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My dog is very easily aroused,fearful and stressed. While walking in areas that we don't frequent she will have her nose to the ground or at vertical spots that dogs mark nearly the entire time. It has always been a struggle to get her attention
and I couldn't hold it for any longer than the time it took to mark a look back at me or a quick very tentatively engaged run through some obedience behaviors. I've struggled with constantly stopping and standing still as she leans into her harness trying to get to the next odor that interests her.

This morning I had a little epiphany and it makes me feel pretty dumb for not thinking of it earlier. I thought I don't want her to constantly have her face to the ground so I'll mark when she has her head up and is on a loose leash. Because I was excited that it seemed to be working I marked really rapidly nearly every few seconds and she stuck with me and was much more engaged and less likely to disappear into her sniffing state. I burned through my reward pouch quickly and the experience made me think that I am misunderstanding or improperly varying my ROR.

Could anyone tell me if I'm on the right track with my thinking? I'm also curious as to how ROR applies to shaping behaviors in distraction free spaces. If anyone can describe what it looks like or share your personal approach I would appreciate it.

Thanks,
Dan
 

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You're basically on the right track with your thinking. For the initial stages and for the time being, it's best practice to receive a high rate of reinforcement in order to counter the high level of environmental distraction. That said, a high distraction environment is not really conducive to learning. Especially if you have a dog who is easily aroused, fearful and stressed. I'd work thoroughly on those issues FIRST, in a much less distracting environment before expecting engagement in more challenging situations. Similar to putting the proverbial horse before the cart, you should construct a solid foundation that you can build upon.

As for how RoR applies to shaping. Rate is contingent upon behaviour. Thus, for example, if rate is too low then you're probably expecting far too much of an increase in criteria at one time / aka lumping. Overall there should be a relatively smooth flow to shaping. And generally, a continuous and consistent RoR.


If you're interested, Dr. Pamela Reid has a book "Excel-Erated Learning" which IIRC explains these things in an easy to understand format.

https://www.dogwise.com/excel-erated-learning-explaining-how-dogs-learn-and-how-best-to-teach-them/
 
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