Tag Archives: DogSmith

You CAN’T Reinforce Fear, But You CAN Help Take It Away.

 Is your dog afraid of thunder and lightning?

Essential oils can aide relaxation

Jambo wears a bandana sprayed with lavender oil

I have heard and seen people advising pet guardians to ignore their dogs when they are frightened.  They are warned that paying attention to the dog will make them worse and lead to the dog being more fearful in future. This is nonsensical.  As long as you yourself are calm and are not frantically engaging with the dog, but instead are calmly soothing and reassuring him, as well as putting strategies in place to help him relax, you are not going to increase the dog’s fears.

Imagine being in a minor car accident – nothing serious, but something that has shaken you a little.  Your friend puts an arm around you and reassuringly tells you that everything is going to be ok. She takes you inside and makes you a cup of tea.  Is this going to make you more fearful of cars?  No, absolutely not. It might, however, help lower your anxiety levels and make you feel better. You cannot reinforce an emotion!

We recently experienced heavy rain and thunder.   Jambo does not like thunder. You can see this just by looking at his body language in the photo of him eating his breakfast. His ears are back, and his tail is low.  He was, however, calm enough to eat and to then take a nap in his much loved ‘puppy’ bed, in his ‘secure place’ under the kitchen breakfast bar – This is where the bed was placed when he was a little puppy so that he could sleep beneath my feet as I work on my laptop.

I have worked hard to help Jambo overcome the fear he has of thunder, fireworks and other loud noises.  Some of the strategies I use are ongoing and some only come into play when the fear-provoking stimulus is present.

Here are some of the strategies that help Jambo cope, which could also help your dog or the pets in your care:

  • Close all exterior doors, windows, shutters, curtains and blinds.
  • Put on the lights – helping to mask lightning that may sneak through any gaps in the curtains. 
  • Play calming classical music.  Soft rock and reggae are also good options!  In fact, the effects of habituation can be reduced by varying the genre of music chosen. (Bowman, Dowell and Evans (2017). 
  • Put the extractor fan on – providing ‘white noise’ to help block out the sound of the thunder. 
  • Spray a bandana with calming lavender oil and tie around the dog’s neck.
  • Spray the dog’s mattress with Pet Remedy Pet Calming Spray or similar.
  • Plug in a Pet Remedy diffuser.  Adaptil is another good option.
  • Make sure the dog’s crate is available for further refuge, located in a favorite place away from exterior windows and doors.
  • Place a yummy stuffed Kong, sealed with peanut butter (or the dog’s favorite food) in the dog crate. 
  • If necessary, give a Calmex for Dogs tablet.  This is a supplement designed to reduce stress and anxiety in dogs.  Nutracalm or Zylkene are other options.  *Please consult your veterinarian before administering any supplements or medication.
  • Put a Thundershirt on the dog. Please note this should have been previously conditioned to engender a positive emotional response.
  • Apply body wraps – To learn more about body wraps, please refer to the The Use of Body Wraps and Pressure Garments for Dogs,  a three-part program covering the knowledge and skills required to effectively use sensory techniques such as body wraps.

A relaxed Jambo, free from fear, anxiety and stress

My arms are always open for a reassuring cuddle; my hands rubbed with Bitch Balm (a lavender based balm for dogs and horses) to pet, and my calming voice to soothe. 

All of the above management strategies are put into place once the storm has arrived and the fear is present, but I also implemented a behavioral change program to work on actually changing Jambo’s emotional response (his fear).  Before we began the behavior change program, Jambo would shake uncontrollably and run and hide at the first tremor of thunder.  He would not have eaten his breakfast, nor would he have been able to rest in his puppy bed…

Respondent Conditioning

I use classical conditioning (counterconditioning) and desensitization, to help elicit a positive emotional response to things Jambo is frightened of. The sound of thunder, fireworks, gunshots… have all been paired with his favorite peanut butter and/or roast chicken.

If you do not know what respondent conditioning is, please refer to The DogNostics Lexicon  – A Lexicon of practical terms for pet trainers and behaviour consultants  available from DogNostics Career Center.  Click here to purchase.

Putting all of the above measures in place, and giving Jambo my love and attention, helps ease his anxiety.

Please check out this post from Eileenanddogs.  It has some resources for getting your dog through events with loud noises and some general tips about dealing with fear.

 

*Please note: The information in this article, is not designed to replace a consultation with a veterinary behaviorist or accredited force-free behavior consultant.  If a dog is showing signs of fear, anxiety or stress, an appointment should be made with a certified behaviorist who will put an individualized behavioral change program in place. The dog’s veterinarian should also be consulted, who in conjunction with the behaviorist, may deem that anti-anxiety medication is necessary.

 

 

Reference:

Reitzes, D. C., & Mutran, E. J. (2004). Bowman, A., Scottish SPCA, Dowell, F.J., & Evans N.P. The effect of different genres of music on the stress levels of kennelled dogs. Physiology & Behavior Volume 171, 15 March 2017, Pages 207-215. 

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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.

