Author Archives: Niki Tudge

What is Non-Associative Learning? – Sensitization and Habituation

by Niki Tudge

Non Associative learning is when you are not pairing a stimulus with a behavior. Non-associative learning can be either habituation or sensitization. It is the simplest form of learning.

Your reflexes are the relationship between a specific event and specific response. By nature, reflexes are stereotypic, but the strength of a reflex response can be altered, it can be weakened through Habituation or strengthened through Sensitization.

When there is a reduction in response to a specific stimulus after repeated exposures to it this is known as habituation. For example, If you live close to an airport you may habituate to the sounds of planes coming and going, where guest visiting may ask how you can possibly bear to live there! The degree of habituation and the speed at which it occurs is affected by several variables including the intensity of the stimulus, the duration of the stimulus and how many times the individual is exposed to the stimulus over a given time period (Chance, 2008).

Now let’s look at sensitization. Sensitization occurs when repeated exposure or a single exposure to a stimulus increases the intensity of the response. For example, if you
are walking down the hall right after watching a scary movie and your friend pops out and says BOO! you will startle more easily. The movie sensitized you. It sensitized you to other stimuli and it did so in one presentation!

Habituation requires repeated presentations whereas sensitization does not and habituation is related to the specific stimulus being exposed to whereas sensitization sensitizes to other stimuli.

How many ways can you think of where this may be an important consideration for your dog and their behavior?

Chance, P. (2008) Learning and Behavior. Wadsworth Cengage Learning

Help – My Puppy is a Land Shark!

Why Do Puppies Nip?

Since puppies are born without hands, the only way they have to explore the world is with their mouths.  And you may have noticed that your puppy is quite the explorer.  Everything goes into those little mouths, including your fingers, and those baby teeth are like little needles.  Ouch!

It’s completely normal for puppies in their litters to bite each other in play.  When they engage in this “bitey-face” game, they learn a little about how to inhibit the strength of their biting.  If one puppy bites another too hard, that puppy probably will yelp and stop playing.  If that happens enough times, the biter learns to apply less pressure.

But puppies are covered with fur and we’re not.  The same level of bite pressure that is appropriate during puppy play can hurt us and even break the skin.  The inhibition they learn in the litter helps, but it’s usually not enough to teach young puppies how to properly interact with humans.


How Do You Stop the Nipping?

Some trainers will recommend that you hold your puppy’s mouth closed, yell “No,” or even push their cheeks into their teeth so that they hurt themselves.  If you look at it from your puppy’s point of view, this may teach them not to nip, but it also teaches them not to trust you.  They’re not being malicious when they nip you, they are simply doing what they are instinctively programmed to do.  There are much better ways to deal with it that don’t involve hurting your puppy and making her fearful of your hands coming near her face.

When puppies are biting us in play, it’s because they are trying to interact with us in the only way they know how.  What they want out of the behavior is for us to interact back.  If you’re saying, “No, don’t, stop, cut it out!” and moving your hands all around to stay out of their reach, to the puppy you’re simply playing back and encouraging them to go after those flying hands.  They don’t understand your words and moving targets are for chasing.  The message you want to give your puppy instead is, “When you nip me, I will immediately STOP interacting with you.”        

Make sure your puppy has lots of approved items to chew on.  A nice selection of hard, soft, squeaky, tuggy etc

   Stop playing immediately.  Don’t wave your hands around but do remove them from your

puppy’s reach.  When your pup is calm, you can slowly offer one hand to her mouth.  At this point many puppies will lick the hand.  This, or any behavior that is NOT biting, should be rewarded with continued attention and/or a food treat.  But if you get another nip, redirect to a toy. Your puppy will soon learn the rules of the game.  This lets them know gently that mouthy and nippy behavior doesn’t get any attention, it simply makes me stop interacting or makes me go away.


Redirect Redirect and More Redirect!

