Over time we all develop our own training style. Seeing other trainers is enriching for me just because you can learn so much about how and why people train their animals a particular way. Nobody is perfect and especially in the training world, many topics progress and chance all the time. Im nonstop thinking especially about the training style I have developed over the years.
My main goal is always putting the animals up for success. The animal will ultimately tell me if its ready for the next approximations or not but what if animals are not focused, become aggressive or show any other undesirable behavior while participating in your training session? A lot of us will talk about the LRS what is definitely a great tool to use but can we always use this technique when an animal is incorrect or is the choice better to redirect? We as trainers have our own experiences and so our own opinions on this question and they might all be perfectly good thinking at it from the reinforcement aspects of it. One of the things I think about a lot is if somebody would ask me “Peter what would you do?” the whole point is that I know what to do but explaining it to somebody is another ballgame. I’m going to try…
What I enjoy very much is animals trying to understand the behavior you want. You can create this by taking small and successful steps in your plan where the animal is very successful with receiving reinforcement. What is happening now is that confidence is building up. I love confident thinking animals. When the animal is incorrect on a particular step I will take a LRS but if the animal just needs that extra help because it had put itself by accident into this position I was looking for I will direct it to the actual goal without taking this 3 second pause. This way I basically capture the behavior I wanted and reach my goal faster instead of focusing on the fact that the animal was incorrect. I thought myself a valuable thing and that is catch the animal doing it correct. It’s a skill I developed over time what has helped me tremendously. On top of that the understanding of how behavior is builded up, to be honest I think that I’m fairly quick in reinforcing approximations that come close to my goal.
If an animal is likely to do something undesirable, you set up another behavior which is reinforced. – Jenifer A. Zeligs
Im a person that uses redirection very much just because im focused on the goal of giving the animal a chance of success. Although I pick and choose when to LRS or not depending on the emotion the animal is at that particular moment. Observation is a key aspect in this way of thinking. Instead of waiting that the animal will fail we should turn it around and find a way of making them succeed. Through understanding the motivational aspect we are able to do so.
In Jenifer Zeligs (Read her Guest blog HERE) book Animal Training 101 she says the following; If an animal is likely to do something undesirable, you set up another behavior which is reinforced. This way you set the animal back up for success. But I believe that redirection doesn’t necessarily have to be done reacting to undesirable behavior. When the animal shows you desirable behavior and you need something extra you can help by redirecting the animal to that particular behavior. Should we call it directing instead?
I found that when training dolphins to do 2 behaviours at the same time especially when the animal is not familiar with this concept that redirection/ direction can help you very much without using an LRS. I also believe in the fact that when you train an animal that you keep him in a particular learning arousal that you can break this by using an LRS so a redirection is in better place to keep up the pace for the animal of learning. This is the same with reinforcing a bridge yes or no. Sometimes I prefer not to because it might be that I break the emotion of thoughts the animal has where I want to go to for the animal to reach a higher chance of success.
When redirection is the best choice depends on many different aspects in your training. I discovered by observing and knowing the individual redirection or direction can help you very much. The focus of redirecting is not seen from a bad angle but just by helping the animal extra with a target or an existing behavior useful for a new behavior.
By asking me to explain my training style, I use a lot of mixed techniques on a high pace trying to get the animal become more successful. Capturing emotions, movements, eye twitches and the tiniest movements of the animals gives me a quick and strong outcome. This way undesirable behavior is quickly recognized and taken care off before it has the tiniest chance to come escalade. Im a big fan of approximation plans and that allowed me to learn by just looking at a behavior how it potentially could have been build up. This thinking gives me a skill to get the animal successful on a higher pace and the animal will become more optimistic and confident what we ultimately want especially when we talk about flight animals!