The Trials Of An Agility Lab - Echo's Tail

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Things I know :)

November 23rd 2008 6:46 am
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BASIC:

Sit
down
stand
stay
come
front
go around
heel
sit/stay
down/stay
stand/stay
drop on recall



TRICKS:

Target/Touch (any object)
Turn (left/right)
high-5
other paw
wave
Are you sad?
which one?
take a bow
go to your mat
be a bear
kisses
where's your toy?
ponytail!
Shut it (cupboard doors)
Twist (weave between legs)
back up/forward
clean up reycling
Carrying a basket
Don't hit that Button!!
sidestep (to the left)
Circle a pole
Set up (sit between legs)
spin
Spread 'em!
dig it
targeting a dowel
Turn-back
weave walk
Bang!

 

My retirement

November 23rd 2008 6:02 am
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Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, & I'm sorry to say that I am now officially retired from Agility & all other physically demanding doggie sports. See, a couple months ago I went to play in the field with my brother Lincoln, like we do almost every day & I musta jumped out of the van funny or did something while chasing that first ball, but I hurt my back. :( I was on meds for a couple weeks, which really wasn't fun cuz the meds didn't agree with my sensitive tummy, & crate rest for a month or so...I'm definitely gettting better, but my human doesn't want to risk re-injuring my back...even tho it's been a while since it happened I still get sore after running around in the backyard...so long story short, I am now retired from agility. Not all training, of course, cuz I'd be one very bored labbie,bol...I will still do Rally & tricks & all sorts of other less physically demanding things..so wish me luck in future endevors!! :)


"Run every course like it is your last...when you look back at your dog waiting on the startline fix that picture in your memory forever. Every day is a gift."

 

An interesting article....

April 25th 2008 4:40 pm
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Posted in the B&T forum...thought I'd save it in here :

------------------------------------------------------- ------------------------------


May 2008
By Pat Miller

“Constructional Aggression Treatment,” a promising new approach to modifying canine aggression.

What loud buzz you hear is the sound of the dog behavior and training community discussing a controversial new approach to modifying aggressive behavior in dogs. The developers of “Constructional Aggression Treatment” (CAT) claim that the shaping-based operant protocol produces stronger and much faster results than the classical counter-conditioning process widely used by training and behavior professionals today.

CAT was devised and tested by Dr. Jesús Rosales-Ruiz, a behavior analyst and associate professor of behavior analysis at the University of North Texas, and Kellie Snider, a board-certified associate behavior analyst. Snider completed her MS in Behavior Analysis at UNT in 2007 with Dr. Rosales-Ruiz as her graduate research advisor and the CAT procedure as the topic of her thesis research.

Canine behavior experts frequently use classical conditioning techniques (including counter-conditioning) to help change how dogs feel about and respond to the stimuli that triggers their aggressive behavior. In other words, classical counter-conditioning changes the dog’s emotions in order to change his behavior. In contrast, CAT utilizes “operant conditioning,” where the goal is changing the dog’s behavior in a way that will likely produce a subsequent emotional change.

In order to best explain how this novel technique works, allow me to back up and discuss some behavioral theories that explain both the development of canine aggression as well as the techniques that are conventionally used to change the dog’s response to stressful stimuli.

The genesis of aggression
Conventional thinking is that aggression is the behavioral result of an emotional response (fear, anger, frustration, etc.) that has been classically conditioned due to an association between two stimuli (events).
For example:

• A small child hugs a puppy too tightly, hurting the puppy. The puppy associates pain with small children, and becomes fearful and aggressive toward small children as a result.

• A large, aggressive dog attacks a smaller, unassertive dog, causing multiple injuries. The small dog associates large dogs with attack and pain and becomes fearful and aggressive toward large dogs.

• Teenagers tease a dog in a yard behind a fence. The dog becomes aroused, angry, and aggressive toward teens.

So, the thinking goes, the best approach to modifying a classically conditioned response is with counter-conditioning – a subset of classical conditioning in which you change the dog’s emotional response. You do this by pairing the fear- or anger-causing stimulus with something that creates a happier response, thus giving the stimulus a new, positive association.

Food is commonly used to counter-condition, because it’s hard to eat yummy treats and be significantly angry or afraid at the same time. Also, food is a “primary reinforcer”; our dogs are hardwired to like food; they don’t have to learn that it’s valuable to them.

You can use other things to change associations in place of, or in addition to, food. With humans, money, jewelry, and other conditioned reinforcers (items with learned value) can be used to create and change associations. Think of the enamored suitor, wooing the object of his affections, plying her with all sorts of goodies to create a positive association while she plays hard to get. Dogs aren’t much impressed with diamonds and Cadillacs, but a rousing game of tug or fetch-the-ball can give a worried dog a positive association with a previously aversive stimulus.

A counter-conditioning procedure goes like this:

• Present scary stimulus (say, a small child) at a distance great enough that the dog is worried (“Uh-oh, there’s a child!”) but not so worried that he goes into a barking, lunging frenzy. This is called the “sub-threshold” distance.

• The instant the dog sees the child, start feeding tiny bits of something very yummy, such as canned or boiled chicken.

• Keep feeding until the child is out of sight, then stop feeding.

• Repeat this process until the appearance of the child at this distance consistently causes the dog to look joyfully at you in anticipation of chicken. This is called the conditioned emotional response (CER), or the “Where’s my chicken?” look.

• Now increase the intensity of the stimulus and repeat the process. With a child, you might increase intensity by bringing the child a little closer, or by staying at the original distance and having two children appear, or one child running, skipping, or singing, or . . .

Eventually, due to the change in the dog’s emotional response to the presence of a child, then to the presence of children, the dog’s behavior changes. He comes to like children, so he’s no longer aggressive toward them.

How CAT is different
CAT’s founders acknowledge that aggression may be, initially, an emotional response, based in classical conditioning. However, they assert that operant conditioning quickly begins to play a much larger role than it’s often given credit for. They suggest the dog quickly learns that growling, barking, lunging, and snapping are highly successful strategies for making the threat leave, and so the behavior is negatively reinforced (the dog’s behavior makes a bad thing go away).

By definition, behavior that is reinforced continues or increases. Snider and Rosales-Ruiz posit that if you prevent the dog from receiving reinforcement for the unwanted behavior (aggression) and reinforce his desired behavior (friendly, affiliative actions), his behavior will change. When the behavior changes, the emotion that triggers the aggression will change as well.

