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There were some big lightbulb moments for me at the recent clicker expo, and these were related to the topic of Classical Conditioning.
Generally, the term “conditioning” can be a bit misleading because it tends to conjure up images (for me, anyway) from The Clockwork Orange or The Manchurian Candidate and suggests loss of free will, as if we are turning our dogs into robots. Technically speaking, the term “conditioning” simply means learning, and Classical and Operant Conditioning refer to the ways all living beings LEARN.
According to Dr. Susan Friedman, Classical & Operant Learning are always working together in real life. They always overlap. We artificially separate the concepts for teaching.
In Kathy Sdao’s seminar on “Classical Counterconditioning for Agression” she draws out the differences between Operant and Classical Conditioning:
Operant Conditioning/Learning happens in the realm of observable behaviors that we can mark and reward. These behaviors are freely chosen by the animal in order to earn reinforcement or escape punishment. Clicker training is Operant Learning. Golden rule: Behavior is driven by Consequences.
I did this drawing after my last Clicker Expo
Classical Conditioning/Learning on the other hand, is in the realm of reflexive or respondent behaviors – all the hardwired emotional, subconscious stuff that an animal has no choice over. These reflexive behaviors (eg, Flight or Fight) are learned through repetitive association and tied up with survival in some way. You pair something neutral with something that elicits “excitement” often enough, and the neutral stimulus will trigger off excited feelings. You repeatedly pair something neutral with something scary and the neutral thing will trigger fearful emotions. Antecedents lead to Behavior.
“Classical Conditioning is a powerful foundation for Operant Conditioning. Classical Conditioning will not get new behavior. It will put existing behavior under different antecedents.” – Kathy Sdao.
At Clicker Expo, in different presentations, this memo came up several times: We can’t start clicker training an animal who is fearful or anxious.
Classical Counter Conditioning is the first thing that should happen in order to calm the limbic brain, before the animal is able to “behave”. In the case of triggers that elicit fear responses, we pair these with very good things. This memo came up in Julie Shaw’s and Debbie Martin’s “Behavior Modification Clinic” Lab and also in Sarah Owing’s presentation about helping “WallFlower Dogs”.
Note: This example is based on real life. Whenever Boogie hears a “ding!” bell, he runs to the window and barks. Even if the “ding” is coming from the kitchen, the TV or if I accidentally touch a glass with a spoon. Maybe in his previous home, this “ding!” sound was the doorbell.
Here’s a much more detailed illustration on Counter Conditioing that I did for the Ahimsa Dog Training Manual:
Kathy Sdao talked about the ways in which Counter Conditioning can be ineffective due to these common mistakes:
- Weak Unconditional Stimulus. (the toy or treat is not valuable enough; the love of this is not stronger than the fear of the trigger)
- Trainer’s hand is in the treat bag and the dog is too focused on this
- Rhythmic trials. The ” trigger + treat” event happens at regular intervals to become predictable.
- Inadvertant Avoidance Conditioning. eg, if we keep treating before the dog sees the trigger, we might accidentally condition the food to become a “warning signal”
- We present the treat without the trigger (eg, dog gets the high value treat anyway, when nothing happens) – treat loses value
- Contingency issue. If we forget to treat when trigger appears
- NOT following up with Operant Conditioning.
Classical Conditioning is also not considered practical in the real world or in the long term because it is too easy to not do it correctly 100% of the time for it to be effective. This is why we need to follow up with Operant Conditioning of replacement behaviors, which made me think instantly of BAT…
Another example of Classical Conditioning was in Ken Ramirez’s Lab on creating value in “Non-Food Reinforcers”. He shared a story about a whale (or dolphin?) that wasn’t feeling well and wouldn’t eat and they needed him to take his antibiotics. As they were unable to reward with food, they used “reinforcement substitutes” like belly-tickling, clapping hands, praise etc. and these were just as reinforcing to the whale because they had been previously paired with food over a long time.
