Posts Tagged ‘George Hickox’

I had an enlightening conversation with well-known trainer George Hickox recently, and he’ll certainly be a guest on the upcoming (debut, August) Upland Nation podcast. Of the many topics we discussed, George reminded me of a phenomenon I’ll call “reward deflation.”

We’re all guilty.

We encourage and praise our puppies, and they are quite motivated by anything that resembles positive feedback. Food treats, squeaky voices, a scratch here and pat there … all work with young dogs. We provide these reinforcements frequently and at length for anything the pup does right. But we don’t often throttle it back, or not enough, as he matures.

At some point, George reminded me, a smart dog only wants two things: food when it’s hungry, and birds. That is inextricably linked to another observation: dogs don’t work for us any more than they have to, in pursuit of what they want. Obviously, that could be food, or birds, or to get outdside and find one or both of those. But remembering that a dog’s highest priority is his own wellbeing is worth its weight in kibble.

We can and should use this knowledge strategically, to teach desired behaviors. But …

Back to the deflation: It’s not a boy crying wolf over and over until nobody pays attention when a real canis lupus actually appears, but close. We are the culprits. Dog walks in, doesn’t surf the kitchen counter, gets a “good boy.” We race past on the way out the door, and out of habit utter “good dog.” A dog is sitting, staying out of trouble, gets a cookie tossed his way. Pretty soon, the treats and words have no meaning, because they were awarded for well, nothing. We hadn’t asked/commanded the dog, he simply existed and got what George calls a “paycheck.”

Kinda like unemployment compensation. Sit around. Watch TV. Taxpayer dollars show up in your mailbox. It doesn’t motivate recipients to go work and it won’t motivate your dog, either.

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As if you needed another reason to get one for yourself and your dog … read what my newest customer has to say:

“The Scott Linden Signature Series “Real Bird Bumper” should be in every dog owner’s tool box.

“This bumper teaches the dog to grip the body fully and not “cigar” or carry the bumper by the end. In the locked-down position it prevents young dogs from developing the habit of dragging by the wing. With the wing in the upright position the Real Bird Bumper simulates real-life retrieving. The Real Bird Bumper floats, is extremely durable, and is a great training aid in developing a professional retrieve on land or in the water.”

– George Hickox

George Hickox conducts training schools for owners and their dogs across North America. The Real Bird Bumper is an integral part of his retrieving training. More information on George’s schools, videos, and seminars at: www.georgehickox.com.

Field-tested, puppy-approved.

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