CAT used for
dog-dog aggression
Here is how the CAT procedure would be used to modify the behavior of a dog who shows aggression toward other dogs:

The subject dog (the one with the aggressive behavior) is set up in an area where the trigger stimulus can be presented at a distance that does not trigger a big response from the subject dog (this is called “sub-threshold”). In this case, the trigger stimulus is another dog; note that people or objects can be the triggering stimuli in other cases.

Ideally, the environment where the procedure is carried out is the same or similar to the one in which the undesirable behavior normally occurs. This reduces the amount of future generalization required. The owner – not a trainer – holds the dog’s leash, which also keeps the stimulus picture as close to reality as possible and reduces the amount of generalization needed.

Other than restraining the dog, the owner does nothing else in terms of training – no clicking, no treating. The behavior of the stimulus dog becomes the sole reinforcer for the subject dog’s behavior.

The stimulus dog (sometimes called decoy or trigger dog) and handler approach the subject dog until sub-threshold signs of stress are noted by observers. This is the “threshold.” The handler and decoy dog stop and wait for any decrease in the subject dog’s stress behavior, at which point the decoy and handler immediately turn and walk away, reinforcing the subject dog’s more appropriate (less stressed) behavior.

If the subject dog barks, lunges, or offers other aggressive behavior as the decoy dog leaves, the handler and decoy immediately return to baseline to again wait for decreased signs of stress. Then they again attempt to leave. This is repeated until the subject dog no longer offers escalated stress behavior when the stimulus dog and handler attempt to leave. When this happens, they retreat to a greater distance to give the subject dog an opportunity to relax.

An assistant marks the location where the threshold behavior occured, and the stimulus dog and handler return to this mark after a 15-second “cool-down” period. This return-and-leave process continues until the subject dog no longer shows signs of stress at baseline, at which point the handler brings the stimulus dog closer to the subject by a distance predetermined by the trainer – less if the dog is likely to be easily triggered, more if the dog is perceived as able to handle a larger increment of decreased distance.

Eventually it should be possible for the stimulus dog to approach with no aggressive reaction from the subject. In fact, in a successful procedure the subject dog begins to genuinely and happily invite the stimulus dog closer for more interaction. This point in the procedure is called switchover.

After switchover, the stimulus dog and handler continue to approach the subject dog in small increments until the two dogs can actually engage in friendly behavior with each other. The researchers labeled this part of the process interaction.

Why does it work?
Remember, many dogs who behave aggressively toward other dogs do so as a result of learning that their barking, growling fit results in the other dog going away. Because that behavior has been successful in the past, it’s been reinforced, and the behavior has continued or increased.

In contrast, in a CAT procedure, the subject dog is presented with a different reinforcement scenario. The behavior that worked so well before – barking and lunging – no longer works. Instead of making the other dog go away, it actually makes her stay close or come back! A new behavior – acting calm – now makes the “bad approaching dog” go away. So, in theory, the subject dog learns to offer calm, relaxed behaviors to make the other dog go away.

Eventually the subject dog becomes calm and relaxed because he no longer needs to act aggressively to make the other dog go away. Lo and behold, once the subject dog becomes calm and relaxed about the other dog approaching, he actually gets happy about having the other dog approach; the change in his emotional response follows the change in his behavioral response.

Rosales-Ruiz and Snider have worked with or received reports of almost 100 dogs using the CAT procedure, and the results, they say, are overwhelmingly encouraging. Dogs with a lifetime history of aggression toward other dogs have become completely canine-social-appropriate. Dogs with a long record of aggression toward humans have become safe and friendly. Not every single one, of course, but the majority of dogs have done mind-bogglingly well with the procedure.

Things to consider
The dog training and behavior community has not yet embraced the procedure with open paws. As striking as the reported results may seem, there are some significant potential obstacles to the widespread use of CAT. Trainers who might consider using this procedure professionally are struggling with some of the challenges:

■ The sessions can be intensively time-consuming.
Individual CAT sessions may run from as little as one hour to as much as eight, and require a number of helpers. When possible, the founders recommend sticking with it at least until you see switch-over (the point at which the subject dog’s behavior changes to actually offering distance-decreasing behavior such as soft body wags, ears back, soft and/or squinty eyes) and preferably all the way through interaction. Snider suggests setting aside three full days to work with an individual dog and owner.

Snider points out, however, that classical conditioning and desensitization (CC&D) is also time-consuming. Many owners practice CC&D on their own for months or years with less effect.

■ It’s costly. Good training and behavior professionals may charge anywhere from $50 to hundreds of dollars per hour for their time. Three full days, eight hours per day, at hundreds of dollars per hour equals a lot of money spent in a short period of time. Of course, if it works, it may be worth almost any amount to an owner, and, over time, it may not be significantly more costly than ongoing CC&D with a trainer.

■ It’s staff-intensive. Done well, the procedure requires at least several humans – the owner, the trainer, the handlers of several stimulus dogs (or presenters of whatever the trigger stimulus may be), and perhaps a person to videotape the procedure for later review. This can also add to the cost, if assistants are paid.

■ It can be stressful to the subject dog. In some cases where the procedure has failed, the subject dog has continued to practice the bark/lunge strategy that’s been successful for him in the past, rather than offering – and switching over to – calm, relaxed behavior. Some trainers trying the procedure have pulled the plug early in the process rather than continue to subject the dog to the level of stress apparent as the old strategy failed to work. Other trainers have persisted for long periods of time (hours) before either giving up or ultimately achieving success.

On these counts, in CAT’s defense, Snider says, “Even with those dogs that did not completely switch over because the trainers didn’t take it that far, we have almost universally seen dramatic improvement. Trainers who are new to this procedure may need more practice and guidance before they learn to how to keep the dog below threshold by adjusting the environment in some way. If you don’t work below threshold, it’s not really CAT . . . and it’s unlikely to work as well. It’s too difficult for dogs to produce desirable behaviors when they are over threshold, and this is no different from CC&D.”

■ It can be stressful to the stimulus dog. The stimulus dog will be asked to repeatedly approach a dog who is sending very clear “Don’t approach!” signals and appears to be more than willing to back the signals up. This can take a toll on the good nature of the neutral/friendly dogs being asked to play decoy. In fairness, the same can be said of dogs used as decoys in conventional CC&D sessions.

■ Even when all goes according to plan, trainers may be reluctant to complete the final piece of the process – interaction – and rightly so. Misjudgment on the part of the trainer can result in injury to the stimulus dog (or trigger person/s). Again, to be fair, this is a risk whenever working with aggressive dogs.

■ It may not be positive. One definition of “positive training” holds the position that positive trainers use negative reinforcement only as a last resort, after positive reinforcement and negative punishment have failed. Negative reinforcement, by definition, requires the presentation of something at least mildly aversive to the dog, and sometimes the presenting stimulus is significantly aversive.

