More on the dreaded “No Reward Marker”

Darwin and Cooper Facing Off Sept 2013
Darwin and Cooper Facing Off Sept 2013

Here’s the video that sparked this post!  Dogs at play and my commentary! Darwin, Cooper and Boudicca Sept 2013 

This is great! If you don’t watch anything but the last 1 minute or less, the opportunity is presented and it’s set up during the video with my added commentary and my well-timed use of a “No Reward Marker”! You actually are provided the chance to judge for yourself how much YOU think it actually affects the dog!

The reason I’m rather excited about this example is the reason for its use is noted during the video and it just happens! Additionally, i’m freely holding the video camera, it’s not mounted. Holding the camera prevents me from wanting to add any more movement, my vids already cause YouTube to ask me IF i want the “shaky” ness fixed! So in other words, the dog was completely free to do whatever he pleased and my ability to control or manage him was limited if not compromised.

To further illustrate why i would want to share this with my audience is simply because some dog trainers actively WARN those watching their videos and likely during any verbal presentation that using “No Reward Markers” are harmful to the subject, in this case a dog and the negative effects will impede their ability to learn and/or even compromise your relationship with them! In other words, it’s so punishing the dog might lose all trust in you, the dog might end up suffering from learned helplessness or perhaps the dog might simply learn that the use of a well-timed and learned “No Reward Marker” might simply tell them to redirect their behavior in a more acceptable way or simply try again!  For more on this, i urge you to read my blog and If you encounter these black and white type statements use your critical thinking skills and at the same time you will learn to be more observant.

This black and white perspective may be justified by individual dog trainers always concerned that dog owners are going to slide down the “slippery slope” called punishment and overuse it and/or worse abuse the dog.  An alternative is teach owners how to understand the same kinds of principles we’ve learned about teaching dogs and people without always being concerned their goals include abusing the family dog/s. 😎

AND here’s an interesting quote from Karen Pryor! 

Karen Pryor, in her book “Getting Started: Clicker Training for Dogs,” revised edition, copyright 2002, page 53, answered this question.

“But doesn’t that mean I should never punish the dog? What if the dog jumps up, or nips me, or takes food off the counter, or runs away?”
“Some people think that using positive reinforcement means you never reprimand the dog or control it physically. That’s unrealistic. Leashes are a fact of life for dogs. It’s necessary to keep a dog on a leash when you are going to strange places, or out in traffic, or amongst strange dogs. And of course your dog needs to understand the meaning of “No”. You need to interrupt behavior such as mouthing your hands and clothes, for example, or trying to grab food from the kitchen counter. Remember that timing is just as important in correcting misbehavior as it is in reinforcing good behavior. Your response should occur while the behavior is happening, not afterwards, or just before you think it might happen.

While correction and scolding can stop behavior (while you’re around, anyway) they are not efficient ways to teach the dog to do something new. For that, clicks and treats work best. As for stealing food, tipping over the garbage, and so on, it’s up to you to monitor the environment and put temptation out of reach.”

Additionally, the newly released (2014) Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning (see link in references) supports trial-by-error learning, contrary to errorless learning, and use of positive correction. Here’s a brief description: “To most of us, learning something “the hard way” implies wasted time and effort. Good teaching, we believe, should be creatively tailored to the different learning styles of students and should use strategies that make learning easier. Make It Stick turns fashionable ideas like these on their head. Drawing on recent discoveries in cognitive psychology and other disciplines, the authors offer concrete techniques for becoming more productive learners.”


Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning

Errorless learning how could that be a bad thing? by Dr. Deb Jones


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