Monday, July 14, 2014

Deprivation in Dog Training

Trainers often remind us that our dogs should be hungry before we start training.  No doubt a hungry dog might be more willing to work for food. But we need to be careful to make sure that hunger isn't our only motivator. Training should be fun and motivating all on it's own.


If we have a dog who is having trouble paying attention or performing a task, there are several factors we should consider before increasing deprivation (food, attention, etc..)

Distractions - has the behavior been properly proofed?

Confusion - does the dog really know what we want. Are we "clumping"? Are our hand signals sloppy? Are we repeating cues? (learned irrelevance)

Environment - Is it too hot? Too cold? Too noisy?

Stress - Are we asking our reactive, scared, or nervous dog to perform with triggers (other dogs, humans, cars, bikes, etc..) nearby? Are we using harsh tones

Poisoned cues - have we been using physical manipulation? Has the dog been punished in the past for not complying


Imagine learning a new task at work or school.  Do we learn better on a completely empty stomach?

From Dr Pamela Reid's Excel-Erated Learning:
"... a hungry animal works harder for food; a thirsty animal works harder for water..provided the response you are asking for is simple, like running a maze.  If you are requiring a complex set of responses, sometimes intense motivation can work against you.  The dog becomes so distracted by the anticipation of the reward that his responding becomes sloppy and erratic

I'm not saying that our dog needs to have a full stomach before we start training, but I am saying that too much hunger can degrade training.

In the video below, you will see my Puddin eat a piece of meat bigger than her head then continue to stay motivated during the training session.  I'm not saying train this way, but I'm hoping to demonstrate that if training is fun, we might not need hunger as a motivator.

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Other references

Kathy Sdao's Plenty In Life Is Free has several references warning against extreme deprivation in training.  In one example, a trainer withheld air as a "motivator"

And she refers to turning food into negative reinforcement through deprivation in her book and this video
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=btUpHxLotAM



From Dr Karen Overall's Manual of Clinical Behavioral Medicine for Dogs and Cats
"...some dogs who have relatively mild concerns about whether they will have enough food become more reactive when hungry. Feeding these dogs 2 or 3 times a day reduces their reactivity

From Dr Pamela Reid's Dog In Sight
Be aware that you can overdo deprivation: excessive food, exercise or attention deprivation actually disrupts learning. Beyond a certain level of deprivation, more is not better.

From Jolanta Benal's The Dog Trainer's Complete Guide to a Happy, Well-Behaved Pet
"Training with food isn't about keeping your dog hungry"

From Turid Rugaas's On Talking Terms With Dogs
"What makes the dog stressed?...hunger, thirst..."

From Martina Scholz's Stress In Dogs
" Stress can be caused by physical discomfort such as hunger, thirst, cold, warmth, noise..."

From Jane Killion's When Pig Fly
"Being just a tiny bit hungry is very motivating..."

Denise Fenzi on deprivation: http://denisefenzi.com/2012/05/14/deprivation/
"I do not believe that there is a black and white definition for acceptable or unacceptable levels of deprivation, but it is a matter that each individual trainer might wish to contemplate...If the owner’s motivation is to create active discomfort in order to facilitate work then I am concerned; how concerned is a function of how much discomfort the dog is experiencing.  Hunger and lack of social interaction both create active discomfort...if a dog requires better handler skills to figure it out, it seems unfair to punish the dog for the trainer’s ignorance....
I haven’t even touched on the other issues that deprivation is supposed to solve – distracted dogs (that are too immature or poorly prepared to work in a particular environment), stressed dogs (who cannot function for their safety concerns), high drive dogs (owners respond too slowly to communicate effectively), low drive dogs (owners don’t recognize that their dog is temperamentally unsuited for their sport), and bored dogs ( owner’s expectations of their dog far exceeds what they are able or willing to give in return). Yet…the dog is held responsible....

Jolanta Benal's website: http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/pets/dog-behavior/food-for-thought-hungry-dogs-and-training
"Almost all trainers think that when you’re using food rewards, it’s best to start with a hungry dog. But a new study suggests that isn’t always true. Sometimes, it might be best to give your dog a good breakfast before he starts work"

Is your dog not motivated when training?  Tells us about it in the comments section below
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Almost all trainers think that when you’re using food rewards, it’s best to start with a hungry dog. But a new study suggests that isn’t always true. Sometimes, it might be best to give your dog a good breakfast before he starts work. - See more at: http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/pets/dog-behavior/food-for-thought-hungry-dogs-and-training#sthash.vUYJfbql.dpuf
Almost all trainers think that when you’re using food rewards, it’s best to start with a hungry dog. But a new study suggests that isn’t always true. Sometimes, it might be best to give your dog a good breakfast before he starts work. - See more at: http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/pets/dog-behavior/food-for-thought-hungry-dogs-and-training#sthash.vUYJfbql.dpuf
Almost all trainers think that when you’re using food rewards, it’s best to start with a hungry dog. But a new study suggests that isn’t always true. Sometimes, it might be best to give your dog a good breakfast before he starts work. - See more at: http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/pets/dog-behavior/food-for-thought-hungry-dogs-and-training#sthash.vUYJfbql.dpuf
Almost all trainers think that when you’re using food rewards, it’s best to start with a hungry dog. But a new study suggests that isn’t always true. Sometimes, it might be best to give your dog a good breakfast before he starts work. - See more at: http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/pets/dog-behavior/food-for-thought-hungry-dogs-and-training#sthash.vUYJfbql.dpuf"

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