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.

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Logan – part 26 – what we take for granted

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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.

Logan Part 25 – BAT sessions

 

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BAT sessions with Logan. Finding the sweet spot where his under threshold and still aware of the other dogs has been and continues to be challenging for us. This morning when we first arrived at the park, there were several other dogs closer than I would have liked for the start of our session.

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An off lead dog ran towards us so we ran off in the other direction to give us more distance. I am very cautious of using fast movement when we are training as it increases his arousal quickly and he becomes unable to focus. His ability to recovery is improving so he is able to bring himself down much more quickly after bouts of arousal, whether planned or otherwise.

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The first half of our session was faster than I would have liked it to be. He did loads of tracking on the ground and was defintitely searching/scenting, a preferred behaviour to him scanning the environment for dogs, but still too fast and we need to keep working on it. I can tell how he is doing by how hard I am working on the other end of the lead. If I’m working hard, then he’s generally struggling more, if he is relaxed than it’s an easier gig for me too. What’s interesting about this is that I can’t always identify what his fast movement is in response to, the only thing I can identify is that it is about his mood.

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In the above and below photos there are snap shots of really nice moments. The black dog approached and kept his distance and they both did really well communicating with each other. I marked and moved and he came with me readily. Great success!

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Second half was much better. Loads of scenting, not much need to help him out with food and his movement was much slower and more steady. On the way back to the car, a fella with a Cockerpoo came in, we were about 15m away, he looked and went back to sniffing. Excellent! Getting there.

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If you are unfamiliar with BAT, please have a look at Grisha Stewart’s website

http://grishastewart.com/bat-overview/

for more details

Logan Part 24 – are you with me, lad?

It’s been a while since I’ve written about our journey together but we have been steadily making progress over the last few months.

I was out with him this afternoon and wanted to write down some of the process I have been using with him. The amount of time Logan is with me mentally, emotionally and phusically based on his observable body language vaires depending on what else is going on in the environment. Observable criteria are how much time he spends looking at me, how much he is interested in the food I have, how easily or readily he moves with me when I move off. There are 4 broad categories to this. These are my definitions, you may have your own

  1. He is not with me at all
  2. He is not with me but searching/scenting/trailing the ground
  3. He is scenting on the ground around me and will generally move in the direction I am travelling
  4. He is fully engaged with me, seeking food reinforcement.

There is also variations within each of these as number 1 can vary between him holding himself in position watching (usually another dog) and running around barking (usually when he is really struggling and doesn’t know what else to do)

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There are differences in his body language between the image above and below. If you were to look at them on there own, in which one would you say he is more likely to move with me? Noticing the subtle changes in his body gives me information about what I am going to do next. He is not really with me, or connected to me in either of these photos.

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In the image below he is moving with me and scenting on the ground. Scenting at the park is good. If he is sniffing in the presence of other dogs, then I know he is more relaxed than if he is watching them. If I  was to move away in the picture below, he is very likely to follow me or to migrate in that direction. We would be moving together, which is cool and desired.

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Image below, he’s “with me, with me”. Looking at me, engaged and I am able to ask him to do simple, well practiced behaviours.

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Today we were out at the park for around 40 minutes. It was relatively busy but we were able to work at decent distances from other dogs. At this stage, and for a while to come yet, I am really relaxed about what I expect of him. The goal is to have him either scenting the ground for long periods when we are out, or both scenting the ground and enagaging with me when I ask him to. I try to be aware as much as I can that this is his walk and his journey. The objective is calm, relaxed behaviour for the whole (or as much as possible) time we are outside. With this in mind, I do everything I know how and am able to do to help him reach that objective. It helps keep me patient.

In the clip above, you can see him searching the ground for food and looking at the dogs. Look at the quality of how he is looking at the dogs. Relaxed or alert? How easily does he go from one to the other. Is the searching frantic or relaxed?

Lastly, I am also aware of the reasons for him being able or unable to behave at a certain level. Is he eyeballing the dogs because he has just arrived and needs to settle in to his session or can he not concentrate on what I am asking him to do because we are reaching his limit. I have to be mindful of all of these things all the time.

Please think about how you can apply some of these concepts to your own dog.

More to come, thanks for reading and your continued interest in our journey together.

