It’s way more fun watching behavioral concepts than reading about them. That’s why “thinking dog” toys are so entertaining!
Today Santa Paws brought Ranger this:
It’s made of plywood and has three spinning levels to fill with tasty snacks for puppies! I filled it with alternating levels of higher and lower value treats, to hopefully coerce Ranger to keep digging into it.
We did Charlee Bear treats (I cannot begin to explain how much I love these for training) and freeze-dried liver.
Then I let Ranger have at it! This is his first try.
Ranger did get a little confused and wander off after the easy pickings were gone, but the fun really began when he returned and gave it another shot. I really should have taken the video here but I was already relaxing on the couch with baby and husband.
Here’s the thing – behavioral variability increases with frustration. So as Ranger’s reinforcement rate dropped for spinning the toy, he started getting creative (which is really just a nicer sounding word for variable behavior). He pawed it. He pushed it around with his face. He even grabbed the top spinner with his teeth and dragged it!
Eventually, Ranger found all the treats so I put the spinner away to avoid him thinking it is not worth playing with any more. From now on, I may use a combo of treats and his regular food, or just his food depending on if he will still get after it without a higher value treat.
I am planning for this to be a really fun toddler/dog game – have toddler hide the treats, release dog to find them! This will be a good way for a tiny person to play and interact with Ranger without safety issues, and will help Ranger think positively about being close by the toddler.
Santa Paws has several other treats and toys up his sleeve, so expect more very happy Ranger pictures soon!