Remember, the more positive reinforcement an animal has in its life,
the better able it can adapt to new situations and stress,
and ultimately the better quality of life.
Remember, the more positive reinforcement an animal has in its life,
This picture makes me very uncomfortable. Parents, it is so important that you help your dog to learn positive associations with your kids and little hands. A couple ideas for doing that – teach your child to wait for your dog to come to your child, how to pet your dog and when to stop, and to give your dog treats either by placing treats on the floor or in an open palm. Kids should never pull a dog or puppy by his collar. Think bite prevention and relationship strengthening.
I’ve written about so many topics relating to strengthening your ability to teach and your dog’s ability to learn. I got to thinking, if I were to create a recipe of good habits for building success in the classroom (which, by the way, is anywhere where you happen to be teaching) what would be the ingredients?
Here are my top picks:
Practice actively looking for your dog’s genius side. It is in there, trust me. Every waking moment of everyday your dog is responding to stimulus in his environment and his repeated behaviors are the ones that get him something of value. By paying attention to catching those behaviors you want to see, you will see more of those behaviors.
Practice clarity and consistency. Remember, as your dog’s teacher his ability to learn has a lot to do with your ability to provide him with clear feedback on your expectations. Know what you are looking for and do not waiver (although when you are shaping behavior, know that you may need to adjust the steps in getting there depending on how your dog learns).
Practicing learning and paying attention to what is on ‘your dog’s’ List of Awesomeness. Remember, when you train using positive reinforcement the student always gets to choose where the value is for him. If you want to build value for a behavior, teach your student to associate that behavior with a valued consequence.
Practice checking your serious side at the door. When you and your dog have fun together, it makes teaching so much easier. Think about training like a game and it will put you in a different frame of mind. Teach your dog by building joy into the lesson. You will get so much more focus from your student, who won’t even realize he is in class!
Practice being open to feedback. If your student is not getting the lesson plan, that is feedback to you that you need to alter in some way. Maybe you are asking for too big of steps, are not having a high enough value reinforce, are not clear in your criteria, are working amidst too many distractions. There are a number of reasons your dog is giving you that feedback. Be open to it and flexible to adapt.
I’ve seen and heard about it happen all too often. A child may reach over to take a dog’s toy or give a dog a big bear hug only to be greeted by a low growl from the dog, followed by a scolding to the pet. Or a dog on a leash tenses his body muscles and escalates into a snarl when something in the environment pushes him beyond his comfort level, only to have his leash jerked by the person on the other end.
Here is the problem with that. Outside of play, dogs may growl for a number of reasons – whether out of fear or discomfort, resource guarding, or offensive aggression. The common factor in all of these reasons is underlying stress. Dogs growl as a warning signal when their other ways of communicating (such as tense muscles, closed mouth, or looking away) have not worked for them.
Punishing a dog for communicating that things are not right in his world is taking away his early warning signs and his ability to communicate non-aggressively. If you take this tool away from your dog, you are removing the underlying reason for why his behavior had to escalate in the first place. You are in essence taking away his last safety net to give him distance from his trigger, and giving him no other option but to escalate his behavior even further into a bite. Additionally, it can become a
The unfortunate thing is that once your dog has learned that whale eyes, turning away, licking his lips, curling his lip, holding his tail low, or even growling will not work but biting does, that past experience will teach him to choose biting again the next time a situation gets tense.
Please do not blame your dog. Instead thank him for warning you that you need to pay closer attention to his environment and his body language.
Children and adults need to learn how to avoid situations that may cause a dog to growl such as grabbing at your dog’s toy or food, giving him a big bear hug or looming over him. At the same time, beginning early to desensitize your dog to a variety of situations, people, and touching is important because a behaviorally healthy dog will communicate stress and discomfort incrementally starting with the mildest body language.
If a dog growls at you, give him safety by stopping what you are doing and giving him distance from his trigger (whether that is you or something else in the environment). And then analyze what happened so as to avoid situations that cause him to growl in the first place. A trainer who focuses on positive reinforcement can help you with an individualized behavior modification plan.
When a dog backs away, disengages with or even growls (or worse, bites) at a child, that dog is saying the child has done something the dog does not like.
More than 4 million people are bitten by dogs each year, and about 20% of those people are kids. Often I see dogs fearful of children because kids simply do not always know how to be the best dog friend, although they love their dog. Kids (and parents) don’t know how dogs communicate, how to interact appropriately, and how to be responsible for their dog.
