Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Behavior is in the Environment

By:  Drayton Michaels, CTC, Urban Dawgs, Red Bank, NJ
One of the big problems that people have with dogs be they professional trainers or guardians, is they want the dog to “do everything we ask them to do as soon as asked without any hesitation”, without any variance in the way the dog did it the last time, and that is a dangerous mindset to have because that is not reality or reasonable. Flexibility in criteria is crucial for success when training animals.
The first thing to realize is that “behavior is in the environment” not in the dog. Meaning something has to occur for the dog to respond to and then humans have to respond either before or after the dog responds. Right away we see that humans are the variable in terms of how dogs associate to stimulus and what they learn about sequences in the presence of that stimulus or stimuli. Humans are the biggest variable in a dog’s learning history.

Then we have to consider that there is a biological component to behavior dogs have different days, different responses based on time of day, and there is also a history, which may have been created in part before the dog came to their current humans, or a history that was created by the current humans.
History is not only the long arc of the dogs life from birth to their current age but history with other dogs, history with traffic, history with people reaching, history with loud sounds, history with sudden environmental contrast. History, that’s the thing to look at and when humans want to have a dog who is “perfect“, what is their history with the dog because they are the metric that is most easily changed and the metric that is most crucial to the dogs learning history.

What these “my dog must do what I say every time” people need to do is look in the mirror and decide if they’re going to actually become a better trainer for their dog or if they’re just going to stand around and complain, call the dog stupid or just shrug their shoulders and go “oh well that’s just the dog I have, he just doesn’t know anything”.

Typically many of these people who want results now without hesitation resort to compulsion training or force based training you know fear and pain, shock and choke, intimidate the dog. Or as it’s being sold these days “the dog must respect the human”.

This “we want the dog to do it right now whenever we ask them to do it without hesitation” mindset is also many times attached to humans who “feel” (ugh that word feel), dogs understand the concept of respect, which they don’t. This whole “the dog must respect me” mind set maps to people using lots of harsh punishment (pain) and negative reinforcement (fear) to maintain behavior.

That mindset of “the dog must do what I say and respect me at every turn” also leads to an adversarial relationship because behavior is in the environment not in the dog, and dogs have the cognition of three-year-old kids by the time they’re socially mature at age 2, so they do not have the pre-frontal cortex ability to formulate a moral imperative they are not able to have the same executive functions in their pre frontal cortex as humans and should not be considered on the same level cognitively as humans above the age of three years. Even then a 3 year old kid is still smarter than the dog.

All dogs operate on a safe, unsafe or neutral determination of all stimulus and events in their life and many times they get it wrong and they’re actually safe but they perceive the event or the stimulus as potentially fearful, and humans do to their ignorance, and their lack of patience, and having no real understanding about dogs, create problems where there could’ve been none or very little.
Do three-year-old kids do everything you want every time without hesitation like super charged robots? Nope.

Are people encouraged to have patience and finesse stress with three-year-old children as to not traumatize them, you bet they are, you certainly wouldn’t choke a three-year-old, nor would you put a shock collar on a three-year-old or pin them to the ground and make them understand you’re their “boss” or “leader” would you? No you would not. And if a human was caught on film choking or shocking or pinning to the ground a three-year-old child they would go to jail and be psychologically evaluated as having major issues.

So why do people keep doing these things to dogs? Even some well-meaning apparently or at least on the surface, well balanced, educated people even suggest doing these harmful things to dogs or they try to illustrate that dog should do this or shouldn’t do that, and if they don’t adhere to the humans the dog is somehow flexing their moral imperative to disobey, which is utter which is nonsense.

When dogs tune out or do not adhere to cues, they are distracted or stressed, their learning history is directly related to the humans that are in their charge and the humans in their charge need to focus on their mechanics and their timing of REINFORCEMENTS and actually learn how to communicate with their dog through force free, positive reward based dog training and behavior modification, because that is the legitimate way to change behavior and teach dogs in a safe way. Learn about Applied Behavior Analysis and stop the madness.



Drayton Michaels, Urban Dawgs


Like Us on Facebook
Follow on Twitter

No comments: