Looking Between the ABCs

dog training dog trainer how to train a dog youtube dog trainerWhile looking through some of my old material I came across the notes from my old Clicker Expo presentation on Solving Frustration.  One section in the presentation was called Looking Between the ABCs.  Here I invited trainers to not just focus on the Antecedent, Behavior and Consequence but to also investigate what is going on before you say your cue, as the animal is doing the behavior, after the animal does the behavior and before reinforcement is given, what the animal does while receiving the reinforcement and what happens after the reinforcement and before the next cue.  I explored this in more detail in a similarly titled lecture for APDT Australia “Looking Between the ABCs” and then again in my Refining Your Training Skills Video on Demand.  In the Refining Your Training Skills I show video examples of what my own dogs were doing “between” the ABCs and how I fixed it.  Note to trainers, if you show material of yourself doing something wrong… your attendees are bound to start giving you training advice during the break.  Just to let you know…

Below is an example of what can be missed if you just look at the ABCs (the cue you say, the behavior your dog does when cued, and what you do to reinforce the behavior):

Antecedent: Handler says “Sit”
Behavior: Dog sits beautifully
Consequence: Handler gives the dog a treat

It looks lovely doesn’t it? Great training!  Bravo!!! But…..IF we look a little bit more carefully to see what is going on BETWEEN the ABCs of that same scenario, we encounter some problems:

Dog sniffs around the training area just before the cue is given
Antecedent: Handler says “Sit”
Dog looks away briefly

Behavior: Dog sits beautifully
At the sound of the marker, the dog becomes over-aroused and jumps on the handler

Consequence: Handler gives the dog a treat
Dog looks around and whines
The next cue is given (which is a secondary reinforcer to the dog)

The behaviors that happen in red (the stuff you don’t want) that are between the ABCs (the stuff you want) during training can be inadvertently reinforced!

OMG! What can you do!?!?

  • Film yourself!!
    Instead of simply refining your observation skills during your sessions, film the sessions! Watch them back in slow motion and see what is going on between the ABCs.  By filming and reviewing the footage, you will learn to be more observant when training in real time.
  • Set yourself up for success!  Train default training session behaviors for:
    Waiting for a cue
    After the marker and before reinforcement
    Taking the food or playing with the toy
    After the reinforcement

Here is a video on how to teach your dog what to do when waiting for instruction:

Click on the picture below for an in depth tutorial of 3 Games on how to teach your dog how to take treats nicely after hearing the marker:

take treats nicely, take treats gently, dog training, clicker training, border collie, dog trainer, professional dog trainer

Happy Training!