Hail the Victorious Skijorer (and the Premack Principle)

Oh, the power of the Premack Principle (which, by the way, is named after Mr. David Premack and not for a mack that is somehow being preceded). Remember our nemesis, the On By Tree? We have conquered it thusly:

How? The Premack Principle, also called the relativity theory of reinforcement, is defined this way: More probable behaviors reinforce less probable behaviors. More relatably, it means that if an individual wants to do something highly desirable, they will do something less desirable to get to the more desirable thing. Essentially, to get what you want… ignore what you want. In practice, achieving success in going ON BY the On By Tree looks like this:

1. Give the ON BY command as we’re approaching the tree. At the same time, physically prevent the dogs from being able to reach and investigate the On By Tree by choking up on the line and staying on the opposite side of the trail.

2. If the dogs stop and attempt to reach/investigate the On By Tree, continue on our way.

3. If the dogs ignore the On By Tree, upon passing ON BY it give a verbal marker and release cue (in our case, “YES, OKAY!” — and I don’t want to hear about how you’re not supposed to use “OKAY” as a release word) and allow them to investigate the On By Tree.

4. Repeat, repeat, repeat, switching to a variable reward schedule (that is, only mark and release some of the time, not every single time).


To get the On By Tree, they must ignore the On By Tree. So that’s a bright spot around here. Also, the weather has been generally good lately and I’ve been playing with the GoPro as a trailcam:







And a lot of free play in the yard:




Over the next few weeks we’ll be working on increasing our distance and conditioning. It hardly seems possible that spring is around the corner, before too long we’ll be on the scooter and won’t see the On By Tree until next winter.

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