Our influences

I posted recently about where we get our influences from in dog training. All the knowledge and skills we collect and collate over of lives often interweaves and connects. I kind of think of it like a spider’s web although it’s not woven from the centre out, more like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, a little here, a little there until the picture looks fuller. If we are smart about our own learning, that picture will never be complete and will always expand throughout of lifetime.

The influences I weave into my dog training journey come from many sources; dance and movement, martial arts, my previous occupation as a police officer dealing with dynamically changing situations which were often potentially violent or dangerous among all the other things I experienced, reading the accounts of combat veterans on the effects of acute and chronic stress, some neuroscience, philosophy, health and fitness, mindfulness, emotional regulation and awareness to name some.

I’ve recently been through a very dark period of my life. Because I have some knowledge of how diagnosed depression affects mood and behaviour, I can use that knowledge to give myself the time I need to heal and give myself a break that I’m not as productive or creative as usual. I’m currently reading “Permission to Feel” by Marc Brackett. I heard Marc Speak on Brene Brown’s podcast. I first heard of Brene Brown after hearing her mentioned at a conference by one of the speakers.

In Dr Brackett’s book, he talks about negative feelings impacting our creativity. He says that when we are under the influence of negative emotions (my wording is clumsy here), our creative processes are suppressed. Now that I am feeling better, my creativity is awakened more, and I was inspired to write this article. A few weeks ago, I could have read the same information and not been so inspired.

How does this relate to our dogs and how do we apply it? From an evolutionary viewpoint, our emotions serve to give us information about our current conditions so we can change them and survive another day. Those negative emotions are important in our survival but too many of them will inevitably kill us (the physical effects of long term negative emotions are well documented). If our dogs are constantly in a state of negative emotions such as boredom, fear, frustration, anxiety, this will stifle their creativity. This means they will be able to problem-solve less. Problem solving is good for our dogs as each time they solve part of the puzzle, they get a hit of dopamine and their confidence increases. They are learning their behaviour matters, it works, it changes things for them, they achieve outcomes.

If our dogs are not able to be creative in their lives they are missing out on life. If the circumstances that we keep them in lead to confusion, uncertainty, fear, boredom, then they are not fulfilling their potential for a good, happy, healthy lives. We owe it to them to provide true enrichment, safety, certainly with spontaneity, freedom within normal societal rules and happiness. We owe that to ourselves as well. Think of the satisfaction you would feel if you can honestly and objectively claim that you have provided that to your dog. It would be wonderful.

Quadrants schmadrants

learningquadrant-300x259Ah, the quadrants. The source of many, if not the majority of trainer wars on social media. Several months ago, I nearly caused a riot on my Facebook page with these six simple words

“The quadrants are not a thing”.

I had people unfriending me, calling me names (both in front of me and behind my back, adults, grown men and women), threatening to cancel coming to a couple of presentations I was doing the next month. It all got a bit out of hand. The point of the post was yes, to be inflammatory, but not just for the sake of being so. It was to provoke discussion. My position; overuse and over reliance on the term “quadrants” is limiting and fails our dogs.

Let me go back a stage. The following photographs are from a couple of books by two of the best minds in behaviour, Paul Chance and Susan Schneider. I have read both books, refer to them often and continue to digest them. Paul Chance’s book is a behaviour textbook, referred to in Universities (that’s the places where we teach accountants, engineers, doctors etc). Dr Susan Schneider’s book, although not a textbook, was over ten years in the making and has hundreds of citations. These are people we should be learning from.

I have had the pleasure and honour to have learned from Dr Susan G. Friedman on numerous occasions. Another brilliant mind in the field of learning, Dr Friedman’s advice is to learn behaviour from textbooks and then learn how to apply it from skilled technicians. She further advises not to do the bulk of our learning from opinion pieces (like this one, yes, I know). In doing so, we will excel. Dr Friedman has spent over 20 years working with the best animal trainers in the world and applying ABA to hundreds of species of animals.

So, back to the quadrants. The two authors mentioned, these photos are from their books

and

Look carefully. No mention of the term “quadrants”. Now, yes, Chance refers to positive and negative punishment in this index. No, still no mention of quadrants. From the photos, look at the other terms. How often do you ever hear anyone but the most advanced trainers, or trainers learning from them (like me) refer to these other terms? My bet is rarely, if ever. When we limit ourselves to discussion the “quadrants” and that alone, we ignore the whole breadth and depth and richness of behaviour analysis as a field of study and our dogs (and us) suffer for it as a result.

The next time you get involved in one of these car crash discussions on social media, ask if your opposite number knows what the matching law is. Or a discriminative stimulus. And ask if they further know how to apply it. And if you are reading this and don’t know, then I urge you to find out. If we are going in from the cold, are we seeking warmth or to escape the cold or both? If so, the negative reinforcement and positive reinforcement are at play at the same time. Do you know the difference? Is it always both or sometimes can it only be one? Find out, examine it, study it, think about it and discuss it with people who know more than you do.

Concentrating only on 4 possible outcomes of behaviour (while ignoring extinction) and failing to take into consideration antecedents (distant, intermediate and proximal) and the effects of classical conditioning makes us look foolish. We cannot pick and choose the science we like. Yes, aversive training methods like prong collars and shock collars work, that’s why they are used and continue to be used. But they come at a cost and nearly 100 years of research tells us so. If you revel in the use of all 4 quadrants, read a book on the effects of punishment on the individual. B.F. Skinner wrote all this stuff down.  He was also a man who, having researched this stuff, interacted and taught using positive reinforcement as the driving force. How do I know this? Because I have heard it from his daughter, Dr Julie Vargas, who spoke at the WOOF Training and Behaviour Conference this year.

Stop limiting yourself to discussion of graphic which was used to simplify the glorious study of behaviour as a starting point. Do you still want to be at that starting point a year, 2, 5 or 10 years after you started? I know I don’t and I know I’m not.

Love and peace and good training and learning.

Hannah Branigan in Glasgow

The Awesome Hannah Branigan will be in Scotland for the first time (first time in the UK as well) on the 3rd and 4th Aug. There are a few auditor/observer spots left so please don’t leave it until the last minute if you are thinking of booking as I’d hate for you to miss out.
Hannah is the host of the fabulous Drinking From The Toilet Podcast and author of Awesome Obedience
 
This will be an amazing weekend of dog training with a brilliant and entertaining speaker.

Humility, progress and provocation

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DEEP THOUGHTS (not really)
 
As a dog training community, whether online or in person, we have a number of objectives and interests. We have to educate the public and our clients as best we can and provide them with information which they can actually use. There is most likely a way to stay away from scientific jargon without dumbing down the process of training and why we train without corrections.
 
Then we have discussions to make us better ourselves. By having a better understanding of the science of dog training, keeping up to date with new research which comes out, examining whether things we did 5, 10 or 15 years ago are still valid, needs updating or needs thrown in the bin and to build a tribe of like minded individuals who can we can have these discussions with. This is a big ask and each of us are better at some elements than others but other than a few truly unique individuals (Dr Susan Friedman), none of us are better that all of them than everyone else.
 
Sometimes the two objectives above are at odds with each other, and that’s ok, we can continue to improve until they are not.
 
I would much rather spend the time I have available online discussion how to get better at positive, effective, ethical training with my peers, so I can provide better content and better training than to debate whether we should still be using aversive training methods with others. There are other people out there who are more willing and better able to do that than me.
 
Terms and themes which I think need discussing
 
– the need for our dogs to sit for everything
– the need for our dogs to walk on the left hand side
– the use of the terms quadrants, impulse control, arousal, drive and a few others.
 
My journey with the spectacular dog in the photo has made me consider loads of stuff which I thought was gospel. This can only be a good thing. The need for discussion of the list above has been inspired by Logan and many other great human teachers who I have been honoured to have learned and continue to learn from. The list is only my opinion, it is no less or no more valid than anyone else’s.
 
I hope the picture of his nibs made you smile.
 
Peace and love.

Interested in Learning Dog Training with me?

 

I am inviting applications to mentor with me starting in 2019.

Email me – info@glasgowdogtrainer.co.uk

I will be covering all aspects of learning, training, dog behaviour and running a successful dog training business.

Open to all levels of experience and to anywhere in the world.

Logan – Part 30 – much progress

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It’s been a while since I’ve published an update on the boy’s progress. We have been working hard over the last few months and I’ve also done load of CPD which has been very helpful. We attended practical workshops with Kamal Fernandez and Kay Laurence over the last few weeks, and I hosted Sarah Owings from California a couple of weeks ago and we talked at length about how to progress his training. Sarah has been through a very similar process with her dog, Tucker over the last few years.

I’ll write more about the detail of what we have been doing when I have more time. I’m also presenting at the IMDT Conference on Logan as a case study next weekend so I don’t want to give away too many spoilers!

Bullet points I have been helped identifying over the last few months

  • he needs a constructive outlet for his energies (I was doing this to a certain degree but focused what I was doing)
  • different toys for different games; Kongs seem to be too arousing for him if he is chasing them but ok of he is searching for them, soft toys are good for chase and games where I play a bigger role
  • play more co-operative games with him
  • teaching him release cues to fluency so he knows exactly what is expected of him
  • he is not the same dog as he was this time last year, so the reasons for doing stuff or not doing stuff may (and very often are) either not there at all or very different.

Stay tuned for more over the next few weeks, I have plenty of video and thoughts to share.

Thanks for reading.

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.

What do you smell yourself doing next year?

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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.
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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?

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