Having a puppy at home requires a certain amount of preparation. A key part of this preparation is having on hand, in lots of locations, appropriate toys, and chews that can be used to redirect nipping behavior. You need to be set up so as soon as, and whenever your puppy begins to nip you can immediately interceded with a toy. Use the toy to redirect your puppy from you to the toy. Encourage your puppy to grab the toy, play with the toy and bite the toy.  This can become a fun game for you and your puppy. It not only teaches them that interacting with you is fun but it will also deter them from nipping at you. Here are a few examples of when having toys around is important so you can quickly intercept nipping and redirect it to a toy.

  1. Playing with the puppy in the yard – Puppies can begin to jump, nip and grab at hands and clothing. Have a toy in your pocket or on hand to redirect this behavior
  2. Walking your puppy – Puppies can be fascinated the leash, your shoes or your trousers. Have a toy on hand to redirect the behavior
  3. Enjoying puppy nap time – A relaxing nap on your knee and cuddle session can quickly turn into a puppy hand-bite-fest!. Always have a toy on hand to redirect any attempt to engage you with puppy nipping.

Track Your Puppy Nipping!

Your puppy is not going to learn in one session that nipping is not appropriate and not appreciated. They simply do not learn this right away.   She is biting because it is something she was programmed to do.  At birth it’s as unconscious a behavior to her as breathing.  She has to learn first to connect to it as a voluntary behavior that she can control.  That’s why the initial pull-away after you stop interacting is often followed by another nip (if your hands are within nipping distance).  It will take a lot of consistent repetition before your puppy is able to get to the stage where she lunges to nip but inhibits herself before making contact.  If you and other family members keep a simple record of this nipping behavior you will see in time that it reduces in intensity and frequency. One day you will stop, think and realize that the nipping has ceased. 

Children and Ankle-Biting

It’s hard for young children not to squeal, dance, wave their hands around and run when puppy is nipping at them.  This, of course, delights the puppy and encourages her to continue her “playing.”  In this case, or if your puppy is persistent and continues to nip at your ankles when you walk away from her, let her drag a leash in the house (when supervised).  After a nipping incident, you can tether the leash to a doorknob and walk out of her reach or  move your children out of her reach.  When she has calmed down, slowly and calmly approach and offer a hand for a lick.  Licks (or non-biting behavior) get praise and continued attention.  Nips make the people go away again.  Make sure to supervise children so that they don’t turn this into a rousing “tag” game, winding the puppy up and frustrating her!  Movements away from her must be immediate and smooth, and movements towards her must be calm and purposeful.

No Rough-Housing with Hands!

The most important thing you can do when your puppy is a little land-shark is to make sure that nobody in her world is rough-housing or wrestling with her with their hands.  If this is happening, then no matter what else, you are confusing her with a game that in essence tells her, “Go for my hands!”  Most puppies love to rough-house, and you can still do it.  Just substitute a toy for your hands.  While she’s going after the toy if clumsy puppy misses and nips your skin or clothing, you can yelp (if that works for your puppy), drop the toy and stop playing.  That will also help teach her to be more careful with her mouthing.

The Bottom Line

If you do absolutely nothing, chances are your puppy will outgrow this stage on her own.  But if you are consistent, persistent and patient, reinforcing calm behavior and withdrawing attention for mouthy behavior, you may survive your dog’s puppyhood with less tooth marks! Remember always actively supervise children around your puppy. Keep it fun, safe and educational for both kids and puppies!

Dogs Must Love Water! Safety First & Then for Fun

We live on a 380-acre lake, our land goes right into the middle of it. We also have a large pond in one of our pastures and a Swimming Pool. In our social time Rick and I sail and Kayak. So, it’s important that our dogs enjoy water and are competent and confident in it.

This is the first lesson for Miss McDougal AKA Doogie to begin building up a love of water.

