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By shaping behaviors with Operant Conditioning, you can train your Lacy Dog to perform complex tasks in a matter of minutes.

By shaping behaviors with Operant Conditioning, you can train your Lacy Dog to perform complex tasks in a matter of minutes.

Ever since B.F. Skinner laid out the foundations of Operant Conditioning, OC based methods have been increasingly used to teach dogs and other animals a wide variety of behaviors. Much of the original development of the training techniques occurred at marine parks, where scientists and trainers were assisted by graduate students and Skinner’s children. Then, with the aid and impetus of the Internet, groups of dog owners and trainers alike discovered the benefits of OC and the Positive Training movement began to explode. Today, there remain two fundamentally different approaches to dog training: Positive Reinforcement (Here Fifi sweetie, come to Mommy and you get this treat) and Traditional (Hey Atlas, you crazy cur, stay away from that rabbit trail or my boot is going where the sun don’t shine). The trend, however, is clearly towards OC based Positive Reinforcement training methods. Dogs trained with the new techniques have shown, in obedience, agility and other competitions, that these techniques produce results that equal or surpass Traditional correction based training methods. The most popular OC based training method, by far, is Clicker Training. Originally conceptualized by Karen Pryor at Sealife Marine Park in Hawaii, Clicker Training has even being used for performance training of human athletes.

Why you should understand Operant Conditioning

“But I have a hog hunting/blood tracking/herding Lacy Dog bred to do those things. And he does them. What do I need with some fancy technique?” Well, the funny thing is you already use Operant Conditioning with your dog, all the time, every single day. This is so important I’m going to repeat it. You are use Operant Conditioning, every day, every time you interact with your dog! Now, given you are going to do something, don’t you want to get it right? Hey, you have a Lacy Dog. You know he is smarter than 99.9% of the dogs out there, and I bet your dog watches every little thing you say and do. You picked your dog because of what he is capable of doing. So make the most of it!

And there is a specific reason why this is the right technique for a Lacy Dog, even more so than for other breeds. Reading the NLDA Breed Standard, a Lacy is to have “incredible drive and determination to work.” These are reflections of a Lacy’s high prey drive, or predatory instinct. Lacy Dogs are bred to retain as much of their wild wolf ancestor’s predatory instinct as possible and still be safe around humans. One of the things that separates wild predators from domestic animals is that wild predators cannot be successfully disciplined. You can’t discipline a killer whale or a tiger, and, most importantly, you can’t use discipline to successfully train a wolf. Yank on a wolf’s collar and all he does is yank back even harder. Read the rest of this entry »

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