Happy training

E-collars and the Alley Monster

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(Image credit – http://deivcalviz.com/2012/11/01/sketches-and-study-muffins/)

Some of you may or may not know that I was a Police Officer in my former career. I joined the Police as a part time officer in 1992 annd then full time from 1997 until 2015. When I joined, I worked with a fair number of cops who had joined the police in the 1970s and even a few in the 1960s. Attitudes were different in those times and there were not as many female officers. In my intake at The Scottish Police College in 1997, a third of my class were female and this had risen to half by 2005 (or thereabouts). One of the attitudes I would hear fairly often from some male cops, young and old, was that while they had no problem working with a female offiecer, they questioned their ability against the 16 stone (226lbs/102kg) angry man in an alley who needed to be arrested. Looking at it objectively, I would question the overweight, out of shape, 30 cigarettes a day male officer’s ability against that mythical alley monster as well. He was very often the one making the remarks.

I’ll get to the point. In my 10 years full time working in uniform patrol in a busy, high crime area of Glasgow I only once came up against the alley monster and looking back with hindsight, the situation could have been dealt with much less violently than it was. I’m not saying that there were not violent people who we came across in our work, but they were so rare that statistically it made no sense to use this as an excuse not to work with, or be apprehensive about working with, female officers.

And to dog training. One of the excuses/reasons I see often for the the justification of the use of e-collars is that the dogs the trainers are using them on are the last resort, need to be sorted now or they’ll be euthanised alley monsters. To date, I have over 4500 hours of client based experience and at least 50% of those hours are dealing with dogs who are aggressive and reactive. Now, statistically, those numbers would throw at me a higher number of alley monsters than I have seen, if they in fact existed in the numbers e-collar trainers claim they do. Again, I am not saying they do not exist, I’m just stating, from my experience, they just don’t exist in those numbers.

Three times in the last month I have worked with dogs whose owners have said I was their last resort. All three of these dogs were showing  aggressive or reactive behaviours and all three of them are making massive improvements with positive training methods. All three of them had been to other trainers too. I can almost guarantee that those three dogs, had they gone to e-collar trainers, would have had an e-collar out on them with the justification that it was the only option. It wasn’t the only option, we showed that.

Some police officers like the fact that they occassionally deal with and have to defeat alley monsters. I know as a young man I did. It pays into your ego, your sense of toughness, your bravado. Once you have done it a few times, however, there should be enough personal growth and self knowledge that you can do it if required but you should be looking for a less violent solution to the problem. Less violence means less injuries for everyone, less paperwork, less complaints and less lawsuits. A wonderful female detective I worked with used to state “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar”. If I never have to experience violence again in my life I’ll be happy, I’ve seen more than enough to last me several lifetimes.

The same is true for some trainers. They like dealing with the “violent” dogs. They like seeing them become less aggressive and with some of them, the only way they now how to do this is by using violent means themselves. I get tremendous professional and personal satisfaction when helping owners turn aggression cases around because everyone, including the dog, is less stressed and more peaceful. In committing to a more positive, less violent world, I have to know how to apply less forceful training methods to achieve the same results. It can be done if you commit to learning it and doing it. I know this, because I have.

Happy training.

Keep on learning.

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I regularly listen to my friend Hannah Brannigan’s podcast, Drinking From the Toilet. Hannah is an amazing trainer and presenter and is a faculty member with the Karen Pryor Academy. Her podcast is fun, geeky and full of truly amazing insights into the world of dog training.

A couple of weeks ago, Hannah hosted Dr Susan Friedman as a guest .(https://soundcloud.com/hannah-branigan/39-motivation-with-dr-susan-friedman).

I have been fortunate to hear Susan present on numerous occassions (eight I think at the last count, with another couple of times planned in 2018), and I was extremely fortunate to host her this year in Glasgow for a two day seminar. Each time I have heard Dr Friedman present, I have always learned new information. It may have been the same information for the second or third time, but each time I hear her, I am at a different place on my own journey.

I  finally got round to listening to Hannah and Susan’s podcast this week. Blown away. Now, you would think that if you hear the same speaker time and again, that this would get repetitive. Not with this presenter. With good lecturers and researchers, they too are continuing their own journey of learning, so they more they learn themselves, the more able they are to pass on their learning to us. I know I have said this before, but it is worth repeating, if your doctor, dentist, lawyer or mechanic had done no further learning since they first qualified, would you trust them with your health, contract or car? We must hold those who care for our dogs to the same standard. I  imagine you’d expect it of your vet so why not your trainer?

