Training An Animal Is Like Filming A Silent Movie

Suzanne Clothier, well respected for her holistic Relationship Centered Training™ approach to dogs and the people that love them, brought up an excellent point in her recent newsletter.

In the days before modern movies, when film makers relied solely on motion pictures to convey their messages without sound, viewers realized, words were not necessary to convey story lines. Audiences got it. Charlie Chaplan movies were resoundingly impactful without color or script.

Now think about how this relates to training your pet who does not speak the human language. Your clarity in conveying signals and criteria for the behavior you want your pet to learn is absolutely key in his/her ability to understand your lesson plan.

In her newsletter, Suzanne talks about how she often asks handlers to try dog training quote by Suzanne Clothierthe ‘Silent Movie Experiment’. She asks them to video themselves with their dog in a training session where their dog has been frustrating or difficult to control. Then, with the sound turned off, to show that video to a friend and ask them what they see. What are the very specific approximations you are looking for to reinforce in your animal’s behavior? How quick and deliberate are you in giving the reinforcement after the behavior? What is the final goal of your training session?

You may be very surprised by the feedback you hear.

Like Charlie Chaplin audiences, our pets rely on our actions to understand what we are teaching.

“Clarity counts, and it begins with explicit, deliberately given signals that let the dog know what you do and do not want. If your signals and rules aren’t clear in your silent movie, chances are very good that your dog will be confused,” Suzanne wrote.

Something to think about.

8-25 silent movie

 

My Challenge To Pet Owners

My challenge to you:

Instead of being annoyed at your pet’s unwanted behavior, and punishing it. Pay attention to catch your pet in the act of wanted behavior, and reinforce heavily.  Focus on making the wanted behavior easier and more valuable.

And guess which behavior you’ll see more of?

Challenge to pet owners

 

Some Of The Reasons I Don’t Like ‘NO’ In Pet Training

5-15 NO

 

Some of the reasons I don’t like using the word ‘NO’ in training:

It doesn’t teach your pet what you’d like for him to do instead.

It can create apathy, fear, anxiety, aggression.

Your pet will associate you with that aversive consequence.

You may simply be teaching your pet not to do the behavior in front of you that you wish to stop.

It does nothing to foster a love of learning.

Instead of saying ‘NO’, practice finding those teaching moments when your pet is doing behaviors that you like…and tell him ‘YES.’

 

Some Thoughts On Dog And Pet Training

Dog Training with Positive Reinforcement

 

 

ABC’s of Pet Behavior, Part Two

(from my Hyde Park Living column)

Last month I explained the ABCs of behavior and we can use them as the most positive, least intrusive way of managing and modifying our pet’s behavior. This month I thought I’d show you a little how it works.

First, let me recap. Applied behavior analysis is a systematic approach to solving behavior problems by changing the environment in which the behavior occurs. It involves looking at the very specific behavior (such as a bird biting or screaming) and the related environmental context that signals and reinforces it. We ask, “What happened *immediately* prior to the behavior (antecedent) to set the whole ball rolling?“ And, “What happened *immediately* after the behavior to reinforce it (consequence)?“

I’m going to use the example of our family dog, Sam, who has an earned reputation for pawing my mom when we eat or standing with his two front paws on the table looking for a prize. For the purpose of this column, I will label that set of observable behaviors as ‘bad table manners.’

The setting event for ‘bad table manners’ is our sitting around the table with food. The consequence may be any number of things…my mom trying to ignore him but sometimes hugging him, sometimes telling him he’s bad, sometimes giving him a treat. You get the picture?

Since I know under what conditions his behavior is highly predictable, I can decrease the value of that behavior with antecedent strategies. I can play rough with him just prior to our sitting down to get him tired and less motivated to have ‘bad table manners.’  I can (and always do) make him a foraging toy that he only gets before we eat and that keeps him busy for awhile. (I break up pieces of treats, and intertwine them in knotted plastic grocery bags that are then stuffed into a heavy rubber ball.)

Another thing I have done was teach him an alternative behavior (actually he knows a lot of behaviors) that, when we are sitting at the table, he knows in black & white terms that *if * he does that behavior next to me – which I chose as sitting or laying down – *then* he will get reinforced with attention and small pieces of food. (Okay, I admit I feed him some at the table but only when he is doing a behavior I taught him is acceptable.) At the same time, I have removed all positive consequences of his bad table manners (which meant when he jumps or paws, I simply turn my back and push my plate to the center of the table).

Guess which behavior he does more of now? Heck, if I were him and I REALLY wanted a taste off that plate, and knew the only sure fire way of getting a sample was to sit or lay down, I think I’d choose to sit or lay down too. And I’d do it pretty darned fast.

What is so wonderful about this is that punishment never had to be used, only empowerment. Sam has learned to succeed because I am clear cut in teaching him what I want him *to* do and because I make learning fun. Let me say that again.  At every step along the way…learning is fun.

 

To read part one, please click here.

 

Do You Know The ABC’s Of Pet Behavior?

(past Hyde Park Living column)

Do you know your ABC’s?

Well that’s a strange question you may be saying to yourself. Isn’t this a pet behavior column?

Yep, it sure is. And the ABC’s I’m talking about are not related to spelling words. They are instead what I have been taught to help me understand why a behavior occurs so that as a pet owner and teacher, I can effectively set my animals up for success by influencing their behavior in the most positive/least intrusive way.

Let me back up. What I really would like for you to get from this column is a basic understanding that blaming an animal for doing anything you don’t want him to do is simply counterproductive. All behavior happens because it is serving a purpose for that animal. We may never know at any given time what our animal is feeling or thinking when he jumps on us or chews up a garden hose but we don’t need to know to still set our animal up to succeed. Using the ABC assessment, we can modify the animal’s environment and modify his behavior without any use of force or punishment.

 The science of behavior

Applied behavior analysis is a systematic approach to solving behavior problems by changing the environment in which the behavior occurs. It involves looking at the very specific behavior (such as a bird biting or screaming) and the related environmental context that signals and reinforces it. We ask, “What happened *immediately* prior to the behavior (antecedent) to set the whole ball rolling?“ And, “What happened *immediately* after the behavior to reinforce it (consequence)?“

There you have it…the A (antecedent), B (behavior), and C (consequence)’s.

All too often when our pet is doing something we disapprove of we don’t even realize that we are responsible for reinforcing the very action we don’t want to see. Or in the heat of the moment, we end up punishing our pet – which can have detrimental side effects (the subject for a future column) and serves no teaching function.

Using the ABC assessment tool allows us to consider how we can rearrange the antecedents so that the problem behavior is never set into motion to begin with – and we can set into motion an acceptable behavior instead. Then we can reinforce the heck out of the acceptable behavior. Guess which behavior you’ll see more of?

In my next column I’ll work through a specific example of using the ABC analysis in solving a pet behavior issue.

 

Note To Barnaby About Training With Positive Reinforcement

Dear Barnaby, I appreciate that you want to be my helper in training Chester to wave. But please remember, training with positive reinforcement means only rewarding the CORRECT behavior.

(by the way, Barnaby is my Timneh African Grey)

 

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