Reply To: FE520 Value of Rewards

Alana McGee

Hi Shannon.

Toys are great, especially if Cricket LOVES them. They can be great tools. As for ?Too good? of a reward, the answer is not really, but with EXTREMELY high value high ticket items like the frisbee you just would want to approach it differently.

Toys can be AWESOME reward systems, but also keep in mind playing frisbee in the field may not be practical. Due to environmental factors it can be dangerous to toss it. The tosses have to be short and right to her basically, because these truffle hunting environments can have lots of obstacles, and using a toy in the forest requires you to be very aware of your surroundings. If she is anything like Callie, the other white border collie :), she will focus only on the toy and not necessarily that sharp stick or ravine.

There are a couple of things you can do. One we recommend is teaching a trick to Cricket such as put the frisbee away in a backpack (or similar). If done in the right progression this is a game unto itself and it is a complete chain of behaviors and once practiced sufficiently Cricket will know that ?putting away the frisbee? means the frisbee is no longer in play, and she may be able to the reorient into truffle hunting.

Kristin has done something similar with Callie who works for her Squeeky Tennis Ball. Callie puts the ball back in Kristin?s backpack when cued to do so, thus signaling the end of ?ball play time?, and then she can refocus and engage on truffle hunting.

This actually has dual purpose. At the end of a hunt Callie will often get to keep the ball with her on the way out of the field and this is also a great way to move Cricket (or Callie in this instance) out of the field so she stops looking for truffles on the way out. Otherwise it would be very long walk sometimes with Callie finding every truffle every 5 ft on the way out for 1/2 mile. It also saves Callie energy so she doesn?t become exhausted.

Many dogs ?can? work for hours and hours on end. That doesn?t mean they should. For some dogs, and ?off? button can make the world of difference.

Another thing you could do in conjunction with this is practice using the toy as a reward system in very simple circumstances. I mean like imprinting stage or just beyond. Let Cricket get used to the idea of going back and forth between hunting and playing with the frisbee. Also do try tug and see how that goes. If she likes that and can re-orient easier that might be something to try as it is less dangerous in the field likely due to environmental factors.

But we would recommend you try the idea of something similar to the back pack and the complete behavior chain sequence around another mini game like that.

As for the High value food reward, was this on just one occurrence or many? Again go back to very basic games with this as a reward so she realizes the AWESOME yummy thing ONLY comes when I nose target the tin in Shannon?s hand, not when I offer trick behaviors. My guess is if you set it up like this, it will only take a few successes for Cricket to realize the connection.