One of the key components of successful animal training is the use of keep-going signals. Keep-going signals are cues that you give your dog to let them know that they are doing something right and should continue. Keep-going signals are most commonly used in positive reinforcement training, the most popular training method animal trainers use today. Positive reinforcement training involves rewarding a dog with a treat or a toy when they perform a desired behavior. This reward is used to motivate the dog to repeat the desired behavior, which is why positive reinforcement training is so effective.
Keep-going signals can be combined with positive reinforcement training to encourage a dog to repeat or, say, keep doing a desired behavior. When you give your dog a keep-going signal, you are essentially telling him to keep going and that what he is doing is correct. This is an essential part of the training process because it reinforces the desired behavior and helps your dog to remember what he should be doing.
It is also important to remember that keep-going signals should only be used in combination with positive reinforcement – never as a form of punishment. Instead of punishing your dog, use positive reinforcement to encourage them to continue the desired behavior. Punishing a dog for not performing a desired behavior will probably make them scared and less likely to repeat the behavior in the future.
Keep going signals are not new. In the 1950s, the Brelands used Keep Going Signals in their IQ Zoo animal shows. A piece of lovely music entertained the audience as soon as the show started. But in reality, this music formed the KGS for the animal performing in this show. The animal was performing the trained behavior as long as the music played. This music was the continuous feedback to the animal that it was doing a good job, and a bridge signal eventually followed this. This signaled the animal that a reinforcer was on its way.
A KGS is not a bridge, and they are clearly different. The KGS is giving feedback to the animal and encouraging it to Keep Going. While the bridge is telling the animal Well Done, reinforcement is on its way. This also explains that pulling on the leash of a detection dog while it’s alerting on an odor is not a bridge but a KGS. The tension on the leash is signaling to the dog, Keep Doing this. Although I also have seen some trainers using this ‘pulling on the leash’ while the dog gave an alert as a distraction, the KGS will lead to a bridge, and that signal must be clear and immediately followed by a reinforcer. Otherwise, it will lose its power, and the dog can become confused.
KGS signals can come in many shapes and forms. They can be verbal cues like “Good job!” or “Keep it up!”, or physical cues like a petting or a gentle scratch behind the ears. Other examples of a KGS are pulling the leash when a detection dog is alerting, repeating verbal praise, repeating verbal “sit – sit – sit, “petting, a laser light, a specific sound, a visual cue, or more. Some trainers use their body movement to signal a KGS to the dog, often without realizing that they do this!
No matter what form of keep-going signal you use, the key is to use it consistently. This will help your dog understand what he is doing is right and encourage him to continue repeating the desired behavior. If you use a keep-going signal inconsistently, your dog may become confused and need help understanding what you are trying to communicate.
When I was designing the laser- and radio-directional protocols in 1996 together with Bob Bailey, we also experimented a lot with very innovative KGS directional systems. We developed different systems that signal dogs to move in a specific direction, lie down, SIT, watch, push, and perform more specific behaviors. Seeing how dogs worked with this continuous feedback about their performance was outstanding. They could withstand an amazing amount of distraction because the KGS encouraged them to keep doing what they were doing. We could train very specific and robust behaviors with the experience that a bridge would follow a KGS. A bridge did not always terminate a specific KGS. Another KGS signal could follow it after the dog was cued to perform another behavior. And it could happen that the KGS was terminated when the dog didn’t keep doing what is supposed to do. In that case, the KGS stopped, and we used a reset to restart the exercise, or a part of the exercise, again. Of course, the use of targets, feeders, and platforms played an important role in this KGS training, including collecting and analyzing data from our training sessions. Remember that animal training is an important part of ownership. Techniques like a KGS can help you to build a stronger relationship between you and your dog, but it also encourages your dog to perform better in all sorts of work, to behave better, and improves their overall quality of life.
ACT! Is operating worldwide. You can find more information on my website www.simonprins.com about the ACT! innovative training products and workshops about detection, odor recognition testing, tracking, scent wheel training, laser training, and radio-directional dogs. If you are interested in the ACT, Masterclass, don’t hesitate to contact me so I can provide you with the specific Masterclass you need for your organization!
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