecture by Jesus where he elaborates on this term.
The DVD is available here: http://store.clickertraining.com/clthte14pocu.html
Karen Pryor has written an article about poisoned cues here: