Monday, September 17, 2018

Benevolent Leader or Bully?

Something to think about: Are you a benevolent leader or a bully leader?

A benevolent leader thinks about what s/he wants from the dog, not behaviors s/he doesn't want. The benevolent leader makes sure those behaviors are shaped into the environment in a mindful, well thought out way. The benevolent leader lives in the here and now but can anticipate the future and prepare for it. There is no power struggle between human and dog.

A bully leader waits for the dog to get it wrong and punishes the dog. Do you use your leadership built on trust and confidence or pain, intimidation and fear?

Leadership is a role that requires the earning of trust from the dog. Trust cannot be demanded. Force creates resistance. Your dog chooses whether to follow you or not follow you, based on how you lead. Cooperation is much more reliable than compliance.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Time Out!

By:  Robin Sockness

A time-out? Really? Yes! It’s a kind punishment/consequence!  "Time outs work, are non-violent and free from fear side-effects, and can be used seamlessly in conjunction with differential reinforcement and management. I vote effective and ethically without issue."- Jean Donaldson

A punishment is something that decreases the frequency of a behavior. There are two ways to punish a dog. You can add something that the dog doesn’t like such as a shock, pinch collar or choke chain or yelling, spanking, etc, which we know is not a good choice… or you can take away something that the dog does like. 

Example, your dog jumps on people! My first question is, have you taught your dog an alternate behavior, such as sit when a human approaches?  That is step one!

Example of how to take away something the dog does like: A guest arrives and your dog is jumping all over them. Instead of adding something aversive like hitting or yelling, we can take the dog away from what it wants, which in this case is the person. Time-out!
A time-out consists of this: Dog does a behavior like jumping on a person, I say my verbal marker that the behavior is incorrect which for me is “sorry.” And then the person who gets jumped on turns their back on the dog.  Then we give the dog one more chance to make a good decision. If the dog makes the incorrect decision say “too bad”, “uh oh”, “oops”, “time out”, etc. followed by the dog being brought away from the human. Set the imaginary timer for a minute or two and then allow the dog to try the greeting again. There is a very good chance s/he will make the incorrect decision again because it takes more than one repetition to correct a behavior. If s/he makes the incorrect decision then repeat the process!  If s/he makes the correct decision, which is not jumping on the human, then ask the guest to praise and reward the dog.

In order to have good success with issuing time outs, you need good timing, consistency, and make sure you are letting the dog know what the correct thing is for the dog to do. Be a coach! Timing and consistency are key. To be effective, your dog has to realize that every time s/he jumps on someone, s/he gets removed from what s/he likes - the human. 

Are you being consistent and have you taught your dog the behavior you want? If half the time the dog is allowed to jump on people, and the other half of the time s/he is punished, the dog will never figure it out, because you are not coaching and being consistent!

They key:   reinforcing the behavior you want issue time outs for the ones you don’t want. 

The great Dr. Sophia Yin wrote a great article on the use of negative punishment.  Here is the link:

My take away from the article:  use time outs when you have taught the dog what you want him/her to do, be kind, be consistent.

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Monday, September 10, 2018

Balanced Dog Training

By:  Drayton Michaels, CTC

The main argument that fear and pain based or “balanced“ dog trainers make is “some dogs need to be taught with fear and pain”, these dogs are labeled “serious” behavioral cases.

My rebuttal to that would be, if the dog indeed has a serious behavior concern, and that would have to be assessed with applied behavior analysis and a proper history intake, because one person may think the dog is aggressive, but with a proper analysis of the dogs behavior in the environment it’s occurring in, it may be found the dog is not fearful but frustrated and has poor impulse control but I digress...if the dog has fear, aggression, stress any legit concerns in these categories, the last thing the dog would need is more pain or stress. If the dog is doing something in the impulse control category jumping, mouthing, digging running away, etc. then adding fear or pain may stop those behaviors, but it also may escalate them and teach the dog to have a general fear of the context with which that fear and or pain is being delivered. Remember only thing dogs generalize well is fear.

No one that understands behavior will argue that fear and pain can potentially decrease behavior; but then the question remains, what is left in it’s place? There is no free ride behavior, there’s always a consequence that follows Behavior, it’s a law. Humans are the biggest variable in what dogs learn about their environments.

The other criticism that pain trainers and “balanced” trainers have is; positive trainers use food too much.

What I find very interesting in all the criticism I’ve received in regards to using food as a reinforcer, none of the critics ever asked the following questions:

- what is the size of the food you’re using?
- what is the value of the food you’re using?
- how much had the dog eaten that day?
- Not one time since 2008 when I’ve started posting videos on the Internet showing me training dogs using food has anyone ever asked me those questions when criticizing me about using food. Seems obvious, no?

It’s Astonishing to me that someone would have an issue with using food as a reinforcer. If you’ve done even a cursory study into the history of behavior analysis Thorndike the great grandfather of behavior analysis stated hundreds of years ago that pounding on the floor did not work, but dropping food on the floor for the dog to come over to him worked just about every time.

The other thing that people who criticize dog trainers who use food is, they charge that we have to “carry food all the time”, well I would also charge that you have to have your special pain delivering collar on the dog all the time to issue negative reinforcement or issue positive punishment, or you have to have your shock collar button in your hand with the dog wearing the shock collar all the time. Or you have to physically or verbally cause of aversion of some kind to the dog to maintain or decrease behavior. With a small piece of food time to properly I can disrupt billions of years of biological evolution and teach a dog to disengage from prey. I have lots of video proof of this.

After safety, food and water are the most primary reinforcers and sought after resources that dogs are motivated every day in any context to obtain.

It is natural that every living creature has motivation to obtain food. And if it is specialized food delivered at specialized times and it has a higher value then the predictive value of those contexts with which that high value food is delivered will have less stress and a better associated value in general. When legit dog trainers figure out how to use food they become extremely successful at training dogs.

Another criticism leveled at positive, force free dog trainers is; we “let dogs get away with stuff”, and we don’t “punish” them so “how will they learn”?

In my case I can punish a dog without fear or pain. I have no problem giving disappointments are causing a bummer to a dog and letting them know the behavior choice they just made is not going to translate into any reinforcement.

I’ve learned and I’ve taught myself over the years how to be “humanely assertive” in times where dogs need to have a consequence that teaches them what just happened will not work to obtain reinforcement.

I liken this rebuttal to this criticism with the “toddler defense”. It is fact that dogs have the cognition of three or four-year-old children by the time they are socially mature around age 2 or 3.
This cognition of a three-year-old child stays with the dog for life. I don’t believe that anybody reading this or working with dogs would shock or choke a three-year-old child. I don’t believe they would pin them to the ground and get in their face to “teach them who’s boss”. If you did and you were caught you would go to jail for child abuse, if you did cause a three-year-old child fear and pain you would feel bad when everybody watched the video of you doing it, and if you didn’t feel bad you would be considered behaviorally to be a Socio path and possibly a psychopath.

Dogs do not have the cognition to formulate a moral imperative. This is been proven they have a much smaller brain, more specifically the dorsal lateral prefrontal cortex which is the part of the brain that deals with goal directed behavior, evaluating reward punishment outcomes and “doing the right thing”. behavior with fear and pain, yes. But it is not ethically sound to administer fear and pain to a dog to teach them what they should and should not do. Dogs can land 25 bites and four seconds when fear is generalized in too many contexts you have a higher risk of aggression. Stress from fear and pain-based approaches can cause health issues, it is not a mystery in today’s day and age that stress and stressful lifestyle‘s cause premature aging and disease, i.e. cancer.

My advice to those causing fear and pain to dogs, learn how to issue punishments without pain and how to issue consequences without fear or inordinate stress for the dog.

To reference Dr. Suzanne Friedman she instructs her students “dogs do not need any extra fear or pain their life” and “living it will simply supply enough” so they will learn how to deal with it, as the environment will supply them with all sorts of experiences that they will learn how to deal with fear and pain.

I would add to that, it is our job as guardians to help dogs understand that fear and pain is momentary, that despite their deciding it’s scary, we are here to help them through it, so that they learn to bounce back from fear and pain much easier in the future. If we’re causing dogs fear and pain environment all the sudden become is frightful where do they look to for reassurance and reinforcement if they look to their people and their people are also associated with fear and pain. Seems like it would be much scarier for the dog.