Snider and Rosales-Ruiz offer CAT as a first approach, not after exhausting what are traditionally considered more positive methods. In fact, they say the less the dog has been worked with using other methods, the easier and more successful CAT is likely to be. In response to these points, Snider says, that in her opinion, CAT can be more positive than desensitization. “With desensitization, often trainers move closer if the dog gets calm (which constitutes punishment of calm behaviors) and move away when the dog is stressed (reinforcement of stressed behaviors). That’s one reason it takes longer!

“Also, sometimes the presenting stimulus is significantly aversive in CC&D programs, too. You can’t train an animal to accept something that is not there, and prior to treatment, having it there is stressful. The best you can do is present it at low intensities, which is an integral part of CAT just as it is of CC&D.”

Snider also points out that even positive reinforcement can be used in ways that produce problematic behaviors. “As Dr. Rosales-Ruiz has said, it is not about the name of the procedure, it’s about the emotionality produced by the procedure. Properly done, CAT produces happy, friendly dogs while working hard to remain errorless – which means keeping the intensity of the stimulus low enough that it is not overwhelming to the learner.”

Pat’s CAT journal, day 1
My own mind is still not made up about CAT. I have done the procedure once (I’ll describe this in detail below) with a dog I know well, owned and handled by Certified Pet Dog Trainer Jolanta Benal, of Brooklyn, New York. Jolanta is a friend and trainer for whom I have much trust and respect.

Going in, we were both cautious and somewhat skeptical, albeit hopeful, and we were both ready to stop the procedure at any time if either of us was uncomfortable with what we were seeing. I was happier with the results than I had dared hope to be, and will offer it on a limited basis to clients who I think can make the necessary commitment and whose dogs I feel are appropriate candidates.

Jolanta and I spent three days trying out the CAT procedure. Our subject dog was Juniper, Benal’s six-year-old neutered Pit Bull-mix. Juni has been dog reactive/aggressive since puppyhood, and several of his littermates also have aggression problems. At least two have been euthanized for aggression.

Juni is extremely friendly with humans, in large part due to growing up in Brooklyn, where Jolanta made it a point to socialize him well with a wide variety of humans. Unfortunately, living in NYC, anywhere he goes, Juni encounters other dogs – and the socialization didn’t work with those, despite Jolanta’s best efforts. Juni does have a circle of canine friends he can play with, including 13-year-old Cattle Dog-mix Izzy, with whom he lives.

Jolanta has done a considerable amount of work with Juni. They attended our Reactive Rover Camp and did well, easily progressing to parallel walking with other dogs by the end of the third and final day of camp. Juni could control himself, but was not relaxed and friendly with the other dogs, and it didn’t carry over to the urban home environment.

Back in NYC, Jolanta found it pretty impossible to keep Juni sub-threshold – one of the challenges of ongoing counter-conditioning work with a reactive dog. Jolanta does a good job of keeping Juni focused on treats when necessary, and he has a very effective “run away” escape behavior. (As described by Patricia McConnell in her excellent booklet, Feisty Fido, a reactive dog is taught “Run away!” as a fun game, whereby the owner walks with the dog by her side, and suddenly says “Run away!” or some other cue in an excited tone of voice, then quickly turns and runs playfully in the other direction. Each time, at variable distances, the owner reinforces the fun aspect of the game with yummy treats or with a quick game of tug, until “Run away!” takes on a positive classical association. As a result, when the reactive dog and owner are out walking and a dog appears unexpectedly, the owner can use the “Run away!” cue to get her dog to happily turn and run with her, away from the other dog, rather than having a super-threshold eruption.)

We started the CAT process on Monday in early March, in the Peaceable Paws training center. Not ideal in terms of “recreating the actual environment,” (our farm is nothing like NYC!) but we wanted to maximize potential for some success, and it’s impossible to control intensity of stimulus in the Big Apple.

A dozen trainers attended one or more days of the three-day program to learn and assist. Our first stimulus dog was Amber, a small, mature female Rhodesian Ridgeback who belongs to Peaceable Paws apprentice Susan Sarubin.

Susan presented Amber at a distance of about 75 feet from Juni (one end of the training room). Juni immediately erupted, barking and lunging, hackles up. Jolanta had warned us that his threshold distance is “line of sight,” barring any efforts to divert his behavior. Juni confirmed the veracity of her warning. So “just inside the door” was our baseline.

It took several repetitions before Amber was able to enter the room without Juni erupting. Even then, Juni was still pretty tense. We did several more repetitions with Juni erupting when Amber and Susan turned to leave; they had to turn back toward Juni and return to the baseline mark. We looked for, and accepted, very small signs of relaxation from Juni as the trigger to make the stimulus dog (Amber) go away – the flick of an ear, blinking, a slight lowering of the head. When we got to the spot where no eruption took place, we began moving the marker closer, one foot at a time. It seemed like it took an eternity, but was actually no more than 10 minutes.

We worked with Amber as the only stimulus dog on the first day. At about 35 feet we began getting attention-soliciting affiliative behavior from Juni: soft tail wagging, relaxed body, ears back, squinty eyes. We continued to decrease the distance, and at about 10 feet (near the end of the session) we lost the soft behavior; Juni again began growling, barking, and even added a snarl (lips curled up) – a behavior we hadn’t seen before. We continued to repeat presentations at that distance until Juni relaxed again, although not to the point of the soft, waggy behavior we had seen previously.

We worked a total of three hours on that first day, with two breaks. In debriefing the session, Jolanta and I agreed that if we encountered a “stuck” spot again we would back up the stopping point to a place where Juni offered stress behavior but didn’t go over threshold, and work there until he again showed soft, friendly behaviors. Later conversation with Dr. Rosales-Ruiz confirmed that this would have been an appropriate step. As it turned out, we didn’t need it.

CAT, day 2
On the second day, we introduced Willow, a spayed Shepherd/Collie-mix owned by DC-area Certified Pet Dog Trainer Pen Brown. Juni immediately erupted upon presentation of Willow at 75 feet. This was disappointing; we were hoping to see more of a change in Juni’s behavior upon initial presentation. We were, however, able to progress more quickly this time; Juni’s barking stopped after just a few repetitions, and at the first-hour break we had moved the marker to about 35 feet and were getting soft, solicitous responses from Juni.

We switched dogs after the first break, introducing Bonnie, my three-year-old Scottie-mix. Snider and Rosales-Ruiz would probably have suggested proceeding to interaction with one dog before switching, but none of us were confident enough with the procedure to do this. In addition, Jolanta wanted to work on generalizing to as many different dogs as possible, knowing that she would face a constantly changing cast of canine characters back home in New York.

Juni had met Bonnie at a Reactive Rover Camp many months prior, parallel walking with her without incident on the last day of camp. Now, with CAT, there was some barking on the initial presentation of Bonnie at 75 feet, but it was less intense than with Willow, and we progressed forward rapidly. Between 40 feet and 10 feet we got very playful behavior from Juni: play bows, full body wags, and several “Don’t go away!” vocalizations on several occasions when Bonnie and I turned to leave. (This is a significantly different vocalization than Juni’s “Go away!” bark,)

At the end of that second day, we were parallel-walking Bonnie and Juni around the training center, about four feet apart. Juni was relaxed, and even made several play-bounce moves toward Bonnie – a behavior he had never shown toward her at Reactive Rover Camp. We chose not to let them play, as there is a significant disparity in size and we felt Juni would be too rough for Bonnie, even if he maintained his friendly demeanor.

CAT, day 3
On the third day we changed our location, transporting all of our dogs to a local, dog-friendly outlet mall – the closest approximation to a city environment we could come up with in rural Fairplay, Maryland. We started with Willow again, positioning Juni about 50 feet from the corner around which Willow would appear. There were no eruptions at all on day three. None! Not even when Pen invited Willow to leap in the air. (Historically, bouncy behavior was a guaranteed trigger for Juni to erupt.) We quickly progressed from 50 feet to about 10 feet, and then walked the two dogs together in the mall parking lot, sometimes as close as three to four feet apart. Juni was relaxed and unconcerned. We were not just pleasantly surprised; we were ecstatic.

We returned to the store front area, put Willow away and brought out Missy, my eight-year-old spayed Australian Shepherd. We were eager to see what would happen with a new dog. Juni had never seen Missy, and Missy is naturally bouncy – a potential double whammy. Again, no eruptions, rapid closure to about six feet, then walking together at close distance. We did get one small growl and a little tension when Missy was about 15 feet from Juni while we were doing the initial approaches, but he was immediately relaxed again on the next approach.

We brought Willow back, and worked with all three dogs together, then introduced Lucy, my Cardigan Corgi, and finally added Bonnie to the mix. We finished the morning after 90 minutes with all five dogs walking around one end of the mall, passing in close quarters, following Juni, approaching head-on, and appearing unexpectedly around corners. Juni was completely relaxed, as were the rest of the dogs. The humans, on the other hand, were all pretty excited. After close to eight hours of successful CAT work, the true test was yet to come. We headed back to our respective homes, waiting to hear from Jolanta on how Juni would do back home in his own ’hood.

Dog in CAT city
The first report was promising. Jolanta called it in from her cell phone before she even got home. Juni saw a dog through the car window and did nothing! Prior to all the CAT work, this would have elicited a full-scale aroused eruption.

Jolanta continues to send glowing reports about Juni. He’s not letter-perfect, but is behaving far better around other dogs than he ever did in his pre-CAT experience. According to Jolanta, they have encountered more than 100 dogs per week since their return to Brooklyn, and experienced only six full-scale “explosions.” In 30 of the encounters, Juni growled or barked or exhibited some degree of tension. In almost every “tense” episode, Juni calmed himself quickly without intervention from Jolanta. Most happily, Jolanta says, “More than 60 encounters with approximately 70 dogs were characterized by responses ranging from complete indifference/nonchalance to active interest, to mild alertness that didn’t shade into tension.”

When asked how many of these incidents she estimates would have previously resulted in escalation to eruption, she answered, “Most of the ‘tense’ encounters would likely be explosions of one degree or another. I would not have seen any nonchalance though I would have had a lot of success distracting him with food.”

I believe the CAT program has significant value for certain dogs; it could mean a much brighter future for a lot of dogs who are currently under house arrest and strict management programs. I’ll be looking for additional appropriate applications for CAT. I have another client who wants to try CAT on her dog, and I fully intend to use it with Dubhy, our dog-reactive Scottie, the next time my husband and I want to introduce a new dog to our pack, if not sooner.

Pat Miller, CPDT, is Whole Dog Journal’s Training Editor. Miller lives in Hagerstown, Maryland, site of her Peaceable Paws training center. Pat is also author of The Power of Positive Dog Training; Positive Perspectives: Love Your Dog, Train Your Dog; and Positive Perspectives II: Know Your Dog, Train Your Dog. See “Resources,” page 24.


© Copyright Belvoir Publications, Inc. All rights reserved

 

An interesting article....

April 25th 2008 4:40 pm
[ Leave A Comment ]

Posted in the B&T forum...thought I'd save it in here :

------------------------------------------------------- ------------------------------


May 2008
By Pat Miller

“Constructional Aggression Treatment,” a promising new approach to modifying canine aggression.

What loud buzz you hear is the sound of the dog behavior and training community discussing a controversial new approach to modifying aggressive behavior in dogs. The developers of “Constructional Aggression Treatment” (CAT) claim that the shaping-based operant protocol produces stronger and much faster results than the classical counter-conditioning process widely used by training and behavior professionals today.

CAT was devised and tested by Dr. Jesús Rosales-Ruiz, a behavior analyst and associate professor of behavior analysis at the University of North Texas, and Kellie Snider, a board-certified associate behavior analyst. Snider completed her MS in Behavior Analysis at UNT in 2007 with Dr. Rosales-Ruiz as her graduate research advisor and the CAT procedure as the topic of her thesis research.

Canine behavior experts frequently use classical conditioning techniques (including counter-conditioning) to help change how dogs feel about and respond to the stimuli that triggers their aggressive behavior. In other words, classical counter-conditioning changes the dog’s emotions in order to change his behavior. In contrast, CAT utilizes “operant conditioning,” where the goal is changing the dog’s behavior in a way that will likely produce a subsequent emotional change.

In order to best explain how this novel technique works, allow me to back up and discuss some behavioral theories that explain both the development of canine aggression as well as the techniques that are conventionally used to change the dog’s response to stressful stimuli.

The genesis of aggression
Conventional thinking is that aggression is the behavioral result of an emotional response (fear, anger, frustration, etc.) that has been classically conditioned due to an association between two stimuli (events).
For example:

• A small child hugs a puppy too tightly, hurting the puppy. The puppy associates pain with small children, and becomes fearful and aggressive toward small children as a result.

• A large, aggressive dog attacks a smaller, unassertive dog, causing multiple injuries. The small dog associates large dogs with attack and pain and becomes fearful and aggressive toward large dogs.