Criteria 1 – Introducing the pool to her world – placing the pool in her garden so she gets used to seeing it (big round and blue can be scary)
Criteria 2 – In the pool no water feeling happy – encouraging her into the pool as a play area
Criteria 3 – Jumping in and out of the pool playing with a toy with a scattering of water on the bottom
Criteria 3 – Playing in the pool with an inch of water and squeaky toys

All designed to build up a excited and happy response – When her Life Jacket gets here we will increase the depth and condition her to love wearing it – then on to the big girls pool! 


Doogie – First exposure to a swimming pool from Pet Professional Education on Vimeo.

Have Fun While You Learn a New Language – Learn To Speak Dog!


By Niki Tudge

An excerpt taken Chapter One of  A Kids Comprehensive Guide to Speaking Dog . This chapter provides background for the parents. The remainder of the book is easy to read case studies supported by fabulous graphics.


All behaviors that dogs exhibit are designed either to access pleasurable situations and desirable objects or to avoid and escape unpleasant situations and undesirable objects. (Note: this is based on what each individual dog considers to pleasant or unpleasant, not the human, and it is important to be aware that the canine and human opinions may differ in any given situation!)

A dog’s communication systems are greatly ritualized, and have evolved specifically to avoid or cut off conflict. This has made dogs, as a species, very successful in terms of their numbers, variety, and adaptability. Things, however, can go awry when we humans misread the signals dogs send us, leaving them helpless to effectively communicate their feelings to us no matter how hard they try.

We cannot know or understand what dogs think and vice-versa. What we can do, though, is understand their body language, observe them carefully as we interact with them, and then respond appropriately.

“Speaking dog” is simple if you remember a few important rules, and has the added bonus of making any interaction with dogs more fun and safe – not to mention, the dogs you come into contact with will really appreciate it.


Types of Social Behavior

The types of social behaviors dogs demonstrate can be broadly grouped into the following two possibilities: 

Distance Decreasing.

A dog uses distance decreasing behaviors to promote approach, play and continued interaction. A lumbering soft gait, relaxed body, and a relaxed face, where the muscles are loose, indicate the dog is encouraging interaction, as does a dog who is moving towards you or leaning into you. The dog may also offer you a paw or rub against you. Dogs who want to engage in play will demonstrate the “play bow,” a posture where the dog literally bows the front of his body so the front legs are parallel to the ground while the hindquarters remain in the standing position.

Distance Increasing.

Distance increasing signals vary and can be easily misread. The signals many of us seem to have no trouble understanding are when a dog stands tall, making each part of his body appear as large as possible, with his weight on the front legs, displaying an upright tail and ears, and piloerection (i.e. the hair along the spine stands up/raised hackles). The dog may also vocalize (e.g. bark or growl). We seem to instinctively react to these signals and take them as the warnings they are intended to be. (See also the upcoming section on anxiety and stress for more on distance increasing signals.)

Misinterpreting Distance Increasing Signals

There are also a number of distance increasing signals we humans commonly misinterpret. These are the more appeasing behaviors dogs demonstrate. Dogs use these appeasement behaviors to make friendly encounters more predictable and to help them diffuse what they anticipate might be a hostile encounter if escape is impossible. These behaviors are a nonaggressive way to “cut off” conflict. When dogs display these behaviors, we need to recognize that this is their way of showing us they are unsure and a little scared.

Appeasement Signals

You may see appeasement signals in one of two ways:

Passive Appeasement.

Passive appeasement behaviors are commonly misunderstood and are often labeled as “submissive.” Dogs displaying passive appeasement will present themselves in a recumbent position exposing the underside of their body. The dog’s ears are typically back and down against the head and the tail is often tucked between the upper legs. Sometimes the dog will expel a small amount of urine while he waits for the attention or the situation he perceives to be hostile to cease.

Active Appeasement.

Dogs displaying active appeasement gestures are often incorrectly labeled as “excited,” “overly friendly,” or even “pushy.” They will often approach you with their whole rear-end wagging in a “U” shape allowing both their face and genital area to be inspected. They may be desperate to jump up and get “in your face.”