Similarly, we can train any novel stimulus - a toy or a human action (eg, clapping hands, thumbs up, “Good Boy!” etc) to be reinforcing if we pair this often enough with Primary Reinforcers (food, social interaction, play) during training. This pairing has to be maintained so that the non-food reinforcer stays emotionally meaningful to the animal. Some Ken Ramirez quotes:
“Yes, this is exactly like charging a clicker”
“A toy is not intrinsically reinforcing. It is reinforcing because it is paired with the Primary Reinforcer of PLAY”.
He also talked about learning how exactly your dog likes to play with a toy. Every dog is different. Example with tennis balls: Some dogs prefer chasing and fetching; some like to chew, or roll the ball around; some dogs like to peel the skin off. (Boogie is all of the above) Similarly with “touch” as a reinforcer. Each individual animal likes to be touched a certain way and only by certain people that he/she already has a relationship with.
“Value disappears from a conditioned reinforcer if you don’t know how to maintain it”
Susan Friedman in her closing speech at Clicker Expo also brought up the classical conditioning aspect of clicker training. A clicker is also a conditioned reinforcer… we infuse it with emotional value and meaning because it gets paired with food. The click not only marks behavior, it also elicits respondent behavior/happy emotions (“woohoo! I got it right!”) Not only do we have to be precise with our clicking, we also have to ALWAYS back up every click with a treat to ensure that this powerful training technology is effective.
She showed video examples of trainers not using a clicker correctly… eg, trainers who click several times before giving a treat OR trainers with animals who are responding to other signals and are not getting what the click means and are focusing on the food instead… and as a result, the animalsdon’t perform as requested or they get frustrated and walk away, or get cranky.
Susan Friedman: “If you click, dammit, TREAT!”
If you were at Clicker Expo and if I have misinterpreted any of the information in this blog post, please feel free to let me know!
Next blog post: When animals make mistakes – dealing with these in the least intrusive way.
February 3, 2013 at 9:56 pm
After three full days of Clicker Expo, a total of 14 seminars, half a notebook full of notes and scribbles, my brain is so full I don’t even know how to start writing about this experience. I may need a couple of weeks to process and streamline everything!
I attended my first Clicker Expo 2 years ago (you can read about it here and here) and this time I went all out and registered for the full event. I wanted to learn new things, be inspired, meet up with my clients, make new contacts, listen to expert trainers like Ken Ramirez and Kathy Sdao, meet Dr. Susan Friedman in person (she ordered multiple copies of my poster!) and sit in on Sarah‘s and Irith‘s shorts presentations, which were really great. I must say that even though I was in the 2% of attendees who don’t work professionally with animals – I didn’t at all feel overwhelmed or lost.
Clicker Expo was everything I hoped for, including the joy of seeing doggy “down-stay” butts every time I visited the hotel’s ladies’ restroom.
photo by Cindy Bennet Martin
I could write a day-by-day review and this would turn into an epic 3 or 4 part blog post but for now, let me direct you to this Flickr Set where I have posted some photos and quick notes.
Some topics that I want to think/write more about and do illustrations for….
- Anthropomorphism & Mechanomorphism (Karen Pryor)
- Classical Conditioning in relation to Clicker Training (Kathy Sdao, Susan Friedman)
- Dealing with Unwanted Behavior in the Least Intrusive Way (Ken Ramirez)
- TAGTeach – Clicker Training for human beings (Theresa McKeon, Irith Bloom)
I enjoyed every single talk and Learning Lab at Clicker Expo but the highlight for me personally was Kay Laurence’s “Targeting” Lab on the final day, which was amazing to watch. I am so in awe of Kay Laurence’s skills, her sensitivity to the dog, and her way of articulating reasons for every little training choice that she makes. There’s something about seeing a LIVE training session that can’t be beat by watching a YouTube video or DVD.
And after those three intense days of learning and meeting people, it was so good to be back home with Boogie, who is a refreshing change from all the “well-behaved” dogs at Clicker Expo…
Boogie in his new tiny teacup doggie bed.
Boogie unstuffs his new bed.
In other news, I have started reading Monica Segal’s K9 Kitchen: Your Dog’s Diet. The Truth Behind The Hype. It is a fascinating read but I am now even more aware of how much conflicting info there is about dog nutrition floating around… for instance, the “grain-free, potato-free” diet that is said to prevent yeast infections. See this earlier blog post.
According to Monica Segal, cutting carbs out of a dog’s diet won’t make any difference to yeast growth.
“A very popular myth circulating on the Internet claims that yeast feeds on carbohydrates…. There isn’t a direct link between carbohydrates or sweet vegetables and yeast. The focus should be on eliminating the food culprit whatever it may be” (usually proteins or grains or supplements)
She also adds that grains can be a GOOD THING for some dogs (better coat)… so long as they are thoroughly cooked to be digestible. I am particularly interested in the chapter on recipes and on how to prepare a home cooked diet that has the correct balance of nutrients…
January 31, 2013 at 8:37 am
Will I ever get through this list?
1. The Science of Consequences by Susan M. Schneider. I am about 30% of the way through this book and enjoying it so far. It’s like seeing the world with new eyes through the filter of Behavioral Science (Operant Conditioning) and how this philosophical approach applies to genetics, evolution, behavior modification in humans and all animals large and small, etc. I am very chuffed that Susan Schneider wrote a blog post about my Animal Training poster.
2. The Misunderstood Dog by Jordan Rothman (my illustrations are in this book!) There’s a sale going on this month! So far I have skimmed through the first few chapters and can’t wait to read through it properly. I promise I will post a blog review. The Misunderstood Dog is like an easier-to-read, friendlier, jargon-free version of Jean Donaldson’s “The Culture Clash”, and it is written for dog owners rather than dog training professionals.
3. 25 Dog and Puppy Training Tips e-book by Emily Larlham. I am a big Emily Larlham/Kikopup fan. I can’t wait to read this. *Does anyone know of a good program that can convert PDFs to Kindle Format without messing up all the photos? The e-book is a large PDF file with lots of photos that got lost when I emailed it to my Kindle.
4. Decoys and Aggression by Stephen Mackenzie. This book was recommended to me on a dog training forum. I believe this is a book on teaching police dogs to PERFORM AGGRESSIVE BEHAVIORS (in a humane way) and therefore has some very insightful offerings on how to read and shape dog body language . Also liking this video by Steve White, another police dog trainer whose DVDs I would love to watch but cannot afford.
5. K9 Kitchen: The Truth Behind The Hype by Monica Segal. Not a training-related book but one about nutrition. I think I will start cooking for Boogie again soon. *Does anyone have good tips on using a Dehydrator to make pet treats? eg. do you cook the meat first before dehydrating it?
6. Understanding Cat Behavior by Roger Tabor. Not a dog book. I ordered this because I need a cat book for drawing reference, one with lots of photos showing various body language poses and expressions. Unfortunately, some of this information might be very outdated. Just take a look at this little blurb on dog training -
So it’s not OK to boss around and scold a cat because it will damage your bond and mess up your cat, but it’s OK to do this with dogs? While it’s great that nowadays many dog-lovers are promoting and teaching the world about modern force-free HUMANE dog training methods, I wonder if this info is also getting through to the non dog people…. And btw, are there any CURRENT books on Cat body language/behavior/training?
Seeing that it’s National Dog Training Month, I am learning to use a MannersMinder!
To be honest, it looked a little intimidating until I watched the instructional DVD which goes into a lot of detail about training games, the correct order in which the games should be taught, and how to work the machine settings. It’s quite loud too. When you press the remote control (to dispense the treat), there is a loud BEEP followed by a loud whirring sound before the treat plops out.
Ah… my scaredy Boogie dog. As soon as I put the MannersMinder down on the floor, I could tell that Boogie was scared of it. It wasn’t even turned on! I put a treat in the bowl; Boogie looked at it and backed off. He would not go near the machine. He went to his bed, instead. After some coaxing, Boogie ate the treat out of the bowl and then everything was fine after that. He learned very quickly how to make the “BEEP and TREAT” happen. So far I have been training “Eye contact”. Tomorrow we do “targeting”. Now I need to find some treats that are of consistent size so that they don’t get stuck…
This is going to be an adventure!
