Saturday, October 14, 2017

Escape amd Avoidance Learning

Escape and Avoidance Learning
By:  Niki Tudge

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


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


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

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

In the case of the “invisible” fence, the beep on the boundary system comes before the shock is delivered. Due to his conditioning history, the dog will have quickly learned that the beep predicts a painful electric shock if his current behavior continues. He will aim to avoid this at all costs.
In the case of the electric shock collar, the shock is applied and then stopped when the dog discontinues his current behavior (which is whatever the person administering the shock deems to be inappropriate). There is no actual teaching involved, and the dog is given no opportunity to learn a new behavior. If the aversive device is absent at any time, there is no guarantee the dog will do what is expected of him because he has never actually been taught.

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

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

Like Us on Facebook
Follow on Twitter

No comments: