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Michael Ellis - How Gambling Addiction Relates to Positive Reinforcement in Dog Training

Posted: 09-25-2014 • Length: 5 Minutes, 8 Seconds
Categories: E-collars, Michael Ellis
Throughout Michael Ellis' course there are many questions that arise. Some of those questions relate directly to the topic at hand, while others are completely off topic. We have filmed several of those off topic questions on everything from breeds of dogs to gambling addiction and how it relates to dog training. Today's video topic addresses the question: is the desire to gamble based on the same principals as operant conditioning in dog training? In this short video, Michael discusses operant conditioning and how it relates to humans gambling. People are motivated by the payoff (positive reinforcement) but the reason they continue to pull the lever on a slot machine, play roulette or buy lottery tickets is due to the random rate of reinforcement.

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5/5 stars

Since we are talking analogies, here's one I like to use when I teach people about extinguishing a behaviour. More often than not, behaviours can become "bigger" or "larger" when you are first trying to ignore (not reward) a behaviour that the dog has previously been rewarded for. For example if you stop opening the back door when the dog jumps on it, he might start to jump higher/harder or he may start barking along with the jumping. To help people understand the reasoning, I tell this story:

Everyday you walk past the juice machine on your way to the cafeteria. Each day you put in your money and receive your bottle of juice to drink with your lunch. This goes on for about 3 months. Everyday, you put in your money and a bottle of juice arrives at the bottom of the machine. Until one day, you put your money in and... nothing. No juice. Do you walk away? Do you think "oh well, no juice today?" No. You try hitting the juice button again, and again. Then you try the coin return. If there's still no juice or money, you may bang the side of the machine or even kick it! This is because you have been "trained" that if you put in your money and push the button, you get rewarded. If no reward happens, your behaviour gets bigger! And so does your dog's! Eventually, if your dog does not get his reward, he will stop trying. Just like we will eventually walk away from the machine. But we'll be back there tomorrow expecting juice. As will the dog jump on the back door again. However, if the rewards stop long term, so will the behaviour. No matter what that behaviour was. Jumping, or drinking juice.

5/5 stars

Great metaphor for training with rewards; it helped a lot. Now my question is: in obedience trials where I cannot use food rewards in the ring, how do I keep my dog from being "ring wise". I had a dog who, once he knew he would not get a reward, and would not get checked during a real trial, decided to act up and balk at jumps etc. Now this was before I used food rewards years ago. But I could see that happening now when the dog KNOWS he will not get treats during the exercises.

5/5 stars

Great explanation, thank you!! I do find that we humans are very prone to patterns, even when we think we are being random... Any ideas on how to truly be 'random' in our reinforcement schedule? Thanks:)

5/5 stars

This is a subject that was brought up and discussed in one of my training groups many years ago. But, as always, Michael's explanation is so complete and clear. I will be replaying this video many times so that I can explain it to others. Thanks again Michael and Leerburg for bringing him to us.

5/5 stars

Great analogy, just makes a whole lot of sense if you think of it. Well said Micheal.

Regards, Arthur