January 1, 2013 at 11:45 pm
It has been a crazy month – major computer issues, health issues, catching up on a huge backlog of work – and poor Boogie’s Blog has been neglected. I don’t have time to go into too many details, so this blog post is a quick summary of stuff that I have found interesting.
1. Two great books!
First of all, I am plugging Grisha Stewart’s Ahimsa Dog Training Manual - I am doing new illustrations for the next edition!
Paul Chance’s First Course in Applied Behavior Analysis is about modifying behavior in people, not dogs, but the philosophical premise and methods are the same as what are used in modern dog training methods, and I enjoyed learning about the same concepts in “human contexts”. Some quotes:
ABA is concerned with using environmental events to change behavior in desirable ways.
Much of the time, a behavior problem means either that a behavior occurs too often or that it does not occur often enough. The task of the parent, teacher, manager or therapist is to increase or decrease the frequency of the behavior.The chief difference between the people who live inside mental hospitals and those who live outside of them is not that we never behave as they do but that we behave as they do less often than they do.
One of the great things about ABA is that is focuses on what people can do rather than on a label or on some mysterious, unseen psychological disorder.
Please note that reinforcement strengthens BEHAVIOR, not PEOPLE. Everyone slips up now and then and speaks of reinforcing a person, as in, “John was studying very hard so I reinforced him”. You don’t increase the strength of people with reinforcement; you increase the strength of their behavior.
Some people think that people with Ph.D’s go around thinking up new terms for everyday words just so what they say will sound more sophisticated. There may be some truth to that, but the word reinforcer is not just a synonym for reward. Here’s the essential difference: Rewards are defined by consensus; reinforcers are defined by results. If an event strengthens or maintains the behavior it follows, it’s a reinforcer; if it doesn’t it isn’t a reinforcer. There is no other defining characteristic of a reinforcer.
This is an important point; one students often miss. People often get the impression that a behaviorist is someone who carries a bag of reinforcers about and whenever behavior needs strengthening, he reaches into the bag and hands out reinforcers. The essence of behavior analysis is not handing out reinforcers but analyzing the effects of antecedents and consequences on behavior. That includes identifying consequences that are reinforcing.
2. The DogRead Yahoo Group
I am subscribed to the DogRead group by email. Every month a new book/author is featured readers can interact directly with authors, ask questions etc. This week, the amazing Kathy Sdao is on DogRead. Kathy Sdao used to train dolphins for the Navy, and I almost included this example in my poster. I love Kathy Sdao’s response to this reader question:“is it always possible to use only positive, gentle reinforcing training methods with dogs?”
My experience has taught me that we tend to presume a false correlation between reliable behavior & the use of aversives. IOW, it seems to make intuitive sense that if the animal “must” do something really important (e.g., locate a bomb, track down a criminal, guide a blind person), we have to use some sort of force to teach the animal he doesn’t have a choice.
Yet, I believe we revert to coercion and force when our skills at implementing structured, clever, careful reinforcement procedures run out. The dolphins I trained for the US Navy reliably located deep-moored mines (as much as 600 feet down), reported the mine’s presence to their trainer on a small boat, then carried a heavy packet of explosives back down to the mine, attached this in a quite specific location on the mooring cable, then swam back to the small boat and leapt onboard for the long ride back to their pier-side pens. This behavior chain was long, cognitively and physically challenging, performed in the presence of huge distractions (including live food-fish swimming all around the work site), and ended with each dolphin choosing to go back to captivity.
It is beyond the scope of this discussion of my book (Plenty in Life is Free) to further discuss details of this training, except for the critical fact that we did not use “corrections.” We obtained accurate reliable real-world performance through the use of careful design of the training environments and tons of R+ over the course of many months of training. Punishment was not part of the program.
When folks say “yeah, but those were dolphins and they’re really smart,” I respond that dogs are every bit as smart. It’s just that their trainers are more often seduced into believing that punishment is necessary to teach “the important stuff.”