That is why I think education is so important and why I have developed classes and community programs to make learning how to be a dog Super Hero fun for kids, parents and dogs. It is not only about bite prevention.
My ‘My Dog’s Super Hero’ is a series of three, one hour parent/child classes taught in an engaging way with a demonstration dog, activities and pictures to help that relationship between children and dogs succeed.
It is for kids ages 6 to 10.
October 18, 25, and November 1
9:30 am to 10:30 am
Blue Ash Recreation Center
For more information and to register, please click this link.
I asked Ginger Jones, CCRP, physical therapist at the Care Center animal hospital, about what it is used for. This is what she said:
Underwater treadmill has many benefits in many different situations. We use the principles of buoyancy (which allows dogs to exercise in an upright posture and decreases weight-bearing stress on joints), hydrostatic pressure (provides constant pressure which prevents swelling), and viscosity (provides resistance which promotes muscle strengthening and allows for increased sensory awareness) to provide an optimal environment for the dog to work out in. Some benefits of the underwater treadmill are improved endurance, strength, joint range of motion, cardio respiratory endurance, and reducing pain.
Underwater treadmill is effective in the treatment of chronic pain, decreased strength and endurance, recent surgery or illness, injury, arthritis, neurological disorders, and weight management.
If you’d like to learn more, please contact Ginger at the Care Center, 513-530-0911.
About the Care Center:
The Care Center is a 24 hour emergency, trauma and critical care hospital for pets in Cincinnati and Dayton that offers appointments for surgery, critical care, internal medicine, and cardiology as referred by a pet’s primary care veterinarian. It also includes an in-house blood bank. Please visit http://www.CareCenterVets.com to learn more about them.
Discriminative stimulus – two very big words. What do they mean and why should you care?
First, let me give this reminder. Living beings are continually learning from their environment, and by LEARNING, what I mean is they are changing their behavior based on the consequences of their behavior. Past experience dictates the future rate of a behavior. They repeat and even strengthen behaviors that get them something of value, and the rate of their behaviors decrease when a consequence of value does not follow the behavior.
That being said, a stimulus is simply a physical environmental event that affects or is capable of having a measurable effect on behavior. And discrimination is the tendency for learned behavior to occur in one situation but not in other situations. (Learning & Behavior, Paul Chance) Therefore, a change in the environment known as a discriminative stimulus becomes a cue for that behavior to be set into motion.
An example of this is the dog who may jump and scratch at a door when the doorbell rings because he has learned from past experience that immediately following his behavior, the door opens and great people walk through. The doorbell then is a discriminative stimulus for jumping and scratching at the door.
Okay, so let me delve into this further. Maybe your dog has learned in this same way that at approximately 2:00 pm every day, your mail will be delivered which means a scary mailman will be walking in front of the window where your dog looks out. And the sight of that mailman sends your dog into rapid breathing and frantic barking until the mailman walks away. Very stressful.
In anticipation of the site of the scary mailman, that dog may begin to pant and pace around that time of day because past experience has taught him that at about 2:00 pm a scary man will more than likely walk up to the house. So, 2:00 pm has become a cue or a discriminative stimulus for the dog to begin watching out the window, possibly with heightened alert and tense body muscles. (And, by the way, the site of the scary man has also become a cue for barking which then causes the mailman to walk away – or at least that is what experience has taught the dog.)
If your dog was home alone (with access to the window) and you arrived at about 2:15 to find your dog panting and wet from slobber, you may come to the conclusion that your dog had separation anxiety or your dog was mad at you for leaving. Only a closer look at the environment would help you detect what really happened. Then you can work on a plan managing your dog’s ability to see the mailman or change where the mailman delivers the mail (maybe a street mailbox) while you are teaching your dog a positive association with people coming to your mail slot and a different, acceptable behavior to do instead of frantic barking.
Another example is your dog learning to bark or nudge you with his nose, or a bird screaming when you sit at a desk and pick up a hand held phone. Your picking up the hand held phone when sitting at a desk then has become the discriminative stimulus or cue for your pet to begin his attention seeking behavior. Once you know that then you can work on a plan to teach your pet an alternative behavior to do when the time comes for you to pick up that phone, and practice that BEFORE the unwanted behavior is set into motion.
My challenge to you is this: The next time your pet is doing something you do not like, look at the behavior in the context of the environment. If there is something that is inadvertently cuing your pet’s behavior, ask yourself if there is something you can do to manage the environment so as to prevent practice of the learned behavior, or teach a different meaning for that cue.