I’ve been saying for a while that I am a Human Hierarchy trainer. Force free doesn’t really define what I do, or even what positive reinforcement based trainers to. Force is everywhere, force is a part of life, you can’t escape it. Per the humane hierarchy you strive to use the least invasive least aversive methods first. Per the human hierarchy, positive reinforcement is not the first choice because even can be stressful.
So basically, I'm even more positive then R+ trainers.
With structured games, I'm manipulating the environment (#1 and 2 on the hierarchy), not the dog. I don't make getting reinforcement contingent on the dog guessing on how to get a click which can be stressful and frustrating. With a game, the path to reinforcement is clear and defined so there is minimal stress.
Here is a good analysis of the Humane Hierarchy. http://eileenanddogs.com/2013/05/21/the-humane-hierarchy-1/
I base my training on Dr Susan Friedman’s analysis here http://behaviorworks.org/files/articles/What's%20Wrong%20with%20this%20Picture.pdf which includes this:
“The lack of a standard to help us select behavior reduction procedures is a crucial matter. Without such a standard, we are likely to intervene on the basis of effectiveness alone, without due consideration of humaneness. To be maximally humane, our interventions should be as unintrusive for the learner as possible and still be effective. Carter and Wheeler define intrusiveness according to two important criteria: 1) the level of social acceptability of an intervention, and 2) the degree to which the learner maintains control while the intervention is in effect.”
In my original forays into positive reinforcement based training, the first thing I was introduced to was the clicker. I got pretty good at training some intricate behaviors with it, but I didn’t like the franticness that it seemed to create in the dogs I worked with. I was told over and over to “break it down” “click the smallest movements”. What I saw with the dogs was “I don’t know which movement it was, so I’ll just throw a bunch of movements out there and see which one gets a click”. I see this quite often in the videos on YouTube, even from the more well-known clicker trainers that everyone refers you to.
Then I found just plain marker training along with some antecedent manipulation. With this combination, the dogs were calmer, but seemed to learn just as fast and sometimes faster. I used marker training, without the need to break behaviors down into teeny tiny steps for years with success in basic obedience through reactive and aggressive dog rehab.
A few years back, Susan Garrett introduced the first Recaller Online Classes. This opened up a whole new world of training method for me. Somewhere along the way I figured out how to make my own games and the world expended exponentially. Structured games became our way of life and not a day goes by that each of the dogs plays a teaching game and takes one more step toward a final behavior. Many times they get the final behavior long before all the games are played in that series.
The main thing – there is no stress, no frantic guessing, and no hoping for the right movement. The dogs calmly, but enthusiastically, do as asked, move through our little corner of the world with ease and understanding.