This is why we study

Our team is committed to studying. Seminars, webinars, textbooks, research papers and articles, book and blogs from the best trainer and scientists of learning on the world.
Why we study
– to understand more about behaviour so we can provide you with the quickest, most effective and most ethical training programmes
– so that we understand that, yes, you can use things your dog does not like in order to change their behaviour, but that these are almost always unnecessary (and no, your dog is very unlikely, statistically, do be the exception to that)
– so that you and your dog can both become active participants in the learning and training process and you understand it is a conversation, not a monologue
– so that we can dispell common myths such as dominance and stubborness being the reason for your dog’s behaviour
– so that we can explain the a “bonker” (a rolled up towel for hitting your dog on the head or slapping it on the ground to scare him) is not only unecessary but it shows your dog that you are willing to use violence against him. How would you feel if your boss did that to you?
– so that we can explain to you why postive reinforcement techniques not only provide long lasting results but enhance your relationship with your dog long term
– so that we take the pressure off you and your dog and resolve the problems you are having
– so that we can teach you that play and petting have a mssive role to play in your dog’s care
– yes, so that we can become the best available to you
– so that we can intelligently campaign for legislation (successful this week in Scotland) which outlaws the use of unnecessary training tools like e-collars.
This is why we study. This is why we are behaviour geeks and proud of it.

Big cues or commands?

In each of the two clips, I give the same verbal cue for the behaviour “Twist”. Same word, same volume, smae intonation. In the first clip, I give Logan a piece of cheese or meatball for spinning anti-clockwise, on cue when I ask him to. So far so good.

In the second clip, I use a short game of tug as the consequence for correct behaviour, using exactly the same verbal cue as before.

What you’ll notice is that the spins in the second set are faster, tighter and performed with more gusto than the first set. The beauty of consequences.

Consequences drive behaviour, not cues, commands or signals. I give exactly the same cue to Logan each time, the difference in the performance of the behaviour is what happens after each rep, that makes the next one fast or slower than before.

How this applies to your dog. You do not need to scream “DOWN!” or “COME HERE!” at the top of you lungs, if the dog can hear you, he can hear you. What you need to do to get fast recalls is throw a PARTY! for your dog after they do the correct behaviour. After, not before. After, after. After.

I’ll repeat, consequences, not cues or commmands drive behaviour. Consequences.

Happy training.

Logan – Part 28 – bad behaviour?

When bad behaviour is preferable to the alternative. Just a short blog today. Yesterday (part 27 we discussed when the barking and bouncing pops back out under certain circumstances.

In the clip below, you see at the very start, he notices something behind us.

In the clip I showed in part 27, this is what we are trying to avoid. But is it always what is needed? When working with him I have sets of behaviours I work towards at all times. These sets of behaviours are dependent on the circumstances we find ourselves in. Here, the dog arrives unexpectedly behind us. As you can see, as I walk off he comes with me, bouncing and barking but on a loose lead nonetheless. Good behaviour under these conditions. Under different conditions, I’d prefer for something else.

When we view short clips of behaviour online, we have the luxury of making assumptions about what is going on. When we are living with a dog like Logan, or your own dog who is showing problem behaviours (let’s face it, they are problematic, we can tart it up anyway we want) it’s never clear cut. Behaviour is always on a sliding scale and it’s always variable.

Here, this behaviour is preferable to the alternative of lunging and barking and pulling on the lead towards the dog. Is this what I want from him long term? No, of course not but it’s still progress. Keeping a view of the progress we are making keeps me motivated to continue orking through the hard times.

Catch you next time, thanks for reading.

Logan Part 27 – resurgence and spontaneous recovery

Forgive me if I have already mentioned this in one of my previous blogs but we worked a little on this yesterday as it reared its head again. In the clip below, you see the boy bouncing backwards and barking at me (yesterday afternoon). In the summer before I adopted him when I took him out, he would do this for the full time we were out, sometimes for 45 minutes. Exhausting for both of us. Extinction happens when a previously reinforced behaviour is now not being reinforced and the learner is expecting reinforcement. The emotion which, as a necessity, accompanies extinction, is frustration. You cannot have extinction without frustration.

Resurgence and spontaneous recovery are terms for when a behaviour which has previously undergone extinction, resurfaces. (Skinner didn’t do us any favours calling it extinction as that suggests dead forever, not so Burrhus, not so). What you are seeing here is spontaneous recovery of a previously reinforced behaviour.

It’s worth repeating, this behaviour used to go on for 45 minutes. During this time he would not take food, would move away when I tried to pet him and was only interested in a toy that I did or did not have. From what I have put togther from my time with Logan, certain envionmental stimuli trigger these bouts of barking. I have identified them as

  • high arousal
  • the presence of other dogs
  • open spaces such as fields or parks (this is the most common one)
  • fast movement from me.

Several of these combined would trigger this behaviour in the video, and sometimes one of them would act as the cue. Can you see the problems this has caused? Get them all together and we have the perfect storm.

Many trainers see little problem with using extinction. The main issue I have, and it’s a biggy, is the emotional fallout. He gets frustrated and this feeds his arousal. The more aroused he gets, the less he can think. The less he can think, the less opportunities I have to reinforce other behaviours. A horrible vicious cycle which I do my best to avoid.

Once he started to take food outside, I would then offer him a treat (sausage or cheese) and would toss it for him to catch. I hear the cries of “Dear god man, you are reinforcing the barking!” Am I? Does the food reward serve to reinforce the barking and bouncing? Is he barking because he wants the treat or is he barking because he does not know what else to do given these conditions and this is the best he can come up with? I’d rather risk occasionally reinforcing barking if it means I can provide reinforcement for a few other behaviours, than completely remove reinforcement and have him out his mind through frustration and arousal.

I would start tossing the treat, having him catch it and then lower the movement of the treat (shaping it down) so that I am either delivering it to his mouth or dropping it quietly on the floor so that he collects it and then catches me up for another. I then would give him the option of exploring by sniffing or coming back in for another calmly delivered treat. Shaping his energy levels and arousa down to nice levels.

How do we know if the treat, delivered after the barking reinforces his barking or enables him to calm down? The proof is in the behaviour we see more of. This was a few minutes later.

What I observe at 0.09 – 0.13 in the video is that he is on the verge of another barking episode. Previously, one of the other things I would do when I saw these behaviours following a bout of barking, would be to immediately throw a big load of treats on the ground in front of him. Having previously taught him to search for treats on the ground, I can then use this tactic for two purposes

  • reinforce the lower arousal behaviour
  • give him something else to do under the same conditions

By doing this, and having built up a long and deep history of searching, this behaviour will then resurge, the searching, not the barking and bouncing. Over time, I can then further shape this to more of what I want.

According to the literature, spontaneous recovery and resurgence are two slightly different things, depending on the conditions they occur. I’m still learning the full differences myself but they are similar enough that it should cause any confusion if I have been mistaken in identifying which is at play. Deeper understanding on my part means I’ll be better able to apply the science to help change his behaviour.

His behaviour is information about how I need to plan my next training session.

Learning never stops. Happy training.

Logan – part 26 – what we take for granted


I’m picking away at several books just now as part of my own learning. One of them is The Archaeology of Mind by Jaak Panksepp and Lucy Biven. Page 382-384 talks of Play Deprivation in ADHD-type Impulse Control disorders in both humans and animals.  One of the suggestions for human children who have been diagnosed (labelled?) with ADHD is that half an hour of active play before lessons helps them concentrate more on learning. I do my best not to attach labels to him but we research where and when we can and labels can be useful as long as we are all talking about the same thing.

Reading this over the festive break, I allowed Logan and Watson supervised play for around 30 minutes in the mornings, with frequent short breaks to stop arousal getting too high and then letting them go back to playing again. After they had played and then cooled down, I headed off to the park with the boy for some ninja BAT. When we do our ninja BAT, we are concentrating both on BAT around other dogs as well as BAT walks which help build that BAT experience he needs. We did this around seven times over the two week festive period.

The weather has been truly foul here today and yesterday and he really does not thank me for taking him out in the freezing cold rain despite the rather snazzy coat we bought for him. This evening, we did some play with toys, clicker training and some search stuff at home which he really enjoys.

I then took him out for a walk around the neighbourhood. Ordinarily at night he is really vigilant and will watch (eyeball) every shadow and movement and he can be vocal around people and dogs. Tonight, BAT style, he bimbled around, sniffed, walked really calmly with me, sniffed some more, we did a few jumps over a railing, sniffed some more, and then walked around the church gardens, sniffing some more. He was looking and acting like a normal dog. Two dogs walked along the other side of the road (around 30ft away) and he had a little look and then went back to sniffing.

These walks are what I  miss with my dog and they are what many take for granted. The last year has been relentless with him but the hard work is paying off for us and these moments shine through. These will become more normal rather than stand out.

This is a combination of all the tiny improvements we are making together, not one thing is the magic bullet.