When Do we Need to Remove Choices?

I’ve been talking so much about the importance of learner choices, not just yes and no options, but real choices that are more than just yes or no. Then last night I removed Brody’s choice.

If we are to give all theses choices to our learners and teach them that they have control over their lives and we empower them to be confident problem solvers and choice makers, at what point do we say; actually, I can’t let you make that choice.


Brody is taught to stand at his stable door, with the door open, while I pootle about getting chores done. My chores tend to have me walk past the barn entrance frequently and I can provide reinforcement each time; verbal, social (walking over to him to pet him), food etc. Lots of options. My chores never take me out of vocal range so I can even remotely deliver a reinforcer; I talk to him (garmin…..THAT is the type of remote communication we need with animals).

Last night he chose not to wait for me. Not only that, but he wanted to leave the barn. Usually if he leaves his stable he just visits in the barn and i dont have an issue with that. However, last night the gate to the road was open and that was a safety concern for me. So I asked him to return to his stable and I closed the door. I gave him huge reinforcement for his cooperation (compound reinforcement) with careful placement of his food reinforcer to make it more appealing to stay in his stable. I also assured him that as soon as my time critical task was completed (filling a water bucket) I would let him show me what he really needed.

We have many years of developing this type of relationship where I can say “not right now” and it is taken as information. If we didn’t have that relationship that is built on a strong reinforcement history he would not have the same accepting reaction.

If I didn’t have that strong relationship I would have changed the timing of finding out what he really needed; the water bucket would have had to wait.


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