Dragline (aka long lead) training is an important part of my training program. Each of my dogs goes through dragline training before we advance onto other curricula. I do not allow a dog to interact freely with my livestock unless he or she has graduated from dragline training.
When discussing training, it is important to have a common understanding of the terminology in use. Negative reinforcement is not punishment, and no punishment is used in this guide. Negative reinforcement occurs during a behavior, whereas punishment occurs after a behavior. Negative reinforcement is simply something a subject will work to avoid. For the situation presented in this guide, my warning sound (conditioned reinforcer) is a short hissing sound I make by pushing air between my tongue and the roof of my mouth. This sound is reminiscent of the air being let out of a tire.
- Lad is a farm dog who needs to walk by his owner’s side when encountered by another dog or faced with a wild animal.
- Lad chases wild animals and rushes at other dogs.
- The trainer advises Lad’s owner to use a dragline, martingale collar, and negative reinforcement avoidance conditioning.
- On training walks, when Lad runs out a few steps in front of his owner, his owner makes a warning sound. If Lads returns to his owner’s side, he is praised. If Lad does not return to his owner’s side, his owner steps on the dragline.
- Warning sound + stepping on the dragline = negative reinforcement avoidance conditioning. The warning sound is a conditioned reinforcer that gives Lad an opportunity to avoid having the dragline stepped on.
- Praise for return to his owner’s side = positive reinforcement.
- After just a few training sessions, the dragline can be moved to a variable schedule of reinforcement, because Lad now stays at his owner’s side or quickly returns there if the warning sound is made.
- After a few more training sessions without the dragline, Lad always stays at his owner’s side.
- When encountered by another dog or faced with a wild animal, Lad is praised for staying at his owner’s side.
- Dragline training is placed on a variable schedule of reinforcement until the behavior is permanent.