For humans, then, it is important when meeting and greeting dogs to be able to recognize if a dog is genuinely friendly and wanting to greet you, or if he is experiencing stress, anxiety or fear.

Conflicted Dogs

A dog in conflict will want to approach but at the same time is too scared or unsure of the outcome. His body language will vacillate between displays of distance decreasing behaviors and distance increasing behaviors. Interacting with a dog that is conflicted can be risky. If you make a wrong move and the dog cannot avoid the approach, then he may become aggressive. This is often the case with a “fear biter.” Many dogs who bite, bite out of fear. Our appearance and movement towards them is scary, and they bite as a last resort to encourage us to leave. Dogs whose bite is motivated from fear often display ambivalent, mixed signals. This means they are conflicted. They are torn between approaching and being scared so they will move back and forth in their communication. This conflict can be displayed very quickly and can result in nips and bites. When dogs are showing fear it is advisable to avoid sudden movements, and to allow the dog an escape route. Do not force the meet and greet by moving toward the dog, having the dog’s owner manipulate the dog into moving toward you, or trying to touch the dog in any way.

Cut-Off Behaviors

It is important that we recognize a dog’s cut-off behaviors. These are designed to end social contact. If, when greeting a dog, you do not recognize that he is scared or stressed, or you choose to ignore his signals and push forward with your approach, you are unfairly pushing him into a situation where he may feel he is only left with one option, and that is not a favorable option either to dog or human. In other words, he may feel he has no other choice but to bite.

When we get a little irritated we may tell somebody to “push off “or “cut it out.” If they don’t respond then we may speak a little more firmly and we may even shout at them. Our dogs cannot do this. They cannot explain or plead with us in English, or whichever language we speak. They can only use their canine communication system. It is up to us to understand and respond to this system so the dog does not feel threatened to the point where he escalates his warnings to a bite!

Canine Warnings

Dogs will typically give plenty of warning if they are uncomfortable with something that another dog or a person is doing. These warning signs may include a direct stare, a rigid face or body, a growl, a curled lip (this can be minimal and hard to spot) or “whale eye” (i.e. flashing the whites of his eyes, also known as half-moon eye). His ears may be flat against his head and he may have a closed, tense mouth. If you see any of these signals, stop what you are doing immediately and allow the dog to slowly back away. Be aware that dogs can make these signals extremely quickly, within mere seconds, and because of this it is not always easy to spot them.

Dogs are wonderful, social animals that love and need to be a part of our lives. But, like people, their personalities range from being social butterflies to wallflowers. Tailor your approach and greeting style based on whatever communications the dog gives you. Dogs are very clear with their intentions and emotions and respond accordingly to ours. Remember, our body language and approach speak much louder than our words as far as dogs are concerned. They are expert readers of our body language and nonverbal communication.

Specific Signs of Stress or Anxiety

Dogs often feel stressed or anxious in certain situations, and will give signs to indicate their discomfort. In such cases, there is a need for intervention to prevent pushing a dog to the point of biting, and to make sure your canine friend is happy and not feeling anxious. Some of the behaviors and signals in this section may also be mentioned in other areas of the book, but we feel they are too important to not speak to in more detail.


Please remember: It is a GOOD THING that a dog shows you that he is anxious or uncomfortable and gives you the chance to change the situation, rather than go straight to a bite. Here are some of the more subtle or commonly misinterpreted signs a dog may give when feeling stressed or anxious:

  • One Paw Raised – This looks very cute but the dog who raises his paw is not happy and does not want to be petted or bothered. A raised paw is a sign that the dog is worried.
  • Half-Moon Eye – Also known as whale eye, this is when the whites of the dog’s eye are visible. Watch for this one when kids are playing too rough with the dog, or are too noisy or close to him. It is a common expression in dogs that are being hugged. If you see the half-moon eye when children approach the dog or are interacting with the dog, it’s time to intervene and give them all something else to do. The dog just wants to be left alone.

