Tag Archives: Force Free

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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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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Help Us Give You the Best Service Possible…

Help Us Give You the Best Service Possible…
By Niki Tudge

DogSmith Pet Professionals have committed their professional lives to providing you with the absolute best, most informed, force-free, ‘state of the industry’ pet care and dog training available. Not only is each DogSmith fully insured and bonded but the rigorous training and continuing education each DogSmith accomplishes each year sets the standard in our industry. DogSmiths are fully accredited in pet care and pet first-aid and every DogSmith business owner is a certified dog trainer using only force-free training and pet care techniques.

As part of our effort to provide you with the “best care anywhere” we ask that you consider the following when requesting any of our services for your furry family member:

1. Make Your Reservation as Early as Possible:

This assures you won’t be left without the services you require and will give your DogSmith plenty of time to prepare for any special requirements. The last thing we want to do is disappoint you when you need pet care services and we take pride in providing you the services you need, when you need them.
Likewise, if you need to cancel your reservations cancel them as soon as you can. This will minimize any cancellation fees (especially around the holidays) and it will give your DogSmith a better chance to fill the time reserved for you with another client.

2. Give Us the Most Accurate Information You Can:

We know this can sometimes be hard. You may not even notice some of your pet’s characteristics anymore or you may be hesitant to mention certain problems or behaviors. This is natural. But for your DogSmith to provide your beloved pet the best care possible we need the most accurate information on your pet’s health, behavior, fears, chronic conditions, past illnesses/injuries, likes, dislikes, phobias and preferences. Your DogSmith also needs accurate information to access your home. This can be especially critical if you are a regular DogSmith client. Some details concerning your home or pet may change between scheduled DogSmith services that you may forget to update with us.
Having complete and accurate information will help your DogSmith identify any changes in behavior or demeanor should they arise while you are away. Remember, DogSmiths are pet care professionals who are trained and experienced in every aspect of pet care so they will either be equipped to respond to any specific issues with your pet or they will be able to suggest suitable alternatives. So always complete our registration forms making sure that the following is provided in detail:

Pet Information –
1. Complete vaccination history
2. Contact details for your vet
3. Contact details for friends or family in case of emergency
4. Complete contact details for you while you are away including phone number, cell phone number, email address etc.
5. Comprehensive description of your pets behavior, fears, chronic conditions
6. Food and feeding schedule.

For In-Home Pet Care –
1. Complete instructions on how your house works
2. Schedules for any in-home services you may have such as; maid/cleaning, pool,
yard, pest control etc.
3. Any scheduled contractor work or service to be done in your absence
4. Information on any potential houseguests
5. Information on any friends or neighbors who may have access to your house.
6. Keys, alarm codes, community gate/access codes, combinations or little tricks for problematic locks.

3. Keep Your DogSmith informed

Always confirm your travel plans before your DogSmith services are scheduled to begin and keep your DogSmith apprised of any changes, especially your return dates. As mentioned above, update any information concerning your pet or your home with your DogSmith. Do you have a new alarm code, changed your pet’s feeding schedule or has anything else changed that your DogSmith should be aware of?

4. Try to be Flexible

DogSmith Pet Professionals do everything they can to completely satisfy every customer’s request but DogSmiths are in such demand that they may have to adjust their schedule slightly too properly meet the needs of their clients. If you have requested a specific service at a specific time the DogSmith Pet Professional will make every effort to accommodate your request exactly but there may be an occasion where the service may be a few minutes earlier or later than that requested due to other commitments.

Your DogSmith will always attempt to accommodate your every need while you are away but please remember that if you ask for extra services it may not be possible for your DogSmith to always perform these if their schedule won’t allow it.

5. Let Us Know
When you return to your home and pets after being away, if there is anything you are concerned about please contact your DogSmith immediately. We will be much more able to address you concerns when your service has been recent.

If you can think of anything else that we can do to provide you and your pets with the best care possible please contact us. The DogSmith is helping pets become family!

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Teach Your Dog To Like Praise.

Aussie pup 2Praise must be rewarding to your dog in order for you to use it. To understand what type of praise is valued by your dog experiment with the following:

1. What tone of voice does your dog like? High pitch? Low pitch? Both low and high pitch? When praising your dog, make sure you are smiling. Dogs are truth detectors; your praise must be sincere. Experiment with verbal praise and write below what kind of verbal praise your dog likes:

2. What type of physical touch does your dog like? Does your dog like to be touched softly? Does your dog like it when you rough up its fur? Does your dog like you rough housing with it, or does it prefer gentle physical touch. Write how your dog likes to be physically touched:

3. Now experiment with combining the two types of praise you have listed above. Does the dog like this? Record what you learned below:

4. If your dog did not like any of the forms of verbal and physical praise that you experimented with, you can teach the dog to like praise. Here is how you do it. You praise your dog verbally and physically and then give it a delicious food treat. You do this for a month, praise, ‘click’ and then treat. After a month, your dog will likely become happy when you praise it even if you don’t always give it a treat.

Knowing what your dog likes is the key to gaining excellent communication with your dog. Know your dog’s joy buttons and you can train it to do whatever it is physically and mentally capable of doing.

by Angelica Steinker. Copyright 2012

Download your personal worksheet and record your findings to the questions above

Teach Your Dog To Enjoy Praise

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The Downward Spiral of The Family Pet Dog

 

Written by Niki Tudge Copyright 2011

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.

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 as nobody enjoys walking the dog and the dogs’ 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.

To save the family home the dog is now reduced to living in the yard with minimal contact from 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 onset, 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 being 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, 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.

Talk to your local DogSmith, request a FREE consultation or search for a Force Free Dog Trainer.

 

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How do we define canine social behavior and what is it composed of?

Niki Tudge October 2011 Copyright

Social behavior is how dogs interact and form relationships with other dogs, people and other beings. The relationships formed are shaped at each interaction as behavior dimensions are strengthened or weakened due to the situation specific contingencies. During these social interactions conditioned emotional responses are also elicited due to the history of conditioning.

Canine communication behavior is social in nature. Within social setting dogs use behavioral sets to access reinforcement or avoid aversive stimulation. These behaviors are shaped over a period of time and are operant behaviors. Environmental antecedents set the occasion for the behavior and consequences reinforce or punish the behavior even though in some cases the social behaviors are made up of modal action patterns (O’Heare 2010)

Distance decreasing behaviors serve the purpose of accessing social encounters. Play behavior rituals are very prominent and specific communication prompts are used to initiate play.  Not all distance decreasing signals are so obvious and more subtle communication behaviors can be observed between dogs that are socially comfortable together (O’Heare 2010).

There are two opposing categories under the distance increasing behavior, aggressive behaviors and appeasement behaviors. These behaviors serve the functions of fight, flight or appeasement. Dogs that are aggressive make extensive use of threat displays by making all areas of their body appear larger and rigid. With flight behaviors the dog will move away from the interaction, moving slowly and tucking themselves down low to appear small.

Appeasement behaviors serve to avoid or escape hostility but do not necessarily have a distance increasing function. When displaying passive appeasement behavior the dog will place itself in a recumbent position exposing its underside. The dog may expel some urine and its ears will be back and its tail tucked as low as it can go. With passive appeasement behavior the dog will remain motionless until the threat has moved on. Active appeasement behaviors are more soliciting with the dog moving into the personal space of the dog or person, crouching ears back and their entire rear end may wag. The difference between canine flight behaviors and appeasement behaviors is that a dog in flight will disengage from the social interaction (O’Heare 2010).

Not all communication behaviors are clear cut and in some instances when there is motivational conflict a dog will vacillate back and forth between displays of distance increasing behaviors and distance decreasing behaviors. The dog will display ambivalent behaviors or displacement behaviors. Ambivalent behaviors are mixed signals where as displacement behaviors are behaviors that appear out of context and “function to temporarily break off sensory contact” (O’Heare 2010).

An understanding of canine communication is important to pet care professionals so we can reliably predict a dogs future behavior given a set of conditions and by understanding its communication we can avoid being bitten, can understand whether stimulation being applied through training is reinforcing or punishing to a dog and we can understand the relationship between environment antecedent and consequences on the dog’s behavior. If you are looking for a dog trainer or dog behavior consultant, ask them questions about their understanding of canine social behavior and stay away from anyone citing canine dominance theory, alpha slang or the need to assert yourself as the “boss”. One of the key areas of canine behavior DogSmiths  are certified on is canine behavior and social communication. It is critical to being an effective and efficient fore free dog training professional.

 

O’Heare J. Domestic Dog Behavior 103 (2010)

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Force Free Dog Training Methods – DogSmiths go Equine!

The fact that The DogSmith force-free training methods are based on the science of learning theory means they can be used on all animals.  Force-free methods for training can be effectively used on species as diverse as dolphins, dogs, giraffes and even cats (and our children)! DogSmith Bethany Jordan is shown here ‘clicker’ training a horse in Treibball!

 

 

 

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