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A Conversation with a Beagle

 

DogSmith guests, Iines and Minni relax in the sun

I have just had the pleasure of two gorgeous girls enjoying a mini DogSmith Vacation with me.  The following is a conversation I had with the eldest girl on their last day of stay, after a short training session:

DogSmith: “All finished.
Beagle: “What do you mean all finished? I think you have some treats left in your pocket. Let me check.”

DogSmith: “There are no treats in my pocket.”
Beagle:  “What about this pocket?”  Sniffs my other pocket.

DogSmith: “Nope. All finished. There aren’t any treats in that pocket either.
Beagle: Jumps up to sniff. “What about in your top pocket?

DogSmith: “I don’t have a top pocket.”

Beagle: “Can’t you get some more?  You must have some more somewhere.”  Continues to sniff every inch of me.

Me: “You’ve had enough.”
Beagle: “I’m a beagle. I’ve never had enough. I’m starving!

Me: “You don’t look like you’re starving. You’ve had loads to eat.
Beagle: “No, I haven’t, you forgot to feed me.

Iines enjoys a refreshing homemade doggy ice-cream cube served in a Zogoflex West Paw Tux

DogSmith: “I didn’t forget to feed you!”
Beagle: “I’m on holiday. You’re meant to eat more when you’re on holiday.”

DogSmith: “You have eaten more. You’ve had a special treat every day!”
Beagle: “No, I haven’t. I’m starving. I’ve had much less than normal.”

DogSmith: “No, you haven’t. You’ve had your normal food and on day one you also had some homemade doggy ice-cream; on day two you had some mackerel; on day three you had some hake and on day four you had another doggy ice-cream! That’s not to mention, your training treats.
Beagle:  “Lady, you must think I’m stupid. I know you take the training treats out of my daily allowance – They are not extra!”

DogSmith: “Okay, you’ve got me there, but the doggy ice-cream cubes and fish were extra. Anyway, that’s it. There’s nothing left.”
Beagle: “Listen lady, I am absolutely starving, let’s go and check the fridge. I bet my dinner is in there.”

DogSmith : “You already ate your dinner.”

Minni enjoys her doggy ice-cream, made from banana, yogurt and a dash of peanut butter

Beagle: “Pretty please.” (Sad eyed look)

DogSmith: “Okay, I give in. Let’s go get you a treat.”

Beagle eats treat.

Beagle: Sniffing pockets again. “I think you forgot to feed me.  I’m starving!  I’m sure you have some treats left in your pocket. Let me check…”

Later that night while undressing a treat falls out of my pocket.  I should have known that a beagle’s nose never lies!

Thank you for a fun-filled, nose sniffing, four days, Iines and Minni! – The DogSmith of Estepona.

#DogSmith Vacations and Slumber Parties

You can watch a few highlights from Iines and Minni’s DogSmith Vacation below.

 https://youtu.be/EVFbQxmv8pk

DogSmith Slumber Parties

Enroll Your Dog in a DogSmith Slumber Party – The Perfect Doggy Vacay!

The DogSmith Slumber Party program offers your pet the opportunity to stay in the home of a certified DogSmith Dog Trainer and/or DogSmith Slumber Party Expert who is a certified Pet Care Technician. Your pet will enjoy the comfort and safety of a private home in the company of an animal-loving family. The DogSmith Slumber Party provides your furry family member with a home away from home. Click here to open our pet care comparison matrix

Canine Slumber Party 1

Beauty Sleep!

Is this your pet?

If so then you know how difficult it can be to accommodate and care for them when you have to be away from home. To relieve you from this stressful dilemma and to provide you and your pet with the safest, most comfortable and enriching environment, we developed our DogSmith Slumber Party Service.

We believe that you should always expect and accept nothing less when you entrust your family pet to the care of a pet care professional. All DogSmith Pet Care Technicians are certified in animal communication, animal handling and pet first aid.

Yes we spoil pets!

Yes we spoil pets!

We assure a safe, secure and stress-free environment for your pet. Because we are pet care and animal behavior professionals, we are especially aware of your pet’s individual physical, mental and nutritional needs so we customize our services to suit your pet. Even the most nervous dog will feel comfortable in the home of a DogSmith and all the activities will be tailored to your pet’s individual needs.

What Else Can Your Dog Enjoy?

  • A Fetch Session
  • A Fun Dog Romp
  • Learning New Skills
  • A Daily Kong

If you need it, just ask. Your DogSmith is happy to add on any service that will help your pet enjoy its holiday. At The DogSmith, our trustworthy and highly experienced pet care technicians believe in a holistic approach to caring for all pets. You will always be confident that your four-legged best friend gets all of the attention and special loving care needed.

At The DogSmith we have been saying no to kennels, unprofessional pet care and stressed holidays since 2007!

Doggie Snoozin Slumbr Party

Relaxing Snooze!

 How Do Our Slumber Parties Work? 

You will enjoy absolute peace of mind knowing that your dog is receiving the best care possible with your DogSmith. You deserve the very best for your dog and the DogSmith is your best solution for your pet care need.

