Routine searching

This follows on from my previous tip on behaviour chains. Sometimes in training we chain behaviours by teaching and repeatedly practicing in a specific order, creating a “routine”. This can be an inadvertent behaviour chain from our human habits, or on purpose if we are training for a specific purpose (like to go on X-factor).

Routine searching occurs when the dog or cat anticipates the reward and offers the routine, searching for a behaviour that will get the reward. This can mean that the individual behaviours are not on good cue control, your training sessions are predictable, or the reward is too motivating. Winston is guilty of the latter, and will offer everything he knows for Popcorn Chicken, not listen to a word I’ve said – he wants it so bad he’ll show me everything he’s got!

In most cases you can use this to your advantage. If you’ve chained the behaviours for a specific routine, give the reward! If not, use the push of engagement you’re getting to work your dog, refine your cues, randomise training sessions and rate of reward (more on reward schedules next week) to break the chain. Review your rewards and make sure you’re paying what the cue is worth.

Call me, I can help.

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