• Teenagers tease a dog in a yard behind a fence. The dog becomes aroused, angry, and aggressive toward teens.

So, the thinking goes, the best approach to modifying a classically conditioned response is with counter-conditioning – a subset of classical conditioning in which you change the dog’s emotional response. You do this by pairing the fear- or anger-causing stimulus with something that creates a happier response, thus giving the stimulus a new, positive association.

Food is commonly used to counter-condition, because it’s hard to eat yummy treats and be significantly angry or afraid at the same time. Also, food is a “primary reinforcer”; our dogs are hardwired to like food; they don’t have to learn that it’s valuable to them.

You can use other things to change associations in place of, or in addition to, food. With humans, money, jewelry, and other conditioned reinforcers (items with learned value) can be used to create and change associations. Think of the enamored suitor, wooing the object of his affections, plying her with all sorts of goodies to create a positive association while she plays hard to get. Dogs aren’t much impressed with diamonds and Cadillacs, but a rousing game of tug or fetch-the-ball can give a worried dog a positive association with a previously aversive stimulus.

A counter-conditioning procedure goes like this:

• Present scary stimulus (say, a small child) at a distance great enough that the dog is worried (“Uh-oh, there’s a child!”) but not so worried that he goes into a barking, lunging frenzy. This is called the “sub-threshold” distance.

• The instant the dog sees the child, start feeding tiny bits of something very yummy, such as canned or boiled chicken.

• Keep feeding until the child is out of sight, then stop feeding.

• Repeat this process until the appearance of the child at this distance consistently causes the dog to look joyfully at you in anticipation of chicken. This is called the conditioned emotional response (CER), or the “Where’s my chicken?” look.

• Now increase the intensity of the stimulus and repeat the process. With a child, you might increase intensity by bringing the child a little closer, or by staying at the original distance and having two children appear, or one child running, skipping, or singing, or . . .

Eventually, due to the change in the dog’s emotional response to the presence of a child, then to the presence of children, the dog’s behavior changes. He comes to like children, so he’s no longer aggressive toward them.

How CAT is different
CAT’s founders acknowledge that aggression may be, initially, an emotional response, based in classical conditioning. However, they assert that operant conditioning quickly begins to play a much larger role than it’s often given credit for. They suggest the dog quickly learns that growling, barking, lunging, and snapping are highly successful strategies for making the threat leave, and so the behavior is negatively reinforced (the dog’s behavior makes a bad thing go away).

By definition, behavior that is reinforced continues or increases. Snider and Rosales-Ruiz posit that if you prevent the dog from receiving reinforcement for the unwanted behavior (aggression) and reinforce his desired behavior (friendly, affiliative actions), his behavior will change. When the behavior changes, the emotion that triggers the aggression will change as well.

CAT used for
dog-dog aggression
Here is how the CAT procedure would be used to modify the behavior of a dog who shows aggression toward other dogs:

The subject dog (the one with the aggressive behavior) is set up in an area where the trigger stimulus can be presented at a distance that does not trigger a big response from the subject dog (this is called “sub-threshold”). In this case, the trigger stimulus is another dog; note that people or objects can be the triggering stimuli in other cases.

Ideally, the environment where the procedure is carried out is the same or similar to the one in which the undesirable behavior normally occurs. This reduces the amount of future generalization required. The owner – not a trainer – holds the dog’s leash, which also keeps the stimulus picture as close to reality as possible and reduces the amount of generalization needed.

Other than restraining the dog, the owner does nothing else in terms of training – no clicking, no treating. The behavior of the stimulus dog becomes the sole reinforcer for the subject dog’s behavior.

The stimulus dog (sometimes called decoy or trigger dog) and handler approach the subject dog until sub-threshold signs of stress are noted by observers. This is the “threshold.” The handler and decoy dog stop and wait for any decrease in the subject dog’s stress behavior, at which point the decoy and handler immediately turn and walk away, reinforcing the subject dog’s more appropriate (less stressed) behavior.

If the subject dog barks, lunges, or offers other aggressive behavior as the decoy dog leaves, the handler and decoy immediately return to baseline to again wait for decreased signs of stress. Then they again attempt to leave. This is repeated until the subject dog no longer offers escalated stress behavior when the stimulus dog and handler attempt to leave. When this happens, they retreat to a greater distance to give the subject dog an opportunity to relax.

An assistant marks the location where the threshold behavior occured, and the stimulus dog and handler return to this mark after a 15-second “cool-down” period. This return-and-leave process continues until the subject dog no longer shows signs of stress at baseline, at which point the handler brings the stimulus dog closer to the subject by a distance predetermined by the trainer – less if the dog is likely to be easily triggered, more if the dog is perceived as able to handle a larger increment of decreased distance.

Eventually it should be possible for the stimulus dog to approach with no aggressive reaction from the subject. In fact, in a successful procedure the subject dog begins to genuinely and happily invite the stimulus dog closer for more interaction. This point in the procedure is called switchover.

After switchover, the stimulus dog and handler continue to approach the subject dog in small increments until the two dogs can actually engage in friendly behavior with each other. The researchers labeled this part of the process interaction.

Why does it work?
Remember, many dogs who behave aggressively toward other dogs do so as a result of learning that their barking, growling fit results in the other dog going away. Because that behavior has been successful in the past, it’s been reinforced, and the behavior has continued or increased.

In contrast, in a CAT procedure, the subject dog is presented with a different reinforcement scenario. The behavior that worked so well before – barking and lunging – no longer works. Instead of making the other dog go away, it actually makes her stay close or come back! A new behavior – acting calm – now makes the “bad approaching dog” go away. So, in theory, the subject dog learns to offer calm, relaxed behaviors to make the other dog go away.

Eventually the subject dog becomes calm and relaxed because he no longer needs to act aggressively to make the other dog go away. Lo and behold, once the subject dog becomes calm and relaxed about the other dog approaching, he actually gets happy about having the other dog approach; the change in his emotional response follows the change in his behavioral response.

Rosales-Ruiz and Snider have worked with or received reports of almost 100 dogs using the CAT procedure, and the results, they say, are overwhelmingly encouraging. Dogs with a lifetime history of aggression toward other dogs have become completely canine-social-appropriate. Dogs with a long record of aggression toward humans have become safe and friendly. Not every single one, of course, but the majority of dogs have done mind-bogglingly well with the procedure.