My affiliation (as an occasional consultant) with Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB) over the past few years has allowed me to see how amazingly effective positive-reinforcement training can be when done by skilled and creative trainers. Their implementation of clicker-training over the past ~five years has been amazing to watch. Their results have been so impressive that guide-dog organizations all over the world are seeking GDB’s advice on how to modify their own programs.
Hanging by my desk is this quote, from one of my all-time favorite books, Dr. Murray Sidman’s Coercion & Its Fallout (2001):
“An overworked and incorrect bit of folk wisdom pronounces the carrot to be of no avail unless backed up by the stick. But the carrot can do the job all by itself.”
… which is the point of this poster illustration -
[click on pic for more info]
November 6, 2012 at 6:23 pm
I am subscribed to the posts on the Functional Rewards (BAT) Yahoo group and I really love some of the wisdom I find on here.
This question recently came up in the group:
if the dog shows a calming signal and you move the dog away, doesn’t that mean that you are afraid of the situation too cause you are moving away? a trainer told me to just go pass the person or dog to show that it does not bother you so the dog will think no big deal either.
Two responses below. First by Jude:
Moving away from a scary thing is a perfectly normal thing to do. If the dog knows that s/he can always retreat, the scary thing becomes no big deal and eventually loses its charge – exactly your goal!
However, if the dog knows s/he must go near it, then it remains a source of concern. Imagine being afraid of a poisonous snake hanging from a tree branch outside your front door and knowing that you can easily avoid it by using the side door vs. knowing that you must pass close to it each time you leave home just because your partner isn’t afraid of it and expects you to be unafraid, too.
Trying to calm an aroused animal by showing that you are not afraid does not work as a general rule and can increase an animal’s fear and/or shut down the animal. We have seen this on TV!
And by Susan Mitchell of C.A.R.E. for Animals :
I can understand what the trainer you spoke with is saying. I agree that dogs take their cues from us and that they often interpret something based on our responses (verbal and behavioral). (Sort of like kids do!) But if BAT is done correctly, it is done with the handler demonstrating calm, and even confident/happy behavior…. and in response to the DOG’S behavior. This conveys to the dog that 1- we can handle this, no need to freak out, and 2- I’m not going to be forced to ‘suck up’ my fear and face that thing over there. It really becomes a “game” or sorts for the dog that they come to understand and maybe even enjoy.
Furthermore, I love what Susan has written below in response to another group post:
I really do believe in my heart of hearts that our dogs do their absolute BEST to do what we ask of them. Sometimes it is just REALLY hard for them and they just can’t always do it. It is our job to understand what they are communicating to us and help them out. Just like they let us know when they need help…. they will also let us know when they don’t need it. And while I know others don’t agree, I personally believe that the more we offer help, the more the dogs learn to trust us, the braver they become, and the less they actually need the help.
I think this is really wonderful and inspiring, in that our ultimate goal is to help our dogs feel brave, independent, make good choices (vs. simply doing as they are told or behaving on cue). Susan adds that in teaching self-control and relaxation to our dogs, it is OK to go slow, be methodical, ask for advice along the way.
On the right is a photo taken today at the vet. This may not seem like a big deal to anybody with a normal dog, but I want to point out something quite amazing. Boogie is LYING DOWN in a room where there are dogs that he doesn’t know. There are three dogs and two cats in the room at the time this photo was taken (Later there were 6 dogs). The pup at the back is off-leash and very well-behaved. When Boogie is in a room with other dogs that he doesn’t know, he is never THIS relaxed. He will sit but never lie down like this.
This week, on two previous occasions I took Boogie out to busy public places and rewarded him with treats for lying down calmly by my side. I have also moved Boogie’s bed closer to my desk so I can reinforce calmness and quiet while he is lying down. Before, the bed was too close to the window and he got distracted very easily… couldn’t relax for long.
“Please, can we go home now?”
In other news, Boogie is suffering again from skin issues. Dr. R said that there is no staph infection this time. The allergic reactions have not (yet) progressed to a staph infection even though Boogie’s itchy skin, hot spots, hair loss, ear infection and goopy eyes don’t look so good. I told Dr. R that Boogie has also been acting sluggish and slower than normal.
