Are You Teaching Your Dog NOT to Sit on Command? (Part 4)

©2013 Jerry D. Patillo, CPDT-KA

Randomize the Rewards

8. This means you change the predictability of the reward your dog is going to get. Once it is sitting on command most of the time (80% of the time), then you want it to start thinking, “WHEN am I going to get my next reward? What KIND of reward will it be? Will I even GET one next time?”

It’s exactly the same principle that gets us into Las Vegas or Atlantic City. We rational, logical, intelligent human beings would NEVER think of putting our quarter or dollar bill into that stupid little machine with the lever or button on it, would we? NEVER! Never, that is, until the machine 5 or 6 customers away from us starts going “ching, ching, ching, Ching, Ching, Ching, CHING! CHING! CHING! CHING!” Then we’re doomed until we almost run out of the last bit of rationality, logic, and intelligence we can scrape out of our empty pockets. The best I could ever do was a solitary, muffled “clunk!”

We behavior specialists have names for everything. We call the phenomenon above an “Intermittent Schedule of Reinforcement,” or ISR. Gamblers are teased with juuuuust enough winnings to entice them to try “one more time”! (How many “one more times” have you experienced? Never mind.)

In step 8, we’re going to turn our dogs into gamblers. You’re going to make your dog guess what kind of reward it’s going to get, or when, or even IF. Tell it “Sit.” When it sits, click! and then treat. Next time, “Good boy!” Next time, a scratch on the ear or a game of fetch. Another time, a piece of its regular dry kibble. Another time, nothing – absolutely nothing. Don’t phase out food treats entirely. They’re right at the top of what’s the most important reward to most dogs — but not all dogs, and not all the time. You want your dog to try again to win that “jackpot”!

The times you don’t reward, don’t click. Every time you click (or say yes!), give your dog a reward of some kind, even if it’s just a scratch on the chest and a “Good girl!” A click is a promise to your dog that a reward of some kind is on its way.

The randomness, the unpredictability – the Intermittent Schedule of Reinforcement – is what makes your dog’s behavior stronger, MORE predictable, and more likely to occur again, and again, and again.


# # #

  • Introduction
  • Lure the Dog into Position
  • Introduce Hand Signal for Sit
  • Introduce Verbal Cue, “Sit”
  • Phase Out Hand Signal (Optional)
Part 4
  • Randomize the Rewards


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