Things to consider
The dog training and behavior community has not yet embraced the procedure with open paws. As striking as the reported results may seem, there are some significant potential obstacles to the widespread use of CAT. Trainers who might consider using this procedure professionally are struggling with some of the challenges:

■ The sessions can be intensively time-consuming.
Individual CAT sessions may run from as little as one hour to as much as eight, and require a number of helpers. When possible, the founders recommend sticking with it at least until you see switch-over (the point at which the subject dog’s behavior changes to actually offering distance-decreasing behavior such as soft body wags, ears back, soft and/or squinty eyes) and preferably all the way through interaction. Snider suggests setting aside three full days to work with an individual dog and owner.

Snider points out, however, that classical conditioning and desensitization (CC&D) is also time-consuming. Many owners practice CC&D on their own for months or years with less effect.

■ It’s costly. Good training and behavior professionals may charge anywhere from $50 to hundreds of dollars per hour for their time. Three full days, eight hours per day, at hundreds of dollars per hour equals a lot of money spent in a short period of time. Of course, if it works, it may be worth almost any amount to an owner, and, over time, it may not be significantly more costly than ongoing CC&D with a trainer.

■ It’s staff-intensive. Done well, the procedure requires at least several humans – the owner, the trainer, the handlers of several stimulus dogs (or presenters of whatever the trigger stimulus may be), and perhaps a person to videotape the procedure for later review. This can also add to the cost, if assistants are paid.

■ It can be stressful to the subject dog. In some cases where the procedure has failed, the subject dog has continued to practice the bark/lunge strategy that’s been successful for him in the past, rather than offering – and switching over to – calm, relaxed behavior. Some trainers trying the procedure have pulled the plug early in the process rather than continue to subject the dog to the level of stress apparent as the old strategy failed to work. Other trainers have persisted for long periods of time (hours) before either giving up or ultimately achieving success.

On these counts, in CAT’s defense, Snider says, “Even with those dogs that did not completely switch over because the trainers didn’t take it that far, we have almost universally seen dramatic improvement. Trainers who are new to this procedure may need more practice and guidance before they learn to how to keep the dog below threshold by adjusting the environment in some way. If you don’t work below threshold, it’s not really CAT . . . and it’s unlikely to work as well. It’s too difficult for dogs to produce desirable behaviors when they are over threshold, and this is no different from CC&D.”

■ It can be stressful to the stimulus dog. The stimulus dog will be asked to repeatedly approach a dog who is sending very clear “Don’t approach!” signals and appears to be more than willing to back the signals up. This can take a toll on the good nature of the neutral/friendly dogs being asked to play decoy. In fairness, the same can be said of dogs used as decoys in conventional CC&D sessions.

■ Even when all goes according to plan, trainers may be reluctant to complete the final piece of the process – interaction – and rightly so. Misjudgment on the part of the trainer can result in injury to the stimulus dog (or trigger person/s). Again, to be fair, this is a risk whenever working with aggressive dogs.

■ It may not be positive. One definition of “positive training” holds the position that positive trainers use negative reinforcement only as a last resort, after positive reinforcement and negative punishment have failed. Negative reinforcement, by definition, requires the presentation of something at least mildly aversive to the dog, and sometimes the presenting stimulus is significantly aversive.

Snider and Rosales-Ruiz offer CAT as a first approach, not after exhausting what are traditionally considered more positive methods. In fact, they say the less the dog has been worked with using other methods, the easier and more successful CAT is likely to be. In response to these points, Snider says, that in her opinion, CAT can be more positive than desensitization. “With desensitization, often trainers move closer if the dog gets calm (which constitutes punishment of calm behaviors) and move away when the dog is stressed (reinforcement of stressed behaviors). That’s one reason it takes longer!

“Also, sometimes the presenting stimulus is significantly aversive in CC&D programs, too. You can’t train an animal to accept something that is not there, and prior to treatment, having it there is stressful. The best you can do is present it at low intensities, which is an integral part of CAT just as it is of CC&D.”

Snider also points out that even positive reinforcement can be used in ways that produce problematic behaviors. “As Dr. Rosales-Ruiz has said, it is not about the name of the procedure, it’s about the emotionality produced by the procedure. Properly done, CAT produces happy, friendly dogs while working hard to remain errorless – which means keeping the intensity of the stimulus low enough that it is not overwhelming to the learner.”

Pat’s CAT journal, day 1
My own mind is still not made up about CAT. I have done the procedure once (I’ll describe this in detail below) with a dog I know well, owned and handled by Certified Pet Dog Trainer Jolanta Benal, of Brooklyn, New York. Jolanta is a friend and trainer for whom I have much trust and respect.

Going in, we were both cautious and somewhat skeptical, albeit hopeful, and we were both ready to stop the procedure at any time if either of us was uncomfortable with what we were seeing. I was happier with the results than I had dared hope to be, and will offer it on a limited basis to clients who I think can make the necessary commitment and whose dogs I feel are appropriate candidates.

Jolanta and I spent three days trying out the CAT procedure. Our subject dog was Juniper, Benal’s six-year-old neutered Pit Bull-mix. Juni has been dog reactive/aggressive since puppyhood, and several of his littermates also have aggression problems. At least two have been euthanized for aggression.

Juni is extremely friendly with humans, in large part due to growing up in Brooklyn, where Jolanta made it a point to socialize him well with a wide variety of humans. Unfortunately, living in NYC, anywhere he goes, Juni encounters other dogs – and the socialization didn’t work with those, despite Jolanta’s best efforts. Juni does have a circle of canine friends he can play with, including 13-year-old Cattle Dog-mix Izzy, with whom he lives.

Jolanta has done a considerable amount of work with Juni. They attended our Reactive Rover Camp and did well, easily progressing to parallel walking with other dogs by the end of the third and final day of camp. Juni could control himself, but was not relaxed and friendly with the other dogs, and it didn’t carry over to the urban home environment.

Back in NYC, Jolanta found it pretty impossible to keep Juni sub-threshold – one of the challenges of ongoing counter-conditioning work with a reactive dog. Jolanta does a good job of keeping Juni focused on treats when necessary, and he has a very effective “run away” escape behavior. (As described by Patricia McConnell in her excellent booklet, Feisty Fido, a reactive dog is taught “Run away!” as a fun game, whereby the owner walks with the dog by her side, and suddenly says “Run away!” or some other cue in an excited tone of voice, then quickly turns and runs playfully in the other direction. Each time, at variable distances, the owner reinforces the fun aspect of the game with yummy treats or with a quick game of tug, until “Run away!” takes on a positive classical association. As a result, when the reactive dog and owner are out walking and a dog appears unexpectedly, the owner can use the “Run away!” cue to get her dog to happily turn and run with her, away from the other dog, rather than having a super-threshold eruption.)