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A Dog’s Hierarchy of Rewards

In 2014, I published a blog post entitled Jambo’s Hierarchy of Rewards in which I discussed the different reinforcers I use when training and the ‘value’ they have for my learner.  In my article entitled Rewards and Positive Reinforcement Consequences, I discussed the meaning of rewards versus reinforcement. In this article I would like to take a look at “hierarchies”.

When needs are not being met, animals will be motivated to try and fulfil those needs.  Psychologist Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a motivational theory in psychology comprising a five-tier model of human needs, often depicted as hierarchical levels within a pyramid. Maslow stated that people are motivated to achieve certain needs and that some needs take precedence over others. Our most basic need is for physical survival, and this will be the first thing that motivates our behavior. Once that level is fulfilled the next level up is what motivates us. The original hierarchy of needs five-stage model includes:

  1. Biological and physiological needs – air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, sex, sleep. The things that we need to survive. All animals are motivated by these needs. If we are hungry we will want to eat, if we are thirsty, we will want to drink.
  2. Safety needs – protection from elements, security, order, law, stability, freedom from fear. Not having these needs met can lead to stress and anxiety and even to aggressive responses in an effort to protect ourselves
  3. Love and belongingness needs – friendship, intimacy, trust and acceptance, receiving and giving affection and love. Affiliating, being part of a group (family, friends, work). The need for us to communicate with others and interact with others. If this need isn’t met we can become depressed and anxious. The same is true of animals.
  4. Esteem needs – which Maslow classified into two categories: (i) esteem for oneself (dignity, achievement, mastery, independence) and (ii) the desire for reputation or respect from others (e.g. status, prestige).
  5. Self-actualization needs – realizing personal potential, self-fulfillment, seeking personal growth and peak experiences.

It is important to note that Maslow’s (1943, 1954) five stage model has been expanded to include cognitive and aesthetic needs (Maslow, 1970a) and later transcendence needs (Maslow, 1970b) as follows:

  1. Biological and physiological needs
  2. Safety needs
  3. Love and belongingness needs
  4. Esteem needs
  5. Cognitive needs – knowledge and understanding, curiosity, exploration, need for meaning and predictability. The need to understand and a desire to know things.
  6. Aesthetic needs – appreciation and search for beauty, balance, form, etc.
  7. Self-actualization needs
  8. Transcendence needs – A person is motivated by values which transcend beyond the personal self. e.g. mystical experiences and certain experiences with nature, aesthetic experiences, sexual experiences, service to others, the pursuit of science, a religious faith etc. (McLeod, 2017)

Why is Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory important?  It has made a big impact on how we teach and manage our students in school. We know that behavior is a response to the environment but Maslow’s hierarchy also looks at the physical, emotional, social and intellectual needs and how they impact learning. The hierarchy also clearly shows us that before an individual’s cognitive needs can be met, we must fulfil the basic physiological needs. I often tell my clients that although we want to use food as reinforcement that does not mean that I want anyone to not feed their dog.  A hungry learner will find it very difficult to focus on learning!  I also believe we should show our learners, both human and canine, that they are valued and respected and ensure we work with them in a safe and supportive environment.  We need to meet the esteem needs of all our students so that they can quickly progress with their learning!

The Hierarchy of Dog Needs adapted from Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs by Pet Professional Guild member, Linda Michaels, is a hierarchical model of wellness and behavior modification in which first we meet our dogs’ biological, emotional and social needs and, once these foundational needs have been met, we use management, antecedent modification, positive and differential reinforcement, counter-conditioning and desensitization to modify behavior.

Although not a hierarchy, before I get back to my Hierarchy of Rewards, I would like to mention Brambell’s Five Freedoms, which put responsibility on the animal care taker to make sure they provide animals with a good welfare environment.  I learned about the Five Freedoms and other animal welfare frameworks as part of my Animal Behaviour and Welfare course, University of Edinburgh.

In 1965, the UK government commissioned an investigation, led by Professor Roger Brambell, into the welfare of intensively farmed animals. The Brambell Report stated that:  “An animal should at least have sufficient freedom of movement to be able without difficulty, to turn round, groom Itself, get up, lie down and stretch its limbs”. This short recommendation became known as Brambell’s Five Freedoms. Because of the report, the Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Committee was created to monitor the livestock production sector. In July 1979, this was replaced by the Farm Animal Welfare Council, and by the end of that year, the five freedoms had been codified into the recognizable list format. Although developed for farm animals, Brambell’s Five Freedoms can be adapted to pets. The Five Freedoms are:

  • Freedom from Hunger and Thirst
    By ready access to fresh water and diet to maintain health and vigor.
  • Freedom from Discomfort
    By providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area.
  • Freedom from Pain, Injury or Disease
    By prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment.
  • Freedom to Display Natural Behavior
    By providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal’s own kind.
  • Freedom from Fear and Distress
    By ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering.