Dr R: “Allergies are exhausting.”
And so I am applying Traimcinolone Cream to Boogie’s raw itchy (sometimes bloody) skin, and giving him Temaril-P – which is a steroid med – for 10 days. I really hate the side effects of steroid medications and I’m not happy about this.
I am currently researching supplements to help boost Boogie’s immune system. I am very interested in Canine Immune System Support & Doggy GOO. Any doggies out there familiar with these supplements? I’d love to get your thoughts.
When I was in the vet waiting room, a Yorkie owner advised me to give Boogie Cold-pressed Coconut Oil orally & topically – this will take care of hot spots and infections because coconut oil is anti-bacterial. Elsewhere I have read that Apple Cider Vinegar mixed with water can be used as a flea-repellent spray because of the acidity. Can anyone confirm this info? Anyone tried these natural remedies with success?
August 4, 2012 at 1:31 am
Aargh. I am one day late! Today is July 24th. Via this site:
HOW CAN YOU MAKE A DIFFERENCE?
- Blog about a Dog Rescue related topic on July 23rd, 2012
- Add one of the badges below to your blog and help spread the word
- Donate to a local dog rescue organization
- Foster a dog
- Volunteer at a local shelter or rescue organization
- Share this post across all forms of social media and encourage others to participate!
I could blog about my rescue dog Boogie, but we’ll take a little break from Boogie for now. I want everyone to know about a new documentary film project called MALL DOGS.
The film is by Jessi Badami, whom I met at Clicker Expo last year. We sat next to each other in the Kay Laurence seminar, chatted, exchanged business cards, and kept in touch over the year.
Jessi is amazingly prolific – she writes, she acts, she makes films, she rescues dogs, and she was going to enroll in the Karen Pryor Academy this year but changed her mind and decided to concentrate all her energy instead on making this documentary about Lucky Paws, a very unique and successful pet shelter in Albuquerque, NM, that is located inside a mall.
You can read more about this film on: the Dogparent.com website and on the film’s Kickstarter page.
Watch this video:
In short, MALL DOGS is an uplifting rescue story and I can’t wait to work on it. I will be creating illustrations and animations.
However, the Mall Dogs project can not happen if it doesn’t receive full Kickstarter funding in 30 days! Please donate. You can pledge any amount from as little as one dollar. Higher donations come with bigger and better premiums! Then, please share this blog post, tweet it, facebook it, pin it, do your social media thing.
“Mall Dogs” – Visit the Kickstarter page
Coming soon to Boogie’s blog:
- My experience of Nicole Wilde’s seminar on “Separation Anxiety” & “Dog-Dog Play”
- A review of the new “Tough Love” film
July 24, 2012 at 10:06 pm
A while ago, I came across this article: Why Clicker Training on TV would be a ratings disaster.The reasoning is that the process of clicker training can appear repetitive and boring (click treat click treat click treat… no resistance from dog) compared to the technique of “dominating” a dog to make it do what you want, like on the Dog Whisperer Show. The theory is that a “battle of wills” makes for more interesting TV.
Well, I actually disagree that clicker training on TV would be a ratings disaster. If the trainer is a charismatic presenter, it could totally work. Zak George is a great example.
While I agree that an explanation of Clicker Training (Operant Conditioning) that uses lots of scientific/technical jargon (and presented like a science-lab process) could make audiences glaze over, I believe it is possible to teach the SCIENCE in a clear, fun way that makes it easier for people to TALK about Clicker Training with normal everyday kid-level conversational language instead of having to use words like “quadrants”. Just my two cents. I am working on it.
Edit to add: Reward-based training without using treats
June 25, 2012 at 5:21 pm
It’s not my favorite week of the year – this is a subject that brings up all kinds of intense emotions. It’s the one week of the year where I worry that the strangers that Boogie has bitten in the past will change their minds, come back to sue me or request to have Boogie euthanized. Yes, I know I am being paranoid and over-reacting. I am always worried that the percentage of people who have no idea why dogs bite and why it’s unsafe to invade a dog’s personal bubble, who are quick to blame the dog/owner is still way greater than the percentage of people who are educated and compassionate.