We started the CAT process on Monday in early March, in the Peaceable Paws training center. Not ideal in terms of “recreating the actual environment,” (our farm is nothing like NYC!) but we wanted to maximize potential for some success, and it’s impossible to control intensity of stimulus in the Big Apple.

A dozen trainers attended one or more days of the three-day program to learn and assist. Our first stimulus dog was Amber, a small, mature female Rhodesian Ridgeback who belongs to Peaceable Paws apprentice Susan Sarubin.

Susan presented Amber at a distance of about 75 feet from Juni (one end of the training room). Juni immediately erupted, barking and lunging, hackles up. Jolanta had warned us that his threshold distance is “line of sight,” barring any efforts to divert his behavior. Juni confirmed the veracity of her warning. So “just inside the door” was our baseline.

It took several repetitions before Amber was able to enter the room without Juni erupting. Even then, Juni was still pretty tense. We did several more repetitions with Juni erupting when Amber and Susan turned to leave; they had to turn back toward Juni and return to the baseline mark. We looked for, and accepted, very small signs of relaxation from Juni as the trigger to make the stimulus dog (Amber) go away – the flick of an ear, blinking, a slight lowering of the head. When we got to the spot where no eruption took place, we began moving the marker closer, one foot at a time. It seemed like it took an eternity, but was actually no more than 10 minutes.

We worked with Amber as the only stimulus dog on the first day. At about 35 feet we began getting attention-soliciting affiliative behavior from Juni: soft tail wagging, relaxed body, ears back, squinty eyes. We continued to decrease the distance, and at about 10 feet (near the end of the session) we lost the soft behavior; Juni again began growling, barking, and even added a snarl (lips curled up) – a behavior we hadn’t seen before. We continued to repeat presentations at that distance until Juni relaxed again, although not to the point of the soft, waggy behavior we had seen previously.

We worked a total of three hours on that first day, with two breaks. In debriefing the session, Jolanta and I agreed that if we encountered a “stuck” spot again we would back up the stopping point to a place where Juni offered stress behavior but didn’t go over threshold, and work there until he again showed soft, friendly behaviors. Later conversation with Dr. Rosales-Ruiz confirmed that this would have been an appropriate step. As it turned out, we didn’t need it.

CAT, day 2
On the second day, we introduced Willow, a spayed Shepherd/Collie-mix owned by DC-area Certified Pet Dog Trainer Pen Brown. Juni immediately erupted upon presentation of Willow at 75 feet. This was disappointing; we were hoping to see more of a change in Juni’s behavior upon initial presentation. We were, however, able to progress more quickly this time; Juni’s barking stopped after just a few repetitions, and at the first-hour break we had moved the marker to about 35 feet and were getting soft, solicitous responses from Juni.

We switched dogs after the first break, introducing Bonnie, my three-year-old Scottie-mix. Snider and Rosales-Ruiz would probably have suggested proceeding to interaction with one dog before switching, but none of us were confident enough with the procedure to do this. In addition, Jolanta wanted to work on generalizing to as many different dogs as possible, knowing that she would face a constantly changing cast of canine characters back home in New York.

Juni had met Bonnie at a Reactive Rover Camp many months prior, parallel walking with her without incident on the last day of camp. Now, with CAT, there was some barking on the initial presentation of Bonnie at 75 feet, but it was less intense than with Willow, and we progressed forward rapidly. Between 40 feet and 10 feet we got very playful behavior from Juni: play bows, full body wags, and several “Don’t go away!” vocalizations on several occasions when Bonnie and I turned to leave. (This is a significantly different vocalization than Juni’s “Go away!” bark,)

At the end of that second day, we were parallel-walking Bonnie and Juni around the training center, about four feet apart. Juni was relaxed, and even made several play-bounce moves toward Bonnie – a behavior he had never shown toward her at Reactive Rover Camp. We chose not to let them play, as there is a significant disparity in size and we felt Juni would be too rough for Bonnie, even if he maintained his friendly demeanor.

CAT, day 3
On the third day we changed our location, transporting all of our dogs to a local, dog-friendly outlet mall – the closest approximation to a city environment we could come up with in rural Fairplay, Maryland. We started with Willow again, positioning Juni about 50 feet from the corner around which Willow would appear. There were no eruptions at all on day three. None! Not even when Pen invited Willow to leap in the air. (Historically, bouncy behavior was a guaranteed trigger for Juni to erupt.) We quickly progressed from 50 feet to about 10 feet, and then walked the two dogs together in the mall parking lot, sometimes as close as three to four feet apart. Juni was relaxed and unconcerned. We were not just pleasantly surprised; we were ecstatic.

We returned to the store front area, put Willow away and brought out Missy, my eight-year-old spayed Australian Shepherd. We were eager to see what would happen with a new dog. Juni had never seen Missy, and Missy is naturally bouncy – a potential double whammy. Again, no eruptions, rapid closure to about six feet, then walking together at close distance. We did get one small growl and a little tension when Missy was about 15 feet from Juni while we were doing the initial approaches, but he was immediately relaxed again on the next approach.

We brought Willow back, and worked with all three dogs together, then introduced Lucy, my Cardigan Corgi, and finally added Bonnie to the mix. We finished the morning after 90 minutes with all five dogs walking around one end of the mall, passing in close quarters, following Juni, approaching head-on, and appearing unexpectedly around corners. Juni was completely relaxed, as were the rest of the dogs. The humans, on the other hand, were all pretty excited. After close to eight hours of successful CAT work, the true test was yet to come. We headed back to our respective homes, waiting to hear from Jolanta on how Juni would do back home in his own ’hood.

Dog in CAT city
The first report was promising. Jolanta called it in from her cell phone before she even got home. Juni saw a dog through the car window and did nothing! Prior to all the CAT work, this would have elicited a full-scale aroused eruption.

Jolanta continues to send glowing reports about Juni. He’s not letter-perfect, but is behaving far better around other dogs than he ever did in his pre-CAT experience. According to Jolanta, they have encountered more than 100 dogs per week since their return to Brooklyn, and experienced only six full-scale “explosions.” In 30 of the encounters, Juni growled or barked or exhibited some degree of tension. In almost every “tense” episode, Juni calmed himself quickly without intervention from Jolanta. Most happily, Jolanta says, “More than 60 encounters with approximately 70 dogs were characterized by responses ranging from complete indifference/nonchalance to active interest, to mild alertness that didn’t shade into tension.”

When asked how many of these incidents she estimates would have previously resulted in escalation to eruption, she answered, “Most of the ‘tense’ encounters would likely be explosions of one degree or another. I would not have seen any nonchalance though I would have had a lot of success distracting him with food.”