In addition to Brambell’s Five Freedoms other animal welfare frameworks such as the Duty of Care Concept need to be foremost in our minds when caring for and working with any animal. The Duty of Care Concept focuses on providing animals with a safe happy environment which they can enjoy and encourages legal responsibility for those animals.

Now back to Jambo’s Hierarchy of Rewards (Stapleton-Frappell, 2013)  If you have read everything above, you will understand that before beginning any training, the trainer should make sure that the learner’s basic needs are met. The trainer can then make use of both primary and secondary reinforcers but must bear in mind that the ‘value’ will be ascertained by the recipient and not the provider as, although I use the name Hierarchy of Rewards, I am referring to a hierarchy of positive reinforcement consequences.

The ‘value’ will be ascertained by the recipient and not the provider

Whether teaching Jambo or any other learner a new behavior, or reinforcing behaviors that have previously been taught, I use that learner’s own personal ‘hierarchy of rewards’.  Each individual’s hierarchy includes lower ‘value’ reinforcers which are consequence stimuli that will serve to reinforce simple known behaviors in that individual’s home environment or other non-distracting environments; medium ‘value’ reinforcers which will serve to reinforce slightly more difficult behaviors or behaviors in slightly more demanding environments, and finally, high ‘value’ reinforcers – those reinforcers that are at the ‘top of the tree’, the real ‘top guns’  that we use to reinforce more demanding behaviors and behaviors in environments where there are a lot of competing stimuli.

My go-to reinforcer when teaching a new behavior or when I need lots of repetitions is always food – small pieces of tasty, easy to chew and easy to swallow food – as I can deliver it quickly and maintain a high rate of reinforcement. It is also more effective to use smaller reinforcements more frequently rather than large reinforcements less often. However, I also make good use of ‘non-food’ items, which include everything from balls to tug toys to life rewards –  access to things my learner wants, such as going outside, sniffing a patch of grass, greeting someone…  Whether using food or non-food reinforcers, primary or secondary reinforcers, one thing is certain – reinforcers are not all equal and the ‘value’ of an individual reinforcer is not static. The ‘value’ to the learner will change depending on such factors as:

  • The behavior itself – The behaviors, as determined by the animal’s ability to do them and its biological pre-disposition to behave in certain ways, are easier or more difficult to reinforce. Behavior that depends on smooth muscles and glands is harder to reinforce than is behavior that depends on skeletal muscles. (Chance, Learning and Behavior, 2013)
  • The individual’s preferences
  • Previous learning history
  • The Setting Events and Motivating Operations

There are variables affecting reinforcement and affecting the value of each reinforcer at any given time, in different environments and with different individuals.  We also need to bear in mind that If we use the higher ‘value’ reinforcers too frequently for easy behaviors in non-distracting environments, we could find that not only will our learner no longer be motivated to ‘work’ for lower value reinforcers, but also that we dilute the value of those reinforcers that were previously at the top of the Hierarchy, making them less effective in more demanding situations or with more demanding behaviors.  We should make sure that we have a variety of reinforcers on all levels of our learner’s Hierarchy so that we have something to call upon of appropriate value in all situations. Varying the reinforcement consequence that is offered, will also help to overcome satiation – at some point, we have all eaten enough of that delicious cake but that doesn’t mean that we would say no to an ice-cold bottle of beer!

Although each individual will have their own Hierarchy of Rewards, neither Jambo nor any other learner’s Hierarchy of Rewards is static.  What works as a reinforcer one day may be of little interest to the same learner the next day. 

The Hierarchy of Rewards

If Jambo were reasonably hungry and we were working in a non-distracting environment, he would probably find kibble (dry dog food) to be of sufficient ‘value’ and it would serve as an adequate reinforcement consequence.  If, however, we were to try and do that same behavior in a more distracting environment, at a greater distance or perhaps when Jambo had just eaten, then the kibble would have very little, if any ‘value’ and would not serve to positively reinforce a behavior.  If Jambo were in a playful mood then his tug toy would have a much higher value than if he were tired and ready for bed. An opportunity to sniff a nice patch of grass might serve to reinforce the behavior of coming close to me on a nice summer’s evening but on a dark and wet winter’s night, the opposite would be true –  If I wanted Jambo to leave my side and go to the grass, then it might be returning to my side and the protection of my umbrella that would serve as a reinforcer but maybe even that would not be of high enough ‘value’ and he would simply decide not to carry out the behavior. Perhaps performing ‘send-aways’ in the rain, calls for roast chicken?

This is the second in a series of three posts from my article: “The Hierarchy of Rewards – Delving into the World of Positive Reinforcers” for BARKS from the Guild magazine. Part one can be found here:  Rewards and Positive Reinforcement Consequences.   In part three we will take a closer look at motivating operations; Jambo’s personal Hierarchy of Rewards, and some of the primary and secondary reinforcers we can all make use of in our training.

To contact Louise Stapleton-Frappell, please click here.

The DogSmith training programs enhance and improve the relationship you share with your family pet.  To contact a Professional DogSmith, please click on the image below. 

