Author Archives: Niki Tudge

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


The Downward Spiral of The Family Pet Dog

Written by Niki Tudge Copyright 2017

If putting a human, by nature a social being, in jail or solitary confinement is intended as punishment, then surely, isolating, chaining or tethering a dog will have the same effect on the canine soul. Dogs are domesticated, the most domesticated animal there is. Bred by humans to be companions and work partners, we have selected and bred dogs with highly social genes. Because of this selective breeding, dogs now have personality traits that need our attention, our time and our kind benevolent leadership. If our attention and participation in their lives is missing then dogs become lonely and bored. This loneliness leads to frustration and stress that in turn leads to behavioral problems. Excessive barking, pacing, self-mutilation and other destructive behaviors are all symptoms displayed by a dog that is not having its mental and physical needs met.

Teach Your Pet to Walk Nicely

Dogs are not only social beings they are also very inquisitive and enjoy exploring. They need to interact with their environment and with other dogs. From these interactions, dogs benefit from the mental stimulation of new challenges, sights and sounds. If they are restricted from companions or there life is reduced to a tedious limited environment then they can suffer mental stress. For a dog, loneliness is abandonment. Many dogs find themselves reduced to a life isolated from their human pack because they lack basic behavior and social skills that are needed to live peacefully in the human environment.

 

Below is an example of the downward spiral we see in a dog’s behavior when it does not receive the training, exercise and social interaction required:

The dog enters the home as a puppy or a young dog. The owners are excited, the dog is a bundle of fun but no management or training plan is put in place. There is no housetraining plan and at the same time the dog is being handled by each of the family members differently and the wrong behaviors are being rewarded. Puppies are inadvertently encouraged to jump, pull and nip. As the puppy grows those small potty accidents become more annoying and the puppy is punished for the bad behavior rather than being shown and guided to the right behavior.

Puppy romps on a leash turn into walking nightmares. As the puppy grows in size and strength it is no longer fun to run behind a small ball of fur. The leash pulling becomes annoying and dangerous to the owner and the dog. The leash walks become less frequent since nobody enjoys walking the dog and the dog’s energy levels build. This results in an overly energetic dog with high levels of frustration and no appropriate physical outlet.

A lack of daily physical exercise results in destructive and irritating behaviors.  The dog is more frequently left alone and for longer periods of time. Attention seeking behaviors prevail and the dog’s behavior spirals downhill and out of control leaving the owners with an overwhelming feeling of helplessness.  The dog has become an inconvenience and a chore and the owner-dog relationship breaks down. The dog will be punished and this is justified by the owner to help alleviate their own feelings of inadequacy. The owners convince themselves that they have done everything possible; their dog is dumb, stupid or both.

Education not subjugation!

To save the family home the dog is now reduced to living in the yard with minimal contact with its owners. The dog now engages in behaviors such as digging holes, chewing at outside furniture or attempting to escape its life of solitude.  In some cases the dog’s behavior becomes such an aversive for the owners that they physically restrain the dog in a kennel run or on a tether. This is a very sad outcome for the owners and a devastating and cruel outcome for the family pet. 

The solutions are simple. From the outset, right off the bat, invest some time and money and enroll your dog into a well run and organized puppy class. You will save hours of future frustration, eliminate damage to your home, your furniture and your yard. You, as a responsible pet owner, will teach your dog how to successfully share your home – surely that was your goal when you made the decision to bring a dog into your family. A well run puppy class will teach you how to house-train your puppy, prevent problematic nipping and biting, socialize your puppy so it’s safe around other dogs and people and if you take the time you will learn the obedience basics including sit/down/stay and walk nicely.

Before you spend hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars on your pet dog and all its accompanying equipment, toys and outfits think about how you plan to train your dog.  More pet dogs are euthanized due to behavior than illness. Don’t let your pet dog become another sad statistic in our animal shelters.

Contact your local DogSmith to help you both now!


To Teach or To Train?

 

By Niki Tudge

Whether we train, teach, or both, what are we ultimately impacting? Buckingham and Coffman (1999) differentiate between skills, knowledge and talent and propose that, together, they form the three elements of any one person’s performance. The dissimilarity between the three is that, while skills can be trained and knowledge taught, talent can be neither. Skills are the “how-to” and knowledge is what one is aware of, cognitively speaking. Talent is a different phenomenon altogether, however, and cannot be taught. Rather, it is a repetitive behavior or action intrinsic to an individual’s natural ability.

In contrast to Coffman and Buckingham, Ulrich and Smallwood (2012) assert that talent is not a singular phenomenon, but relies instead on a formula of competence × commitment × contribution. As trainers, we need to be sufficiently self-aware to be able to place an emphasis on the areas where we can have the most impact. Ideally, our work should single out the development of skills through effective training and the transfer of knowledge through teaching activities. The assumption is that if we are effective trainers and skilled teachers, then our students will, in turn, be able to enhance their knowledge and improve their skills. As a result, they will experience the learning process.

Let us now take a few minutes to look a little deeper at training versus teaching. Upon examination of the relevant literature, it becomes apparent that teaching is theoretically oriented, whereas training has more of a practical application. Teaching facilitates new knowledge, while training helps those who already have the knowledge to learn the tools and techniques required to apply it. Teaching penetrates minds, while training shapes habits and skills. Teachers provide information and knowledge, while trainers facilitate learning. Or, as Trumbull (1890) states: “It has been said that the essence of teaching is causing another to know.” It may similarly be said that “the essence of training is causing another to do.” (Rao, 2008).

Training is an interactive activity that helps us to perform skills. It requires learning by doing and experiencing practical activities (Pollice, 2003). In my opinion, and stated across relevant literature, training focuses on skills and narrows the focus, possibly over a shorter period of time. Typically, we also associate training with repetitive learning until we achieve competency and the skill becomes second nature. A select review of the literature discussing teaching suggests that, in contrast to training, the search of, or transfer of, knowledge is deeper and broader, and takes place over a longer period of time. We often say learning is a lifelong occupation.

Essentially, the goals associated with teaching and training are different, but I am not suggesting the two roles are mutually exclusive. On the contrary, it is important we balance our roles between teaching and transferring knowledge, and training and getting the job done.

I conclude here that training is a subset of teaching. The table  above highlights some of the topics that we, within our scope as trainers, will touch on when teaching employees. It differentiates between topics that require skill training or hands-on competency, and those that require teaching or the transfer of knowledge. I think it is fair to say most of these teaching activities would be best taught alongside compatible skill training exercises.

To learn more about both training and teaching employees and/or clients click below

 


Dog Training or Behavior Consulting – What’s the difference?

Doberman and LadyListen to a five minute podcast about the DogSmith and our  training and behavior services. There is a difference  between the two.  Alternatively you can contact your DogSmith who will help guide you in your choice of services.

 So What Is The Difference?

  • Dog Training is about building up new and appropriate skills and helping to reduce and eliminate slightly irritating problematic behaviors.
  • Behavior Consultants address problem behaviors that are elicited through fear, anxiety or aggression.

In short a dog trainer teaches classes, day training and board and train programs and focuses primarily on obedience behaviors and manners. A dog behavior consultant does consultations,  and focuses primarily on modifying behavior problems that are elicited by emotions. Training and behavior programs also differ in several ways and require different protocols and skills. In some cases your DogSmith will refer you to a Veterinary Behaviorist. 

 

Choose Dog Training if your dog

Choose Behavior Counseling if your dog

  • Drags you on your daily walks
  • Greets you like a linebacker,
  • Mugs your guests
  • Potties in your house
  • Digs up your lawn
  • Uses your furniture as a chew toy
  • Needs to learn how to relax
  • Has a general lack of training
  • Growls at friends & family
  • Protects its toys
  • Is grumpy around other dogs
  • Displays anxious behaviors
  • Shows behavior you consider a concern to your family
  • Is reactive on leash
  • Is shy and anxious around people or dogs

 At The DogSmith we have a selection of training options for you and your pet dog.