Not every trainer is able to attend seminars a couple of times a year or more, however there are plenty of online webinars and streaming services (https://www.tawzerdog.com/ is excellent), which means we can all remain as current as we possibly can with our knowledge. I regularly see and read content from other trainers which shows that their learning is not current and this means their canine and human clients don’t get the best information available.

The Glasgow Dog Trainer Team do our absolute best to keep up to date. We would encourage other trainers in the field to do the same. If you are a dog guardian looking for a trainer, demand that they do.

Happy training.

A Very Bonnie Christmas – Part 4

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It’s almost here….

Like Bonnie’s, many of your households will see a marked change of environment – increased levels of activity, change in routine, furniture moved around and decorations in place, new visitors, smells, objects… not to mention the likely and very the detectable rise in your own cortisol levels…

Even temporary and positive changes can impact us negatively if we’re not prepared for them. I’ve put this piece together offering some advice on how to keep your dog safe and happy and help you all get the most from the festive period…feel free to take some of the more personally salient points on board at moments you feel stressed too!

Safety and practicality first.

There’s a LOT of things humans like to have around at Christmas that are problematic for dogs. Poinsettia, lilies, holly, mistletoe, amaryllis, tree needles and ivy are all toxic at different levels. Keep them out of reach of your pooches. Candles, fireplaces that may
not be often used, fairy lights, electronic equipment etc – I’ve known dogs to chew through entire sets of lights, whilst they had been plugged in. Batteries and other small parts can cause a choking hazard, blockage or serious intestinal damage.

Most of us know the lists of toxic foodstuff by heart, but keep visitors (especially little ones who love to feed dogs) in the loop; Christmas pudding, raisins, chocolate and cooked/roasted bones must be avoided.

Keep a note of your Vet’s opening times, phone number and details of their out of hours practice handy. Ensure any medication your dog might need is not going to run out over the holidays too.

Environmentally – exercise is obviously still important. It’s worth mentioning in the next few weeks, as you walk together, keep up the sniffies, fresh air walks and decent cardio – that the salt on the pavements can be a issue for your dogs paws – wash them off when you get home, especially if they are likely to lick/groom themselves. As the temperature drops many people use antifreeze and unfortunately this can leak onto the pavements and roads – it contains an attractant for cats and dogs, and is lethal. Try not to let them drink from puddles on your walks if you think there’s a risk of contamination.

Visitors, and especially kids. Of course, you know your dog. Keep them safe and supervised – this time can be strange for them and trigger stacking can quickly occur – small, incremental stressors that seem like nothing mount almost imperceptibly, and many sad, avoidable accidents occur around this year “without warning”. If you’re
concerned – please get in touch with us, we can help.

To more subtle stuff, how will you help your dog relax and enjoy your home this month?

Like most of us your dog will appreciate the choice to enjoy some time out.  A crate, quiet room, or corner where he can sleep, settle and relax will help. Lavender on his/her collar, adaptil spray or plug in, a blanket or bed that is familiar and keeping up with their normal training routine as far as possible will all help. If you haven’t started to teach a “settle”, it’s never too late. Acknowledge and reinforce their calm behaviour and good decisions. Massage, affection and TTouch will help, as will reinforcing your established natural bond together.

Christmas is normally an inherently enriching time for a lot of people – and there’s lots you can do to give your pup the same level of joy. A stuffed kong, snuffle mat, puzzle game, new toy, or appropriate fresh bone/chew will go a long way to providing your dog with activity, stimulation and importantly for you – keep him or her out of mischief. The link below has some lovely and simple enrichment ideas you could try.

https://eur01.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fstories.barkpost.com%2F3-dog-toys-you-can-make-from-things-around-the-house%2F&data=02%7C01%7C%7C3ee1d3482e8e446ff05e08d5410cbfb3%7C84df9e7fe9f640afb435aaaaaaaaaaaa%7C1%7C0%7C636486445365205158&sdata=zZhbYMti6KGAQEIeOPUo7%2Be1I1aojs%2FaFCYtyIwmRpQ%3D&reserved=0

If you have any questions about the advice in this article, have your own advice to add, or know someone who could benefit from it, please tag them, forward the article, engage, or get in touch.

Wishing you the merriest of Christmases, truly.

All of us at The Glasgow Dog Training Team.