 

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Rewards and Positive Reinforcement Consequences

The language we use when discussing our training methods can sometimes be slightly misleading.  Much discussion is given to the use of terms such as force-free, rewards based and positive reinforcement.  Sometimes there will be shared-meaning and at other times, these terms will be used and attributed to diametrically opposed training methods.  The words ‘reward’ and ‘positive reinforcement’ are often used to describe the same process but are they really the same?

Let’s begin with a definition of reinforcement and a few other terms you are likely to come across when reading about rewards based, science based, force-free training. The term to reinforce means to strengthen and it is used in behavioral psychology to refer to a stimulus which strengthens or increases the probability of a specific response.  Behavior is the function of its consequences and reinforcement strengthens the likelihood of a behavior.  To qualify as reinforcement an experience must have three characteristics:  First, the behavior must have a consequence.  Second, the behavior must increase in strength (e.g. occur more often).  Third, the increase in strength must be a result of the consequence (Chance, 2013 )

When comparing rewards to reinforcement, I am referring to one of the quadrants of operant conditioning:  positive reinforcement. Positive means that a stimulus is added. With positive reinforcement, a behavior is followed by a stimulus (which the subject seeks out/will work to receive) which reinforces the behavior that precedes it, resulting in an increase in the frequency, intensity and/or duration of that behavior. To clarify, a reinforcer is a stimulus that, when it occurs in conjunction with a behavior and is contingent on that behavior, it makes that behavior occur more often. But what if the behavior doesn’t increase in frequency, strength or duration? What if the behavior continues to occur with the same frequency or occurs less often?  In this case, we can reliably say that the consequence stimulus would not qualify as reinforcement.

Is a reward the same as a reinforcer?  The simple answer is no, it is not.  Although, when simplifying our language, it is often useful to advise our clients to mark and reward (click and treat/mark and pay), a reward and a reinforcer/reinforcement consequence are not the same. Let’s look at the definition of a reward:

  • A thing given in recognition of service, effort, or achievement
  • A sum offered for information leading to the solving of a crime, the detection of a criminal, etc. (Oxford University Press, 2017)

The key here is in the definition. I may be given something in recognition of my hard work but that does not necessarily mean that I will work harder in the future.  If my reward for all the extra hours I worked were a simple thank you – would that act as reinforcement?  What about if my reward for all the hours I worked were a big cash bonus – would that serve as a reinforcement consequence?

A Reward – A thing given in recognition of service, effort, or achievement.

A reward may or may not positively reinforce a behavior. There are a few reasons why, one being that the giver of the reward is who decides what to give and denotes it as a reward.  The recipient might not be quite so enthusiastic about the perceived reward.  Jambo (my Staffordshire Bull Terrier) and I were once rewarded with a ‘beautiful’ trophy for taking first place in an event at a local competition.  The trophy went on to take pride of place hidden away in a cupboard!  Did the trophy act as a reinforcer?  As a result of that consequence (being rewarded with a trophy), did Jambo and I enter more competitions/try to win more competitions?  No. The reward was only ‘beautiful’ in the eye of the giver. The recipient of the reward thought otherwise, hence its ubication – hiding out in the back of a cupboard!

Rewards often come with some sort of judgement on the person or animal they are directed at whereas reinforcers are linked to the behavior not the giver nor the recipient.  Just like rewards, reinforcers can be delivered by people but they can also be delivered by the environment. Suppose for example that one morning your dog manages to slip out of the door and chase the neighbor’s cat. The dog has a wonderful time and the next morning flies out of the door as soon as it is opened.  That one act of joyfully chasing the neighbor’s cat has effectively reinforced rushing out of the door as soon as it is opened! If the neighbor’s cat never ventures into your yard again, the behavior may undergo extinction but this is unlikely as the act of running at full speed out of the door and across the yard is undoubtedly self-reinforcing – offering intrinsic reinforcement and serving as wonderful motivation!  What if the behavior is put on a variable schedule of reinforcement i.e. the cat is occasionally available to be chased?  You can probably guess the answer. The behavior of rushing out of the door will go from strength to strength as it is being extrinsically reinforced in the same way as playing on a slot-machine is – you know that if you keep playing, you are sure to win again at some point!

Now, just because I have clarified that rewards and positive reinforcement consequences are not the same, that does not mean I am never going to tell people to reward their dog.  I also tell people to pay their dog.  That doesn’t mean I want my clients to throw a wad of cash at their dogs and my clients know that!  My clients are intelligent people and some may wish to delve deeper into the world of behavioral science but many are happy to stick with the world of click and treat or mark and reward. Naming the reinforcement ‘pyramid’ the Hierarchy of Rewards serves a good purpose in that it makes it more easily understandable for everyone, whether pet industry professional or pet dog guardian.  However, as pet industry professionals, I do believe that we should have a clear understanding of terms such as ‘positive reinforcement’ and recognize that just because we have ‘rewarded’ a dog with a throw of a ball or a tasty treat, that does not necessarily mean we have positively reinforced the behavior.  Only the future will tell us that!

