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.
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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.

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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.

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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?

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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 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 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