A dog may also vocalize his anxiety in the form of a growl, a tongue flick, looking away, yawning or by licking his lips. Never punish a dog for showing that he wants to be left alone by growling, leaving the area or demonstrating any of the more subtle signs highlighted above. If you punish a dog for growling, then you risk suppressing his warning system. If you punish a dog for not staying in a set place when he feels threatened by a child’s proximity, then you risk suppressing his warning system. When a dog’s efforts to communicate are ignored and he starts to feel more and more stressed, he may get to the point where he feels he can no longer rely on his warning system. In such cases, he may simply resort to biting without any of the initial warning signals.

Now if a dog is punished for trying to communicate his discomfort with any given situation, he will still feel exactly the same way about a child bothering him. However, he may now also feel he has no way to show it and no way out of the situation because he does not want to risk being punished. Be glad if your dog gives a warning and take steps to modify the behavior of the child, condition the dog to enjoy the child, and create private and safe spaces for both dog and child.

Other Signs of Anxiety.

  • Tail between the legs.
  • Tail low and only the end is wagging.
  • Tail between the legs and wagging.
  • Tail down or straight for curly-tailed dogs (husky, malamute, pug, chow chow, spitz-type dogs etc.)
  • Ears sideways for an erect-eared dog.
  • Ears back and very rapid panting.
  • The dog goes into another room away from you and urinates or defecates. (Please find a force free professional behavior consultant for help with this.)


Displacement Behaviors

These are all things that dogs do in other contexts. It is important to look at the whole situation to determine whether the dog is feeling anxious.

For example:

  • If it is bedtime and the dog gets up, stretches, yawns and goes to her bed, then that yawn was not a displacement behavior.
  • If the kids are hugging the dog or lying on her and she yawns or starts licking at them over and over, then this is a displacement behavior. She wants to get up and leave or even to bite, but she displaces that with yawning or licking them or herself. In this context, the licking or yawning behavior tells you that the dog is uncomfortable with whatever the kids are doing and it is time for you to intervene. You must then either prevent the kids from doing this in the future, or use positive training techniques to teach the dog to enjoy (not just tolerate) these actions from the kids. (Note: Children should never lie on, sit on, or stand on any dog.)


Displacement behaviors are normal behaviors that are displayed out of context. They also indicate conflict and anxiety, i.e. the dog wants to do something, but he is suppressing the urge to do it. He may, then, displace the suppressed behavior with something else such as a lick or a yawn. For example, you are getting ready to go out and the dog hopes to go too. He is not sure what will happen next. He wants to jump on you or run out the door, but instead he yawns. The uncertainty of the situation causes conflict for the dog, and the displacement behaviors are a manifestation of that conflict. Another example: The dog may want to bite a child who takes his bone, but instead he bites furiously at his own foot.

Some examples of displacement behaviors include:

  • Yawning when not tired.
  • Licking chops without the presence of food.
  • Sudden scratching when not itchy.
  • Sudden biting at paws or other body part.
  • Sudden sniffing the ground or other object.
  • All over body shake when not wet or dirty. 

Avoidance Behaviors

Sometimes dogs are more overt when they feel anxious and want to remove themselves from a situation. Here are some examples:

  • Getting up and leaving an uncomfortable situation.
  • Turning the head away.
  • Hiding behind a person or object.
  • Barking and retreating.
  • Rolling over on his back in a submissive way. (He is saying, “Please don’t hurt me!”)

Please don’t force a dog to stay in situation where he feels anxious, especially if children are the source of his anxiety. All dogs should have a safe place, such as a crate or mat, which they can go to when they want to be left alone. All family members and guests should be taught not to bother the dog when he is in his safe place.

Buy a copy of the book now. Click here 

A Simple Explanation of Respondent Conditioning

As a dog training professional many of your clients will present behavioral or training challenges that are a result of an emotional response, a problematic emotional response.

The observable behavior you see, the operant behavior is elicited because the dog is afraid, scared, anxious etc.  To change the problematic operant behavior you have to change the emotional response.  In order to change the dogs emotional response you need to understand respondent conditioning.