Dr. Sophia Yin has a great article about what people do around dogs to get bitten and how things are from the dog’s perspective.
Article: A Time To Take Responsibility For Dog Bites
Dickinson (director of the Sacramento County Animal Care and Regulation) describes one common scenario, “People get bitten because they see a dog they don’t know. It’s not acting aggressive. It’s just kind of walking around. They go up to it and they think the first thing you should do is put their hand out and let the dog sniff your hand.”
This may surprise most people, but even though we are commonly told that we should greet dogs by reaching out, in actuality, this can be very scary, especially if you’re a stranger to the dog.
Dickinson explains, “The dog doesn’t know you’re reaching out in friendship. You’re just coming at them. A lot of times people get nipped that way. It’s just the dog’s way of saying, ‘You’re in my space. Stay away from me. I’m not interested in you right now.’”
Dog Bites are preventable…
Help! My Dog Bites!
Dog Bite Prevention Week blog post (last year’s blog post)
And this video, animated by me for Dr. Sophia Yin.
May 24, 2012 at 8:46 pm
This is fascinating. Excerpts from the Patient Like The Chipmunks DVD which I am tempted to order, but I think this video clip already offers plenty of amazing footage.
After watching this clip, I now fully understand why Operant Conditioning or Clicker Training is sometimes criticized as being too cold, too mechanical or emotionless. As in the YouTube video above by Bob Bailey, he shows how the Brelands (Animal Behavior Enterprises) successfully trained thousands of animals of different species using Behavioral Science (vs. old school aversive methods) such that they could have their animal shows travel around the country, and be coin-operated and fully-automated like Skinner boxes. There is proof here that direct human contact or interaction is unnecessary and … I don’t know… there’s something a little depressing about the way these animals perform like little robots – repeating the same behaviors over and over again – even if they are all well-paid and treated humanely.
On the other hand, it is exciting to know that anyone can learn these training skills, that there are logical explanations for the whys and hows, and that the methods are always evolving in a more intelligent and humane direction. The nerd in me would love to attend one of Bob Bailey’s chicken training camps and I love this Bob Bailey quote from Sophia Yin’s article “Bells & Whistles” in the current issue of The Bark magazine…
Crafts generally develop over thousands of years and tend to preserve what’s old and what has been done before. Information is passed down in secret from master to apprentice, and the apprentice must never question the master. As a result, when errors are introduced, they tend to be preserved. Another characteristic of a craft is that a change is designed only to solve an immediate problem . Rarely do they look for general principles.
Science on the other hand, is a systematic way of asking questions, a process that eventually weeds out mistakes. It’s guided by principles and data, and researcher’s approaches change and are revised as new information comes to light. As a result, science advances quickly compared to craft.
… which is interesting when considering Why Dominance Won’t Die. (…interesting choice of photo)
Related links/good reads:
Keller and Marian Breland Create the Field of Applied Animal Psychology by Sophia Yin
Dog Whisperer, Horse Whisperer. What is all the Whispering About? by Cindy Ludwig
The Pursuit of Happiness – Is There Room For Emotion in Dog Training? by Jane Killion
Emotionless Training by Sara Reusche, whom I collaborated with on this illustrated guid to Playing With Your Dog:
(click to see it larger/download options)
Speaking of learned behaviors, yesterday Boogie was on his bed next to the heater. His body was awkwardly twisted around because he was trying to lick himself. He accidentally hit the heater with his leg – CLANG! – freaked out, ran to the window and barked. You know, UNFAMILIAR NOISE –> BARK AT WINDOW. Even if he caused the noise himself.
Another classic example is the time when Boogie ran around the room chasing his ball. In his klutzy excitement, he bumped into my leg and jumped back with a huge yelp like I had kicked him. I threw his ball and all was forgotten.
Never a dull moment around here with my sensitive Boogie!
April 13, 2012 at 10:07 pm