This is the first of a series of three posts from my article:  “The Hierarchy of Rewards – Delving into the World of Positive Reinforcers” for BARKS from the Guild magazine.

 

To contact Louise Stapleton-Frappell, please click here.

The DogSmith training programs enhance and improve the relationship you share with your family pet.  To contact a Professional DogSmith, please click on the image below. 

 

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AN OPEN LETTER TO VETERINARIANS ON REFERRALS TO TRAINING AND BEHAVIOR PROFESSIONALS

 Written by Niki Tudge

To download a PDF version of this text click here
 
Dear Veterinarian,

 

There are numerous professional organizations that offer membership and credentials in the field of animal training and behavior. Few, however, hold their members to a strict code of conduct which involves the application of their trade through scientific protocols and the objective to cause no harm.

Unfortunately, the pet training industry is entirely unregulated, meaning that anyone can say they are a trainer or behavior consultant. As a result, those who call themselves dog trainers, or even “dog whisperers,” may still be utilizing punitive methods, such as disc throwing, loud correctional “no’s” and, in some cases, more extreme tools such as shock collars, choke chains and prong collars. All of these are, sadly, still at large. They are training tools that, by design, have one purpose: to reduce or stop behavior through pain and fear. This, as opposed to a constructional approach where operant behaviors are built, and problematic emotional reactions are changed via positive reinforcement and counterconditioning protocols.

Humane, modern animal training relies on science-based protocols: “Within the field of applied behavior analysis (ABA), there is a 40-year-old standard that promotes the most positive, least intrusive behavior reduction procedures (also known as the Least Restrictive Behavior Intervention, LRBI).” (Friedman, 2010). Regardless, there are trainers who elect not to move into this arena, and/or gain informed consent from clients regarding methods and equipment used. They may still be members of professional institutes, associations and councils because many organizations do not hold their members accountable for the training methods they use. Consequently, it is easy to be fooled when searching for a training or behavior professional.

Methodology

Dog trainers who are still steeped in using punitive training methods are often known to use outdated terms such as “dominance,” “pack leader,” and “alpha dog,” all of which have been proven by canine behavior scientists and specialists to be inappropriate and inaccurate in their application to pet dogs. In addition, many such trainers use training methods founded in aversive protocols deemed obsolete and damaging – both physically and psychologically (see American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior position statements under Supporting Documents, below).

At the Pet Professional Guild educational summit for canine training and behavior professionals in November 2016, respected Houston Heights veterinarian, board certified animal behaviorist, author, and PPG special counsel,Dr. Karen Overall stated: “Dominance theory has shut off scientific research and has crept into medicine to the point where we think we can do things to animals whereby we are asking them to ‘submit’….dominance theory is insidious and has crept into everything we do with dogs and it’s wrong. It has gotten in the way of modern science and I’ve just about had it. Every single thing we do with dogs hurts them because we don’t see them as individuals or cognitive partners.” (Overall, 2016).

The Fallout of Corrective Training Procedures

Dogs are cognitive, intelligent creatures that experience emotions such as fear, anxiety, and joy. They are subject to the same laws of ABA as any other living organism. Forcing dogs to comply to avoid being shouted at, told “no” in a threatening manner, or having some other discomfort forced on them through voice control, body language or eye contact does not enhance the canine-human relationship, nor does it create an environment where healthy learning can take place. Rather, a pet repeatedly subjected to aversive stimulation may go into a state of “shut down,” or a global suppression of behavior. This is frequently mistaken for a “trained” pet, as the pet may remain subdued and offer few or no behaviors. In extreme cases, pets may refuse to perform any behavior at all, known as “learned helplessness.” In such cases, animals may try to isolate themselves to avoid incurring the aversive stimulation. This is evidently counterproductive to training new, more acceptable behaviors. (O’Heare, 2011).

For punishment to be effective as a means to training a dog, or any other animal for that matter, there are three critical elements that must be met: consistency, timing and intensity. First, the punishment must occur every time the unwanted behavior occurs. Second, it must be administered within, at most, a second or two of the behavior. Third, it must be unpleasant enough to stop the behavior. In the real world, outside science laboratories, meeting these three criteria is virtually impossible for a dog training professional, and most certainly for a dog owner.

According to psychology professor, Dr. Susan Friedman (quoted above), who has pioneered the application of ABA to captive and companion animals: “Punishment doesn’t teach learners what to do instead of the problem behavior. Punishment doesn’t teach caregivers how to teach alternative behaviors. Punishment is really two aversive events – the onset of a punishing stimulus and the forfeiture of the reinforcer that has maintained the problem behavior in the past.” (Friedman, 2010). Especially troubling for pet professionals is that punishment requires an increase in the intensity of the aversive stimulus for it to have any hope of maintaining behavior reduction.

Scientific “Do No Harm” Methods

All animals are motivated by food. Food is necessary for survival. It is therefore a powerful primary reinforcer and a critical component when used correctly as part of a strategic training or management plan. For behavior consultants who engage in behavior change programs where it is necessary to change a pet’s emotional reaction to a problematic stimulus, food is essential. When modifying observable behaviors such as growling, lunging and biting that are often manifestations of a fearful and/or anxious emotional state, the goal must be to change the underlying emotional response, thus enabling the dog to learn a new, more appropriate behavior. It is frequently misunderstood that fear is an emotion and not a behavior. You cannot simply “train it out.” Indeed, fear is often the underlying emotional state to aggressive behavior, and requires the implementation of a different set of scientific protocols and a greater understanding of emotional learning and animal behavior. A review of the scientific literature recommends the use of food as a reinforcer in desensitization and counterconditioning protocols that are specifically aimed at addressing the underlying emotions of fear and/or anxiety. In reality, using food to countercondition emotional responses is the most widely accepted method for treating fear-based behaviors (Overall, 2013).

Transparency and Consumer Advocacy

“Positive relationship,” “natural methods,” “relationship building,” “positive only,” and “no food necessary” are all taglines regularly used by dog training organizations in their marketing literature. These expressions appeal to pet owners who may not always understand the various training methods available to them, and the fallout and unintended consequences of making the wrong choice.

The Pet Professional Guild (PPG) is the one US-based, international member association for pet professionals who use force-free training methods only. PPG holds its members to a very high standard in terms of ethics, protocols and transparency. Members are committed to humane, scientific and effective training, care and management protocols. They never use aversive training devices and techniques. The foundation of their work is always to do no harm.

How to Choose a Training or Behavior Professional

PPG holds that humane educators neither agree with, nor have any need to use correction-based training using devices or aversive stimuli for the care, management or training of pets. Devices and methods that work through eliciting a “startle response,” and/or an alarm reaction to prevent, barking, jumping up, growling or any other problematic behavior are inhumane and just not necessary.

Ramirez-Moreno and Sejnowski (2012) define the startle response as a “largely unconscious defensive response to sudden or threatening stimuli, such as sudden noise or sharp movement” that is “associated with negative affect.” Lang, Bradley and Cuthbert (1990) state that the startle response (or aversive reflex) is “enhanced during a fear state and is diminished in a pleasant emotional context.” These, and many other canine behavior experts consider the use of the startle response to be a management or training technique that uses fear as the motivation. The direct consequences of this can include the (intended or unintended) infliction of stress and pain on an animal by an owner or trainer, and, as mentioned above, generalized fear, suppression of behavior, learned helplessness and/or redirected aggression in the animal him- or herself.

There is perhaps no better way to summarize than the words of Jean Donaldson, founder and principal instructor at The Academy for Dog Trainers, author of best-seller,The Culture Clash, and PPG special counsel, who states: “Dog training is a divided profession. We are not like plumbers, orthodontists or termite exterminators who, if you put six in a room, will pretty much agree on how to do their jobs. Dog training camps are more like Republicans and Democrats, all agreeing that the job needs to be done but wildly differing on how to do it.” (Donaldson, 2006).

A key question, then, for veterinary professionals who need to refer their clients to a dog trainer or behavior consultant, is whether they will refer to those who promote methods that include pain and fear as a means of motivation, or those who use more progressive methods that rely on scientifically-supported protocols based on positive reinforcement and seek to do no harm. Before deciding, PPG urgesveterinary and animal care professionals to conduct thorough research given that so many fear-based training and behavior change methods can be very subtle, or even invisible, in the slick, magical way they are marketed to unsuspecting pet owners.

Originally posted  here https://petprofessionalguild.com/Open-letter-to-veterinarians-on-referrals-to-training-and-behavior-professionals

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References

Donaldson, J. (2006). Talk Softly and Carry a Carrot or a Big Stick?Academy for Dog Trainers Blog.

Friedman, S. (2010, March). What’s Wrong with This Picture? Effectiveness Is Not EnoughAPDT Journal.

Lang, P.J., Bradley, M. M., & Cuthbert, B.N. (1990, July). Emotion, attention, and the startle reflexPsychological Review 97 (3), 377-395.

O’Heare, J. (2011). Empowerment Training. Ottawa, ON: BehaveTech Publishing

Overall, K.L. (2016, November). Current Trends: Beyond dominance and discipline. Paper presented at the Pet Professional Guild educational summit, Tampa, Florida. (Cited in Nilson, S. (2017, January). Beyond Dominance. BARKS from the Guild (22) 10-11).

Overall, K.L. (2013). Manual of Clinical Behavioral Medicine for Dogs and Cats. St. Louis, MO: Elsevier Saunders

Ramirez-Moreno, D.F., & Sejnowski, T.J. (2012, March). A computational model for the modulation of the prepulse inhibition of the acoustic startle reflexBiological Cybernetics 106 88888(3) 169-176. 

Supporting Documents

American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior Position Statement on Punishment.

American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior Position Statement on the Use of Dominance Theory and Behavior Modification in Animals.

Pet Professional Guild Position Statement on the Use of Shock in Animal Training.

Pet Professional Guild Position Statement on the Use of Pet Corrective Devices.

Pet Professional Guild Position Statement on the Use of Dominance Theory in Pet Training.

 

 

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The 4 DogSmith Learning Games

by Angelica Steinker

 

1. Shaping

2. Prompting

3. Capturing

4. Observational Learning

 

Shaping – the process of training your dog by rewarding a very small part of the end behavior. Gradually, over time, you will require more of the dog until you have ‘shaped’ the goal behavior. For example, you want your dog to wave. You start by clicking and rewarding the dog for shifting her weight off her left paw. Next, you click and reward the dog for lifting the left paw. Next, you require that the dog lift the paw 2 inches. Finally you only click and reward if the dog has lifted her paw to eye level. At this point, you add the cue ‘wave.’

Dog howlingPrompting – the process of training your dog by using some sort of physical prop to get the goal behavior. You will be using your hand target, a stick, and other objects to help create the goal behaviors. For example, to teach the dog to spin in a circle you can first teach the dog to touch her nose to the end of a stick. You can then simply use this stick to teach her to spin by slowly moving the stick in a circular motion. The dog will want to follow the stick in order to touch her nose to it, and you will have gotten the spin that you wanted. Once you have the entire spin, add your cue. Gradually fade the stick by shortening it and then only using your hand. Eventually you can fade your hand movement and only use the verbal cue.

Capturing – is the easiest of these three methods. It only requires good observational skills and good timing. Capturing is simply clicking and rewarding your dog for a behavior that she frequently engages in. In order to capture a behavior you must be able click and reward it several times a day or ideally within the same training session. Avoid attempting to capture behaviors that only occur on an infrequent basis, the result is likely to be a very lengthy process.

Observational Learning – is the process of one being observing another and then imitating the behavior to gain access to a reward. Dogs can learn from humans via observational learning if a human touches a target, a dog that has a history of training, will likely also touch that target. Likewise dogs will mimic the same body part so if you touch the target with your hand they likely use their paw. If you touch the target with your nose they will likely touch the target with their nose too.  

Reward Delivery

Generally it is a good idea to use food for positional tricks or tricks that only require small movements such as paw and nose targeting. Tricks that require faster movement may require rewarding with a toy or a tossed piece of food. Either way both the timing of the reward, when you reward, and the delivery of the reward, where you reward, are extremely important. The reward delivery needs to support the behavior you are training. If you are teaching ‘wave’, the dog is generally asked to sit before waving. Click while the dog’s paw is in the air and then very quickly give the dog her treat while she is still sitting. Failure to do this could result in you losing both your sit cue and your wave trick. You get what you train, not what you want!

Two Types of Behaviors

Before you teach your dog a trick, decide if you want the behavior to have duration or just be a moment long. If you are training your dog to sit in a cart and then allow a person to pull that cart, you will need an on/off switch for the sit behavior in the cart. The dog sits in the cart, until you release her. Other tricks, such as left (dog spinning in circle to left) do not require an on/off switch; the dog simply does the behavior and is clicked and rewarded.

It is recommended that tricks like ‘wave’ be taught with an on/off switch. The cue wave signals to the dog to raise the paw. The cue ‘okay’ releases the dog from waving, and signals that the trick is over and she can lower the paw.

Nose and Paw Are Connected

It isn’t magic, but it can seem like it, because when you click and treat a dog for nosing a target and then you suddenly stop, the dog will usually use her paw to smack at the target. The same is true in reverse, if you repeatedly click and reward a dog for targeting with her paw and suddenly stop, the dog will usually nose the object.

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Life is So Much Better with a Well Trained Dog

by Niki Tudge

Isn’t it amazing how we expect puppies to arrive in our home fully trained and perfectly fluent in the English language?  And then we are amazed when our new dog doesn’t understand the simplest instructions we give them.  Like a tourist in a foreign country, we think that if we just talk louder and slower somehow our new puppy will miraculously understand what we want it to do.  But in our modern world, the ability to communicate with and understand man’s best friend is as fundamental as driving, using the internet and doing taxes every April.  But there is so much conflicting and confusing information about dog behavior and dog training that it can be overwhelming trying to decide what is best for our canine family members.

Call us Today!

Call us Today!

 

Learning to communicate with your family pet should be fun for you and your dog but it should also be effective without causing any damage or unexpected side effects.  More importantly, the methods you use to communicate with your dog should not be based on outdated myths or debunked theories. It is critical that any training methods you use with your beloved pet should be well-founded in science and not rely on fads, gimmicks, the latest electronic push-button gizmo or the edited smoke and mirrors used on television reality shows.   And force and pain should never be used.

 

The DogSmith Dog Dog Training is what you need for all of your training needs.  All DogSmith services are rooted in the most robust scientific research and the DogSmith is committed to always using only force-free training techniques that will be fun and stimulating for you and your dog.  Force-free methods are safe, incredibly effective and help ensure that real learning takes place.  Using force-free techniques your pet will never be subjected to negative side effects.  Read more about our Private Training Programs, Board & Train Services, Group Classes and much more.

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