If the learning is sufficiently shaped and reinforced to the best it can be, and reliability is achieved at this level; and if, then, this standard is attached to a new "performance cue", then there is no reason for the dog to give a reduced quality or reliability in show circumstances unless the stress level has gone beyond the dog's self management. Even then asking the dog for a strong, favourite behavior can reduce the stress significantly.
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For many years, my family and I have had the good fortune of traveling to the Abaco Islands in the Bahamas. It is a glorious part of the world-as close to paradise as you can imagine-and we pray that time passes quickly from the end of one trip to the start of next. Life changes refreshingly little in these islands, but on our arrival several years ago, we heard about something new and exciting that was going on up at Baker's Bay, a 40-minute boat ride from where we were staying: a group of behavioral scientists had set up a dolphin training center and the public was welcome to come and watch them work. Not only that, there were times of the day when you could swim with the dolphins in their in-ocean netted enclosure. That's all we had to hear.
Recently our author Morgan Spector was the guest on the Clicker Solutions Dog Book Review list, discussing his book Clicker Training for Obedience. Toward the end of a month of answering questions he responded to a post from a newcomer with such thoughtful and useful encouragement that we would like to share it with all of you. Here it is, with permission:
Random or variable reinforcement is a useful procedure in making a given behavior resistant to extinction, for example in the shaping process, when one wants to raise criteria. To go from reinforcing every response to selectively reinforcing stronger responses you need to develop enough resistance to extinction so that the animal neither changes the behavior instantly upon going unreinforced once or twice, nor quits altogether. Resistance to extinction is also important in maintaining long duration behaviors, as in searches, field trialing, and so on; and can be developed gradually. Bob and Marian Bailey might consider this simply another example of a shaping schedule.