Teaching in second language

Your dog needs to learn a second language the same as we do
Pretty challenging session with this dog, not due to what we were teaching but as to how we were teaching it.
Consider the following – Katy doesn’t understand what I was asking her to do at the start nor how to do it as we were teaching her these skills. Moose the dog didn’t know what we were asking her to do, she just knows what she is being reinforced for. I have to break it down into bite sized chunks so Heather can translate while we are doing it as Katy speaks limited English and I speak almost no Spanish. Heather was also translating for the benefot of the people watching the demo.
We have to make sure Moose isn’t left hanging, not knowing what to do in the session, thus potentially getting frustrated, so I had to keep the session moving along.This is why clear communication is important with your dog.
Katy and Moose already had built a foundation of skills working together so it went very smoothly.
The session lasted about 5 minutes, with this being the last 3 minutes. In the first 2 minutes, we had reinforced Moose for being on the platform (click and treat). We then added the new cue “apples” so that Moose went to the plaform when cued. This was reinforced a few times. Then, when she went to the platform, Katy asked her to lie down (a previously taught behaviour). This was repeated a few times until Moose understood that “apples” means go to the platform and lie down.
This whole process took less time than it takes to boil a kettle and make a cup of team. Done in a second language through a translator.
Lovely work from Katy and Moose.

Replacing a problem behaviour

Stella is a young Staffordshire Bull Terrier who comes to work with her human. When Mandy is working, Stella looks for attention by barking and jumping up. When that attention is given in order to settle her, her jumping and barking is inadvertently reinforced, perpetuating the cycle.
There are a number of ways to train this behaviour but we have chosen to train the building blocks individually and then put them together. There are a number of things to consider
-amount of time on her bed
-how far away her person is
-what her person is doing
-what else is going on in the room
-being able to understand the cues she is given
All of these are elements which make this exercise more or less difficult depending on how they are combined. By understanding these elements, and adjusting them accordingly, we can make good progress towards the desired outcome of Stella being settled in her bed while Mandy works.
Once this is achieved, we can use other reinforcers such as petting, smiles, kind words and opportunity to play or go oustide and move away from food.
Also note that we can train this behaviour extremely easily off lead. There is no need to have Stellan on the lead and physically move her in order to achieve this. The above steps were trained in the space of 30 minutes. If Stella doesn’t achieve what we want and gets up, we only need to go back a few steps and build it up again, no need for verbal corrections, no reward markers (ahah or oopsie!) and no need for physical corrections.
Positive reinforcement training in action.

Logan – part 29 – welcome home.

I was away for most of the month of March. I had the good fortune of being asked to present at the first Animal Training Symposium in Perth, Western Australia. Steve Mann of the IMDT, Sam Turner who is a canine proprioception legend (author of 4 excellent books on the subject) and I presented on a variety of dog training topics over the 16 days. It was a massive success and the attendees were raving about the information they received.


Logan was boarded while I was away and we collected him and Watson on Monday afternoon as soon as we returned. After a fairly relaxing week of training (we pottered away at some stuff, more on that later), I took him to the park this afternoon for his fist session around dogs since we got home.

The park wasy busy (a warm and bright day), loads of dogs and people around. Despite this being the first we’ve been properly around dogs in 5 weeks, we did get a few firsts. No barking on entering the park, as he usually gets excited. We had to move directly into the centre of the park as there was a guy practicing his golf pitching in the area we usually go to. This meant we were a little closer to the path and other dog walkers than usual. We were straight into it, as there was a couple walking three off lead dogs down the path, one of which was a big American Bulldog boy. Logan and him had a few seconds of measuring each other and then they both dissengaged. We then ambled through the open space of the park, looking at other dogs, many of which were running and chasing balls, he did really well. The best moment, and another first, we were 20m away from 6 off lead dogs, he looked at them, sniffed the gound, search for some food which I put down and then moved off when I asked him to. I’m delighted.

One of the behaviours he has done historically when he is stressed is to seek out fallen pieces of wood and chew them. This wouldn’t be an issue in and of itself but he then becomes fixated on them and won’t let them go. Today, he found a stick, picked it up and carried it and when we stopped, lay down to chew it. I marked and reinforced every time he let it go (again, more on this later as it’s something else we’ve been working on). When he was chewing it, it wasn’t done with the same frantic energy which I have previously observed. When the time came, he was able to leave the stick, there wasn’t much left though, and come back to the car with me.


All in all a great session. One period of a few barks, loads of much lower intensity behaviour around dogs then before, more col body language and loads of interaction with me.

Great stuff. The journey continues.

What do you smell yourself doing next year?


How we view the world. Our outlook on life. Our vision for the future. Alexandra Kurland wrote an amazing blog on the metaphors we use. So many of our are based on sight.
We would never dream about saying “What does the future taste like to you?” or “What do you smell yourself doing next week?” (Well you might, but it might be a bit bizarre.)
I did a scent instructors course a couple of weeks ago and we were talking about the scent picture. A picture os scent. We can’t help it. It is how we represent the world to ourselves.
The pictures are from Helen’s walk with Watson a few days ago. A full three minutes of sniffing were had. Three minutes. Similarly, the way we view the world (there is another one), a dog’s world is represented by smells. They get information through scent the way we get information through vision. Imagine going for a hike, reaching the top of the mountain on a clear day, only to be told thay you are having 15 seconds and then you are on the move again. How annoyed would you be?
Logan did not sniff when out at all for the first 3 months after I brought him home. Now I let him sniff everything he wants, every time we are out. It is his walk, the same way the one above is Watson’s.
Your dog’s walk is about exploration and enriching their life. Let them sniff, a lot, for a long time. We wouldn’t want to walk around the world blindfolded or unable to examine interesting things would we?

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 https://glasgowdogtrainer.wordpress.com/2018/01/09/logan-part-27-resurgence-and-spontaneous-recovery/) 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.