Ask yourself the following questions.

  1. Are you looking to attend Puppy Group ClassesPet Manners ClassesSpecialty Group ClassesTrick Group Classes or are you looking for private in home training.
  2. Are you looking for help to educate and manage your puppy or build on existing skills for your mature dog or
  3. Does your dog have behavioral problems, is it scared, fearful, anxious or frustrated, If so then contact your DogSmith so you can schedule a behavior consultation.

Beautiful DogThe DogSmith training programs enhance and improve the relationship you share with your family pet. Our methods are grounded in science, lots of fun to use and do not need pain, fear or intimidation. At the DogSmith we believe that training should be fun, educational and it must enhance the relationships we have with our pets. 

Thankfully our methods are also supported by the scientific community and the American College of Veterinary behaviorists and the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior. You can read their position statements here

 At the DogSmith we believe a dog’s behavior results from three critical and key components.

  1. The Daily Management of your dog and their home environment.
  2. Positive Reinforcement Training  so your pet  can coexist peacefully with you and your family at home. 
  3. A fabulous trusting Relationship that you and your pet dog share and mutually enjoy.

MTRtitlefrontThis is our proprietary MTR system. It would be pointless to invest money in pet dog training classes with a pet dog if the dog is then left unsupervised to pick up bad habits from its environment (such as getting into the kitchen trash). Alternatively, it is not possible to train and manage a dog’s environment correctly if the relationship between dog and owner is lacking trust and mutual respect.

You can download your Free MTR Cards here and see how much fun dog training can be. 

Contact us today and let’s  get started. Fun training that the entire family


So You Want To Become A Dog Trainer?

by Niki Tudge

Many people working professionally in the pet care industry have different letters or alphabet soup as I term it behind their names, in their email signature and on their business cards. There is a selection of colleges, online schools and professional workshops that will issue credentials to pet care professionals. These credentials vary and range from credentials for dog training, pet care and/or dog behavior counseling.

If you are thinking of becoming a pet care professional or opening your own pet care and dog training business it is important that you have a solid theoretical background in a selection of topics. You will need hours of hands on skill training for both dogs and humans and you will need to align yourself with an organization with supports your continued growth and has an invested interest in your success. A strong business mentor is a huge asset to any small business. You will also need a selection of business skills to support your operational skills. Marketing skills are crucial so you can strategically position your business and deliver your products and services to your clients. A basic understanding of business finance is also critical to the success of a small business, you need to make sound financial decisions and remain solvent.

One of the most important questions you must answer is whether you want to be a dog trainer, a behavior counselor, a pet care provider or a pet care expert who can offer a wide array of services across all three disciplines.  As an  individual thinking of moving into the pet care business this is a critical question as a huge number of your clients will require both dog training expertise and behavior counseling knowledge.

Dog Trainers can help their clients build  dog obedience behavior repertoires. Training  involves teaching a dog  new skills such as teaching a ‘sit/stay’ to prevent the dog from begging at the table or teaching the dog to ‘come’ when the owner wants the dog to return to them.  Behavior Counseling is when you work with a client to change an existing problematic behavior; you teach the dog an alternative response to a set of circumstances.

 Many behavioral problems present themselves with some element of fear often exhibited as an emotional response such as anxiety, anger or frustration. Fear is a very normal “self protective” response for dogs. In order for dogs to survive they have to be good at adapting to and reacting to dangerous situations.  Fear in dogs is either innate fear, which means it, has an evolutionary significance such as a fear of loud noises, strangers, isolation or fire or the fear is ontogenic with means it has been learned through experiences.  Changing a problematic behavior, a conditioned emotional response requires an understanding of learning theory and a selection of behavior change protocols.

A national survey completed in 1996 by Goodloe and Borchelt found that fear is the common emotional factor motivating a dog’s behavior. Fear is elicited by a variety of unconditioned and conditioned stimuli like any other form of emotional arousal and reflex actions. This is one of the key reasons why aggression in dogs cannot be handled with aggression by humans. If the underlying factor of the dogs aggression is fear then being rough handed or using other methods that elicit fear in the dog only compound the problem.

The results of the survey conducted by Goodloe and Borchelt showed that from a pool of 2018 dogs,: 38% said their dogs showed some fear toward loud noises, 22% reported fear toward unfamiliar adults, 33% were fearful toward unfamiliar children and 14% exhibited fear toward unfamiliar and non threatening dog. Because of this if you are considering a career in dog training you need to look at options that educate you and support your growth as a dog trainer and a behavior counselor. Your clients will appreciate it and your bottom line will benefit.

Talk to the DogSmith about any behavioral problems you may have or learn how you can become a DogSmith Dog Trainer or Behavior Consultant

 

 


The Marketing Equation That Works!

The Marketing Equation

Once you have a marketing plan in place I can guarantee it will include activities like social media posts, newsletters or simple sales tools such as rack cards, business cards or home printed flyers for community notice boards. These can be very effective marketing tools if used correctly. Remember that nice graphics do not always convert to good advertisement or sales copy. Graphics are an important part of developing sales tools because they support the marketing equation, but they do not replace it.

The marketing equation is a very effective equation. If you take the time to use this when you work on social media posts, newsletter campaigns and the design and development of flyers, you will find your response rate, click through ratios and sales conversions will yield a better return-on-investment.

 

The Marketing Equation is Interrupt + Engage + Educate + Offer = Results

 

                                                             The Interrupt:

To get qualified prospects to pay attention you need to identify and emphasize your key selling points, which you should have determined when you worked on your marketing strategy. Who are your clients and what are their hot buttons, needs and desires? A key selling point (KSP) or hot button is anything your prospect deems to be important and relevant. Good KSPs encourage target prospects to begin searching for more information.

                                                                 Engage:

If the Interrupt is based on good hot buttons, prospects will want more information. Make it clear to that the information is coming. Ensure that once they are focused on your message that they are engaged to continue on reading.

                                                                 Educate:

Identify the important and relevant issues of concern to your prospects. Feel their pain and listen to their concerns then provide them with the information they need to make their buying decision. The information has to be easily and quickly read and understood. The more educated a potential client is, the more services you will sell. Most marketing campaigns are aimed at making the sell now. These so called “now” buyers comprise the smallest percentage of consumers. We are looking to build long-term client relationships which represent the vast majority of consumers.

                                                                   Offer:

 Always minimize your potential clients’ fear by providing them with a low risk way to sign up for your services. Give them all the information they need so they feel they are in control of their decision and are not being talked into anything. Your goal is to solve their problem, not sell them something they don’t need or want.

                                                                RESULT:

Establish leads that will convert to long-term clients who will become an active part of your business growth.


Marketing for Service Practitioners

 

In the pet industry, most of your clients will come from referrals, usually from professional pet-related organizations like humane societies, rescue networks, veterinarians, and consumers as well as by word-of-mouth from past and present clients. Because of this, a good portion of your marketing dollars will be spent on marketing materials and promotional items to encourage these referral sources.

To start though, exactly what is marketing? There are many definitions of marketing. These are some of my personal favorites:

  • Marketing is the social process by which individuals and groups obtain what they need and want through creating and exchanging products and value with others – Kotler
  • Marketing is the management process that identifies, anticipates and satisfies client requirements profitably – The Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM)
  • The right product, in the right place, at the right time, at the right price – Adcock
  • Marketing is essentially about marshaling the resources of an organization so that they meet the changing needs of the client on whom the organization depends – Palmer

Regardless of which definition you prefer, you need to understand that marketing is:

  • A continuous process through which we plan, research, implement, control, and evaluate our efforts, which are designed to satisfy both clients’ requirements and our own objectives.
  • Everything we do to make our service attractive and available to potential clients and to satisfy their needs and wants. It includes EVERY discipline – sales, public relations, pricing, packaging, operations and distribution.
  • Part art and part science and integrates all aspects of our business together.

What Are You Marketing?

You are in the business of solving problems. You help your clients with what matters to them. You are marketing all of your products and services to people who need and desire them. In the service industry, however, recognize that this is based on the trust and confidence your clients have granted you. You are marketing both the “sizzle” and the “steak,” or the “peace of mind” that comes from having a qualified, insured, bonded, certified pet sitter or dog trainer, as well as the actual pet sitting or dog training service. As service providers, we have to perform the pet sitting, training, grooming, and/or dog walking in the most professional and exceptional manner. What we actually market is what all this represents to the client – peace of mind, and the safety, happiness and well-being of their pet.

Now you understand what marketing is let’s talk about marketing strategy and its process so you can develop a workable and effective marketing plan.

The Marketing Strategy Process

Marketing plans do not need to be complicated and convoluted. They can be simple outlines that identify what you plan to do, when and how. All of your marketing activities should revolve around the four points you need to focus on to increase your business and profitability:

Find new clients. This can be through advertising, community involvement, referrals, events, and networking. Most of your marketing will be education-based, where you give away samples (e.g. demonstrations, guides, introductory courses) to encourage prospects to become lifetime clients.

Increase the average spend/sales per client. Up-sell your clients with higher quality services. If they choose the minimum pet sitting service, show them the value in purchasing the more inclusive packages.

Increase the frequency or quantity of your client’s purchases. Sell your clients additional products and services (cross-selling) such as dog food, pet sitting, dog walking and doggy parties. Follow up on services, measure your clients’ activities (e.g. why haven’t they used you over Christmas, did they not go away or are they using the competition?)

Hold on to your clients for life. By being the most reliable, fair, ethical, professional, effective business person on the planet, you will keep your clients for life. Measure your operation’s effectiveness and satisfaction through surveys and testimonials. Talk to your clients and LISTEN. Maintain the relationship even when you are not in an active buying-selling transaction. It is far more expensive to earn a new client than it is to keep an existing client.

Once you have a marketing plan it is important to constantly review, revise and update it so the process is ongoing. All parts of your plan must work together, support each other and complement one another.

To develop a marketing plan, you should follow these simple steps: 

  1. Determine who and what your clients are.

What are your clients’ needs and desires? Who is buying and using your services? How are they buying and using your services? Can they be segmented into groups by age, type of service used, type of dog or dog activity? Can they be segmented geographically? You need to know who your clients are if you are to meet the goals of the marketing definition. 

  1. Determine what your market is like.

What is the market? How many consumers are there, where do they live, what is their buying power? 

  1. Analyze your competition.

Who are they, what do they do better, what do you do better? How are they advertising? Who do they know, how are they networked?

  1. Determine how you will deliver your services.

What are the available venues or facilities where you can deliver your services, what will they cost, and will clients come to them? What is the availability of contractors to deliver your services in your area?

  1. Develop a mix of marketing methods.

What is the optimum mix of marketing method to keep your mix as small as you can without sacrificing effectiveness? What free marketing is available, how creative can you be, do you have more time that money or less time and a financial budget to invest?

  1. Evaluate if what you are doing makes financial sense.

What is the real cost of each effort and does it pay, is it profitable? You should not endeavor to participate in any paid marketing if you do not have the ability to track and manage its effectiveness.

 

  1. Revise, Review and then go back to step 1.

Measure, calculate, analyze and consider what works and what does not work as well. Then you can make educated decisions and tweak, update your marketing plan.

 

The Marketing Equation

Once you have a plan in place I can guarantee it will include activities like social media posts, newsletters or simple sales tools such as rack cards, business cards or home printed flyers for community notice boards. These can be very effective marketing tools if used correctly. Remember that nice graphics do not always convert to good advertisement or sales copy. Graphics are an important part of developing sales tools because they support the marketing equation, but they do not replace it.

 

The marketing equation is a very effective equation. If you take the time to use this when you work on social media posts, newsletter campaigns and the design and development of flyers, you will find your response rate, click through ratios and sales conversions will yield a better return-on-investment.

 

The Marketing Equation is Interrupt + Engage + Educate + Offer = Results

 

                                                             The Interrupt:

To get qualified prospects to pay attention you need to identify and emphasize your key selling points, which you should have determined when you worked on your marketing strategy. Who are your clients and what are their hot buttons, needs and desires? A key selling point (KSP) or hot button is anything your prospect deems to be important and relevant. Good KSPs encourage target prospects to begin searching for more information.

 

                                                                 Engage:

If the Interrupt is based on good hot buttons, prospects will want more information. Make it clear to that the information is coming. Ensure that once they are focused on your message that they are engaged to continue on reading.

                                                                 Educate:

Identify the important and relevant issues of concern to your prospects. Feel their pain and listen to their concerns then provide them with the information they need to make their buying decision. The information has to be easily and quickly read and understood. The more educated a potential client is, the more services you will sell. Most marketing campaigns are aimed at making the sell now. These so called “now” buyers comprise the smallest percentage of consumers. We are looking to build long-term client relationships which represent the vast majority of consumers.

                                                                   Offer:

 Always minimize your potential clients’ fear by providing them with a low risk way to sign up for your services. Give them all the information they need so they feel they are in control of their decision and are not being talked into anything. Your goal is to solve their problem, not sell them something they don’t need or want.

                                                                RESULT:

Establish leads that will convert to long-term clients who will become an active part of your business growth.

References

Adcock, D., Halborg, A.L., & Ross, C. (2001). Marketing Principles and Practice. Essex, England: Pearson Education

Kotler, P. (2010). Principles of Marketing. Essex, England: Pearson Education

Palmer, A. (2000). Principles of Marketing. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press

The Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM). (2001). http://www.cim.co.uk

 

 

 

 


The Science of Force-Free Learning: How Our Pets Learn!

Introduction 

Here at the DogSmith, professional members of the Pet Professional Guild (PPG), we like to focus on building relationships with our pets by using positive reinforcement to train new skills, and to build new behaviors as replacements for problematic ones. Because the emotional brain inhibits the rational brain (and vice versa), nobody, and that includes our pets, can learn something constructive and pleasant when in a fearful or anxious state.

Positive reinforcement means giving an animal access to something he desires (e.g. food or a toy), which makes it more likely he will repeat the behavior that was rewarded and ensure he maintains a positive emotional state. Pet owners may not always be aware that an animal’s behavior, particularly in cases where a behavior is seen as inappropriate or problematic, can be the result of stress, fear or anxiety. In such cases, rather than reprimand the pet, we must endeavor to understand the emotions he is experiencing in any given context or situation. Once we have done that, we can then begin to implement a protocol of respondent conditioning tailored to changing his emotional state from negative to positive, meaning he will be calmer, more able to think, and thus better able to start learning new behaviors.

PPG’s recommended respondent and operant conditioning protocols are both effective and humane. Many would agree that fearmongering, threats or punishment are not an effective or acceptable way for adults to resolve their differences, so it should come as no surprise that physically correcting pets, just like hitting children or adults, causes more problems than it solves. And there are plenty of scientific studies that reflect this. To cite just one of them, Ziv (2017) conducted a review of the scientific literature on the effects of various canine training methods and summarized that methods using punishment, fear and pain jeopardize both the physical and mental health of the pet. 

More on Behavior

Our pets’ behavior can be overt or covert. Overt behavior is anything an animal does that we can observe or measure. In other words, any visible behavior we can see and directly impact through our management, care and training. Covert behaviors, on the other hand, are hidden and unobservable. They include actions like thinking and imagining. I am sure we all agree that our pets do both of these, even though we cannot directly see it. (Tudge, 2017).

Working with behavior issues, and specifically cases involving fear, anxiety, or aggression, requires a thorough understanding of the scientific elements of behavior modification. It is also important to be aware that behaviors are voluntary or involuntary. They are either shaped by their environmental consequences or through the association with environmental stimuli.

 

Respondent Conditioning

Copyright Niki Tudge 2017

Involuntary (a.k.a. respondent) behaviors are elicited from an emotional reaction to a situation. In a process known as respondent (or classical) conditioning, the presence of one stimulus begins to reliably predict the presence of a second stimulus (Tudge, 2017). This is not a consciously learned process; it happens automatically and without thought. An example of this would be the association developed between the time of day and your pet getting his dinner, or whenever you pick up your dog’s leash. By association, one stimulus (i.e. the time or day or the pet’s leash) reliably predicts something the pet considers desirable, i.e. a meal or a walk. As such, the time of day or the leash (previously an unconditioned stimulus) becomes a conditioned stimulus and elicits a learned, conditioned response. This will most likely be salivation and movement around the food bowl, or running to the door in excitement. This is known as the Pavlovian (after Russian physiologist, Ivan Pavlov, who is well known for his experiments in this field) response of classical or respondent conditioning.

For pets experiencing fear, anxiety, or aggression, respondent conditioning can be used to help create a positive association between something the pet sees as threatening, and something the pet already knows is fabulous. A good example of this is a dog who barks and growls every time he sees the mailman. If the dog’s owner feeds the dog delicious cooked chicken the moment the dog spots the mailman and continues until he is out of sight, eventually the dog will anticipate the chicken as soon as he sees the mailman. Instead of feeling threatened, previously characterized by barking and growling, the dog will begin to look forward to the daily mail delivery, as it predicts something delicious. This becomes an automatic response, with no expectations of a specific behavior.

Operant Conditioning 

Voluntary behaviors are called operants and are strengthened or weakened by their consequences, a process known as operant conditioning  (Tudge, 2009). Operant conditioning occurs when a voluntary behavior is changed. By giving the above barking and growling dog a cue he already knows (such as “look” at the owner or “lie down”) just before the mailman arrives, the previously learned behavior can be reinforced. Behaviors that are rewarded are the ones that are more likely to get repeated and, in this way, a dog can learn an alternate behavior to replace an undesirable or inappropriate behavior. It is important to note that what a dog’s owner considers to be undesirable or inappropriate may not be viewed in the same way by the dog. It is our job to teach our pets, via positive reinforcement, what we do and do not like them to do. For example, many owners are happy to let their dog sleep on the bed at night, while others do not allow this. Dogs cannot automatically know this. It is up to us to teach them.

The Four Quadrants of Learning

Copyright Niki Tudge 2017

There are four types of operant learning (a.k.a quadrants), defined as such because the behavior “operates” on the environment. Two of the quadrants strengthen behaviors and are referred to as reinforcements. The other two weaken behavior and are referred to as punishments.

Positive and Negative Reinforcement 

We now know that positive reinforcement is defined as the immediate following of a behavior by an appealing stimulus – or the increase of an appealing stimulus – that our pets covet, which results in a strengthening of the behavior. In contrast, negative reinforcement is defined as the removal of an unpleasant stimulus – or a decrease in the intensity of an aversive stimulus –immediately following a behavior, which also results in the strengthening of the behavior. In other words, the pet engages in one behavior to remove the unpleasant, scary or painful stimulus.  This is often called escape or avoidance learning and has a “Whew, thank goodness that scary stimulus has gone!” effect, rather than the “Wow, look what I got!” effect gained from positive reinforcement.

Escape and Avoidance Behavior 

When we define negative reinforcement, we also have to distinguish between escape and avoidance behavior. In escape behavior, the behavior terminates or gets away from the aversive stimulus, which means the dog escapes it by engaging in a second behavior. As a result, that second behavior is strengthened. An aversive stimulus is anything each individual dog finds scary or unpleasant. In avoidance behavior, the dog engages in a behavior to prevent the presentation of an aversive stimulus. In other words, the dog avoids the aversive stimulus by engaging in another behavior.

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Escape and Avoidance Learning

Let’s look now at an example of escape and avoidance behavior using an electric shock remote training collar.

ESCAPE                                                                     

The dog is running away from his owner and the owner applies the shock stimulus while shouting “come.” The dog stops or begins moving back toward the owner. When the dog does this, the owner stops applying the shock. The dog learns that by running back towards the owner the pain can be removed (i.e. the shock is removed). The dog thus learns that he can escape the aversive stimulus by engaging in the alternate behavior. (Note: For a dog to escape a painful or scary stimulus so the behavior can be negatively reinforced, a positive punisher has to be put in place, in this case the application of shock. Positive punishment is defined as the addition of an aversive stimulus.)

AVOIDANCE

In the case of avoidance, it is exactly as it sounds: a dog learns how to avoid a painful or scary stimulus. With a shock containment system, such as an electric, or “invisible” fence, the dog learns to stop moving forward towards the boundary when he hears the warning beep. If he proceeds, then he will receive an electric shock. The goal of his behavior is to avoid the fear and pain this will cause.

The key difference between escape and avoidance learning is as follows: In escape learning, the dog’s behavior allows him to escape the electric shock, whereas in avoidance learning, his behavior avoids the onset of the shock altogether. In both instances, however, the learning is based on fear.

In the case of the “invisible” fence, the beep on the boundary system comes before the shock is delivered. Due to his conditioning history, the dog will have quickly learned that the beep predicts a painful electric shock if his current behavior continues. He will aim to avoid this at all costs.

In the case of the electric shock collar, the shock is applied and then stopped when the dog discontinues his current behavior (which is whatever the person administering the shock deems to be inappropriate). There is no actual teaching involved, and the dog is given no opportunity to learn a new behavior. If the aversive device is absent at any time, there is no guarantee the dog will do what is expected of him because he has never actually been taught.

The good news is that we do not need to use any training or behavior modification protocols that utilize escape or avoidance behavior, or that cause fear or pain. Instead, we can reference the growing body of knowledge and findings of the scientific community who advocate for humane, positive reinforcement based protocols, which are known to promote a positive emotional state and therefore improve an animal’s ability to learn new things. In addition, they set an animal up for success, build his confidence, allow him to think for himself, and empower him to make good choices.

Humane and effective animal training procedures lay the foundation for any animal’s healthy socialization and training, and help avoid the onset of behavioral issues or better address existing behavior issues. The correct use and application of positive reinforcement protocols builds new behaviors while promoting behavior wellness and a strengthening of the pet-human relationship. A win-win for everyone.

References

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

Tudge, N. (2008). What is the difference between escape and avoidance behavior. Retrieved August 22, 2017, from

https://www.dogsmith.com/what-is-the-difference-between-escape-and-avoidance-behavior

Tudge, N. (2009). An outline of the four quadrants of operant conditioning. Retrieved August 22, 2017, from https://www.dogsmith.com/an-outline-the-four-quadrants-of-operant-conditioning/

Tudge, N. (2017). Training Big for Small Business. Ingram Spark Self-Publishing

Ziv, G. (2017). The Effects of Using Aversive Training Methods in Dogs – A Review. Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research (19) 50 – 60. doi: 10.1016/j.jveb.2017.02.004

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