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The Bridging Stimulus - Making it salient

24 Aug 2019 7:46 AM | Louise Stapleton-Frappell (Administrator)

"Yay, you got it, that's exactly what I would like you to do!"

Whether in the past or in the present, we are all guilty of this "Yes, good girl, you are so good, what a good girl, you are amazing..."  It is so difficult not to be excited about the amazing responses our dogs offer us, but did you clearly mark the desired response so as to facilitate speedy learning?  Was your learner able to perceive the bridging stimulus amidst your excited praise?

Take a Breath!

I LOVE to hear enthusiastic praise but...

There should be a slight pause between the bridging stimulus and your praise.

For your dog to work out what he was doing and recognize which behavior he should repeat,  you will need to mark the desired response really precisely.  If using the word "yes" it needs to be 'short and sweet'.  A prolonged ‘yeeeeeees’ or a ‘good girl’ or ‘good boy’, just won’t cut it as they are too long.  They aren’t precise enough. Your dog will either not be able to work out the exact behavior you want, or he will take much longer to do so.  We aren’t saying that you can’t praise your dog, but we are saying that we want you to hold off on that praise until you have finished your set of five repetitions and delivered the last reward.

Endeavor to make sure that when praising your learner, the praise is part of your reinforcement strategy rather than something that overshadows your behavior marker. This will help your bridging stimulus be salient and clearly stand out from what could be considered distracting 'white noise'.

A clear bridging stimulus will facilitate speedier acquisition of behaviors as your learner is able to perceive the bridge and therefore understand that he has done the right thing. That particular response is the one that earns the reinforcer and is the one that should be repeated.

Please note:

  • The bridging stimulus should clearly 'mark' the exact criterion/behavior that you wish to be repeated
  • A verbal bridging stimulus, for example the word 'yes', should only be said once.
  • A clicker (or other marker) can also be used to mark the correct behavioral response instead of the word "yes".
  • You should not use both a clicker and a verbal bridging stimulus at the same time.


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