Here is a simple and succinct explanation

Within an organism there are two types of reflexes, unconditioned reflexes and conditioned reflexes. An unconditioned reflex (UR) is unlearned and occurs unconditionally, whereas a conditioned reflex (CR) is acquired and considered impermanent (Chance 2008 p 63).

An unconditioned reflex consists of an unconditioned stimulus (US) and an unconditioned response (UR).  An unconditioned stimulus is something that when presented evokes a natural, unconditioned, response,  such as blinking when air is pushed towards the eyelid or sweating when stressed or scared. Unconditioned reflexes are important for an animal’s survival.  Freeze dried liver offered to a dog is an example of a US and the dog drooling is an example of the resulting UR.

A conditioned reflex occurs when a conditioned stimulus (CS) creates a conditioned response (CR).  This is a learned response to a given set of conditions occurring in the environment.  Pavlov recognized that any stimulus could become a conditioned stimulus when paired repeatedly with an unconditioned stimulus (Chance 2008 p 64).

Respondent conditioning takes place when an unconditioned stimulus that elicits an unconditioned response is repeatedly paired with a neutral stimulus. As a result of conditioning, the neutral stimulus becomes a conditioned stimulus that reliably elicits a conditioned response.  Each single pairing is considered a trial. With respondent conditioning the presentation of the two stimuli, neutral and unconditioned, are presented regardless of the behavior the individual is exhibiting. The behavior elicited is a reflex response (Change 2008 p 64).

High order conditioning takes place when a well established conditioned stimulus is paired with a neutral stimulus to elicit a conditioned response. High order conditioning takes place in the absence of an unconditioned stimulus. With high order conditioning many more stimuli can come to elicit conditional responses not just those paired with an unconditioned stimulus, thus enhancing the ability of the animal to adapt and survive.  But high order conditioning also affects and influences many emotional reactions such as fear (Chance 2008 p 66).


Chance, P. (2008) Learning and Behavior, Wadsworth Cengage Learning

Keep your four-legged family members safe and healthy during the holiday season.


There are many new things happening around the house during the holiday season, visitors coming and going, new scents from holiday decorations, yummy edibles around the house and road trips to grandma. As pet parents, getting ready for the holiday season, you need to be aware of potential hazards the holidays may present to your furry family members so you can keep them safe.

Much like what we know about proper nutrition for ourselves, what we should and should not feed our pets during the holiday season is usually a matter of common sense. Chocolate is a big No No. The ASPCA notes that as little as ¼ ounce of baking chocolate can cause vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, hyperactivity and increased heart rate with a dog weighing 10 pounds.  Dogs should never eat chocolate, period. Less sweet chocolate is more toxic than milk chocolate as it contains seven times more theobromine, a substance similar to caffeine.  In general, all snacks and deserts intended for humans should be kept away from your pets.

Any change in diet can give your pet an upset stomach so don’t feed your pooch table scraps, leftover food or allow them access to a particularly smelly garbage bin for those known to roam kitchen counters or trash areas. Be especially careful with turkey bones which can choke your dog or lodge in their intestines.

Holiday decorations, such as Christmas trees, Lilies, Holly Berries and Mistletoe, can also be dangerous to pets if ingested. In fact, even allowing your pet access to the Christmas tree water can cause vomiting and diarrhea. Christmas tree water bowls can contain tree fertilizers and the water, if left stagnant, can hold bacteria.

Also, remember that over the holiday season the family environment changes. We become hyperactive super heroes rushing from shopping to school play to home, achieving 27 hours of work in 24. Our living space becomes stuffed with strange objects, flashing lights, noisy toys and lots of stress. Try as best you can to maintain your pet’s normal schedule, keep feeding times the same and commit to their daily exercise routine. Also, be realistic about your animal’s normal behavior. If Fido is a chewer, you may have provided an irresistible chew toy for them by leaving large bright items under your tree. Or, if your feline friend is likes to climb furniture, your Christmas tree may serve as a tempting launching pad for a full-frontal attack on your child’s new remote control helicopter hovering nearby.