Now my criticism towards the people whether their professional or non-professional that choose and it is a choice to use fear and pain to teach dogs what works and doesn’t work, ethically it is not sound, as a practitioner it is not sound, as a professional educating the public on how to interact with their dog in social situations it is not safe.

Some dogs can land 25 bites and four seconds and if they’re afraid of hands or voices or approaches from their immediate humans, all the other peripheral humans will come with a warning. Dogs cannot formulate a moral imperative and be bad, jealous, spiteful, insolent, they do not understand concepts like “respect“.

Dogs view all of life, their experiences, and all the stimulus they encounter as safe, unsafe, or neutral. This is hard science this is not something that is up for debate, we know how dogs learn and we know from legit research they’re about as intelligent as toddlers.
Dogs are truly innocent.

Before you choose to use fear and pain or hire a professional that uses fear and pain to “train” a dog, remember you are your dogs guardian protector. Make the safest choice and you’ve made the smartest choice for a dog.

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Thursday, July 12, 2018

Don't Blame the Dog!

So often in training, when a dog doesn’t perform the desired behavior in response to the given cue, we blame the dog. I often hear, “He’s blowing me off!” or “She’s being stubborn!” However, in reality, the handler just didn’t make it clear enough for the dog to fully understand what the person was trying to teach.

If your dog doesn’t “get it,” then look in the mirror and see that it’s you who needs to make the exercise easier for the dog to succeed. If the dog succeeds, the dog earns reinforcement. Reinforcement makes the behavior more likely to increase. That’s what you want, right?
It’s imperative to keep in mind the four stages of learning: acquisition, fluency, generalization and maintenance.Read the entire article

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Thursday, June 28, 2018

Friday, June 22, 2018

What is shock training?

Is It Really Just A Tap? Shock Collar Training Explained

Written by Eileen Anderson. Sourced from Eileen and Dogs
This question is answered below in this article written by Eileen Anderson. Thank you to Eileen for kindly allowing us to use her wonderfully written articles as part of our Shock Free Coalition.
Shock collar trainers have several names for the shocks that they administer through the collar. A tap. A stim. A nick. A page. Static. Application of pressure.  It sounds like something short and relatively benign.

Even the word “shock,” although it has much more negative connotations (which is why shock collar trainers usually don’t use the word), sounds like something brief. If you get a shock from scuffing your feet on the carpet then touching metal, it is unpleasant but over in milliseconds.
What many people don’t realize is that in many types of shock collar training, the electric shock is on for much longer periods. In the initial training sessions it is turned on and left on until the dog figures out, sometimes with very litt e effective information from the trainer, what she is supposed to do to get it to turn off.  Read the entire article

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Saturday, June 2, 2018

Don't be a Prisoner in Dog Training

By:  Drayton Michaels, Urban Dawgs

Don’t be a prisoner of the moment when it comes to dogs. While the “moment” is crucial, there’s also a history and never forget environments are changing all the time, second to second, day to day, temporal context shifts are not going away, so stay flexible in your criteria when it comes to dogs.
Real world training can be “messy” due to the various environments dogs have to learn in and humans have to teach in. Humans achieve more consistent behaviors from dogs when they drop criteria so the dog can succeed for reinforcement. 

Think of it like this, a person is a great ice skater, and they can juggle, they can even skate and juggle at the same time. Now let’s add in avoiding knives being thrown while the person skates and juggles, it’s going to be really difficult. They’ll probably mess up.

Many people chant “sit”, or push the dog’s rear end down so the dog will sit, only to have the dog get out of the sit, even though the dog has had lots of “sit stay” training, it has not been proofed in environments with this level or types of distractions, skating, juggling knives being avoided..and little to no meaningful reinforcement.

Or let’s say you have the dog in an environment they’re used to even if it is little hectic and they do a behavior for the first time on a verbal cue perfectly and then every time after that they don’t do it as efficiently.

You wouldn’t want to give up you’d want to pay for sub-criteria and keep improving your mechanics and timing of the cues, the hand signals, and your rate of reinforcement and see if you can tighten up your training based on the human behaviors that can be adjusted and not be a “prisoner of the moment” and worry about the dog doing it perfectly every time.

Unless you and the dog are going to be hired to perform these behaviors relax and have fun and enjoy the process and even then, relax, have fun, and enjoy the process. When training dogs, don’t be a prisoner of the moment. Stay flexible.

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