Make time for your pet, remember they are family members too and this can be a great time of year for them with a little care and planning.

From all of us at The DogSmith, we wish you a fabulous holiday season and a wonderful new year



The LAB System – A Suitable Humane Approach Without A Hierarchy for Force-Free Pet Trainers

There are several versions of the Humane Hierarchy around and available for dog trainers and behavior consultants to use and reference.

Some of these humane hierarchy models are accompanied by pages of explanation, detail and academic citations. Others are wonderfully graphic and detail each level of the hierarchy  and the progression direction. For me constructing a humane hierarchy was a far more simple exercise. You see I decided that my Humane Program did not need to be a hierarchy. I  really only need to  include the tools, methods and philosophy that i feel the need to use.

I am convinced that if behavior consultants conduct a thorough Functional Assessment as the first part of a behavior change program and they have the courage of their convictions in terms of a force-free philosophy then the steps as indicated on the “Lab” System will be sufficient in changing and modifying problematic behaviors, supported where necessary by a Veterinary Behaviorist. Click here to access a PDF of LAB

After the implementation of a behavior change program supported by a thorough Functional Assessment if appropriate results are not achieved then.
1. Review and revise where necessary the level of program commitment and compliance from the pet owners and participating pet professionals
2. Revisit the original functional assessment. Analyze the relationship the behavior has with its environment. Revisit and review the relationship between the antecedents/behavior and the behavior/consequences.
3. Secure peer supervision to review the Functional Assessment and provide advice on implementation procedures
4. Secure mentor supervision to review the Functional Assessment and provide advice on implementation procedures
5. Refer to a Veterinary Behaviorist

Why Conduct  A Functional Assessment

There are fundamental differences between the behavior analytic approach to assessing problem behaviors in our pet dogs and the medical model approach. The medical model approach to problem behaviors diagnoses and treats the behavior problem like an illness or disease. Within the medical model approach problem behaviors are categorized and then set protocols are prescribed based on the category the problem falls into. The medical model approach does not address the cause of the behavior or look at the specifics of the individual animal displaying the behavior. The medical model addresses the problem behavior through surgery, pharmacology intervention or anecdotal explanations based on how the behavior looks or the animal’s believed mental condition. Much of the prescribed treatment used to address problems using the medical model is based on intuition and passed down medical protocols.

Unlike the medical model the behavior analytical approach to assessing problem behaviors recognizes that behavior is a product of the environment and the individual animal’s conditioning history. The behavior analytical approach recognizes that in order to change the behavior the causes need to be identified. The behavior analytical approach focuses on the details of the specific behavior.

The behavioral approach to problem behavior is far more effective and efficient than the medical model because it is based on the science of learning theory and follows scientific processes to identify the antecedents and consequences of the behavior. The behavior analytical approach does not rely on anecdotal recommendations or trial and error tactics, it systematically identifies the functional relationship the behavior has with its environment. In particular it looks at the relationship the behavior has with the antecedents and the postcedents. When these two important relationships are understood then an objective and effective  behavior change program can be developed. We must be able to explain and describe what is going on if we are planning to control, manipulate or change the behavior.

For more information on How To Conduct a Functional Assessment click here 


Type – Delete – Reset. Manage your social media activity. Your friendships, business and mental health deserve it!

I spend about an hour each day, broken down into short time periods, on social Media. Most of my postings are on Facebook and Twitter as I prefer these two platforms.  Many of my business posts are done remotely through a social media software and are scheduled in advance. But, each AM, mid-day and PM, I do enjoy short sessions scrolling through my news feed, keeping up with friends replying to comments and responding to any tags.

On any given day I cannot tell you how many times I go to post something on social media and then delete it. Not necessarily something elicited through anger or frustration but just an opinion, a thought, a quote or something I deem noteworthy!

I can also confess, that on any given day, I begin a reply to a post and stop, rethink and delete it. These responses I begin are not to an angry post, just a reply, I temporarily consider relevant.

Why, you may ask, do I take the time to draft a post and then delete it?

Well there are several reasons for this and they all identify with differing circumstances. Before I give you some examples of these circumstances I want you to think about the following, with which I think we can all identify. This list is in no way exhaustive and based on my humble opinion and experience about who I believe my social media audience may be when I post. Many of us may vacillate between several of these.

  • Observers.

There are so many people on social media that may connect with you through your work, school or personal circumstances that are just “observing”. They follow, read and observe our behavior, posts, rants and opinions. From their observations they form a picture about us in their minds that will then affect how or even if, they interact with us.

  • Social Media Gurus

SMG’s are everywhere. They react, rant and comment on everything and anything and do so in the heat of the moment with unbridled passion and energy. They are the self-proclaimed experts on any given newsworthy topic. One minute they are gorilla experts and then parenting gurus. Their expertise spans everything from African politics to community neighborhood watches and they are happy to dispense advice on it all, anytime and to anyone.

  • Punishment Junkies

PJ’s hover, awaiting a post or opinion they can jump on. They strongly argue their opinions when they feel slighted. They don’t hold back individual names and or businesses. These public diatribes often serve only one purpose, to punish and publicly humiliate someone or inflict damage to a business or person. Punishing people through angry words surely only achieves, for the writer, emotional gratification in the moment. What about the long term?

  • Reinforcement Junkies

Hastily pounding our keyboard in anger and responding to issues on Facebook affects our personality. Our behavior is reinforced through the reactions we elicit from our followers and friends. This further strengthens our behavior. But ask yourself if the behavior you are demonstrating is healthy for you and/or your business? Studies have likened our behavior and posting on social media to gambling.  We post, watch, revel in likes, gain the feel-good factor and move on.  Its addictive and can become a problem if not managed and moderated.

  • The Tell Alls

We all have those social media friends who tell it all. It seems like each and every life event is aired publicly. Every thought, problem, opportunity, success, complaint, gripe and compliment is shared. Same goes for their family members. There is no filter or consideration for who or when this information is being displayed, read, interpreted and used by others.

Your Personal Illustration!

Whether we like it or not our words have consequences.  If not immediately then in the future. What we say and write can create a collective energy over weeks and months. Our words create patterns and pictures for others about who we are, how we behave, and how we treat others. How is your public image?

Now, here are a few examples of situations where I have typed, deleted, reset!

  1. PJ’s

Supporting posts by angry “friends” can be perilous. How well do you know them or their situation? Are other parties involved in this scenario watching and reading comments. May your response appear to slight, insult or bully another party who may have the truth on their side! How is this impacting your persona?

  1. SMGF’s

Entering into discussions with SMG’s often leads to unconstructive, social media debates where posts are made with little consideration to word choice or use.  Facts are not checked, and opinions run rife. Observers are also here and how you respond in the limited time and space allotted may contribute to an inaccurate perception of you and your position. Gurus can only be so if they have an active audience

  1. Tell All’s

I realized several years ago that as a business owner I lost some liberties and a certain amount of privacy in my community, whether that be where I live or socially where I interact. This is a small and not so worrying price to pay for being a business owner. But I do have to always be cognizant of the fact that I am not only judged as Niki Tudge but also as The DogSmith, DogNostics, Doggone safe, Pet Professional Guild etc. My opinions, beliefs and attitudes have a direct impact on me and any organization I proudly represent. Think about how your posts may impact the behavior of others towards you, your company and your family. Think about how your posts create the tapestry of your persona and the perceptions this allows.

Don’t be fooled, words have consequences and can do untold damage to others, to your relationships and to your business. Words can dig a deep enough hole, too steep to climb out of. Think before you type. Look at word choice and use. Step away if emotional or angry. Type-Delete-Reset