I believe the CAT program has significant value for certain dogs; it could mean a much brighter future for a lot of dogs who are currently under house arrest and strict management programs. I’ll be looking for additional appropriate applications for CAT. I have another client who wants to try CAT on her dog, and I fully intend to use it with Dubhy, our dog-reactive Scottie, the next time my husband and I want to introduce a new dog to our pack, if not sooner.

Pat Miller, CPDT, is Whole Dog Journal’s Training Editor. Miller lives in Hagerstown, Maryland, site of her Peaceable Paws training center. Pat is also author of The Power of Positive Dog Training; Positive Perspectives: Love Your Dog, Train Your Dog; and Positive Perspectives II: Know Your Dog, Train Your Dog. See “Resources,” page 24.


© Copyright Belvoir Publications, Inc. All rights reserved

 

A letter from the dog...

April 2nd 2008 5:55 pm
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Dear Master:

The cat is despicable. She doesn't do any tricks and never comes when you call and I've been there and I know she can hear you. We need to face facts: It's time to get rid of the cat.

Before the cat's arrival, meals were very festive times. I would sit and stare attentively at your lips, trembling slightly and drooling. You would play the game of pretending to be cross and demand that I leave the area, but whenever you cooked dinner your children would slip me food under the table.

Now, though, the cat is allowed to jump on the table ? actually physically walk on the table! You don't yell at the cat, you just pick her up and put her back on the floor, and I know you don't see it, but she always gives me a haughty look as she walks past me.

And speaking of meals, I have always been satisfied to eat the gritty pellets of meat byproducts you bring home in the giant bags, right? Have I ever once, ever, failed to finish a meal? But now I find out that the cat is being served lobster and salmon and crab - and she never consumes all of it! This means there are little containers of delectable snacks lying around and how can I be blamed for making sure they get eaten? Why do you get so mad? As long as the pet food is going to the pets, isn't that what's important?

Then there's play time. I think we can clearly see that I am a big dog, descended from a noble line of hunters accustomed to chasing prey and attacking it. Haven't I nearly managed to take down a few cars as they've driven past the house? The cat is about the size of a squirrel and in my view should behave like one, but when I attempt to chase her, she hunches up and spits at me! This can't be sanitary. And shouldn't she be declawed? I'm very concerned about the potential for damage to the furniture and my nose.

Speaking of sanitation, do you realize that the cat goes to the bathroom in the house? And not in the drinking basins like you do, but in a sandbox in the basement. What are we going to say if some woman brings her baby over to play in the sandbox and the cat has been using it as a toilet? I used to police the thing for you, but you put it up out of my reach for some reason.

I'm not the only one who believes the cat is an evil person. Here's a note from the hamster:

To: Master of the house
From:Hamster
Subject: Cat
Please tell cat to stop staring at me while I work.

Signed,

Hamster,
Department of Rodent Wheels

I also tried to get a note from the fish, but apparently it believes that everything happening outside its bowl is some kind of reality-TV show.

I don't understand why the cat is allowed up on the bed and I'm not. I am far more cuddly than any stupid cat. I think her purring sounds unhealthy and may be a sign of tuberculosis. And why doesn't she ever get a bath? She smells like saliva from licking her paws - you'd never catch me licking such ridiculous places. I often smell wonderful from rolling in roadkill, yet you give me baths all the time!

And speaking of sleeping, sometimes I'll be taking a nap and she'll come right up and lie down beside me. Usually I'm too tired to do anything about it, but then later the other dogs smell her on me and crack a lot of jokes at my expense.

So, not to exaggerate, but the cat has brought the family to complete ruin. I'm sorry I have to be the one to bring it to your attention, but now that I have, I think we can all agree that we should go back to the way it was, when I was the No. 1 pet.

Yours truly,

The Dog

 

February 10th 2008 9:36 am
[ Leave A Comment ]

Mocha Bear posted this in B & T forum...I found it very useful & decided to recopy it here. Hope no one minds!


3 D's: Distance, duration, distraction. Critical elements to "proofing" a dog's reliability related to a particular behavior.

Acquisition: The first stage of learning, the process of learning a new behavior.

Aversive: Something the animal is willing to work to avoid.

Back-chaining: Training the last behavior in a chain first, then training the next-to-last behavior, then the behavior before that, and so on. Back-chaining takes advantage of the Premack Principle.

Balanced training: A type of training using all five principles of Operant Conditioning and an event marker (clicker) to modify behavior. This type of training is better known as "combined training." Balanced training implies equal amounts of reinforcement and punishment. However, the fallout associated with punishment makes such a "balance" a poor training choice.

Behavior: Anything an animal does.

Bridging stimulus: An event marker that identifies the desired response and "bridges" the time between the response and the delivery of the primary reinforcer. The clicker is a bridging stimulus.

Calming signals: Subtle body signals used by dogs to indicate stress and to avoid or diffuse confrontation and aggression.

Chaining: The process of combining multiple behaviors into one continuous behavior with a single cue.

Classical Conditioning: The process of associating a neutral stimulus with an involuntary response until the stimulus elicits the response.

Clicker: A toy noisemaker. Animal trainers make use of the clicker as an event marker to mark a desired response. The clicker is an excellent marker because it is unique, quick, and consistent.

Clicker training: A term coined by Karen Pryor and defined by her as a subset of Operant Conditioning using positive reinforcement, extinction, negative punishment, and an event marker to modify behavior.

Combined training: A type of training using all five principles of Operant Conditioning and a marker signal (clicker) to modify behavior.

Compulsion training: The traditional style of dog training where the dog is modeled or otherwise compelled to perform the behavior and physically corrected for non-compliance.

Conditioned reinforcer: A neutral stimulus paired with a primary reinforcer until the neutral stimulus takes on the reinforcing properties of the primary. A clicker, after being repeatedly associated with a food treat or other reinforcer, becomes a conditioned reinforcer.

Consequence: The result of an action. Consequences frequently - but not always - affect future behavior, making the behavior more or less likely to occur. The five principles of Operant Conditioning describe the potential results.

Continuous reinforcement: The simplest schedule of reinforcement. Every desired response is reinforced.

Counter-conditioning: Pairing stimuli that evoke one response with an opposite response, so that the stimulus now evokes the new response. For example, a dog is afraid of men wearing hats. When a man wearing a hat approaches, the dog is repeatedly fed his favorite food. The goal is to replace the fear with the pleasure elicited by the food. Counter-conditioning must be done gradually, however. If the process were rushed, the favorite food could take on the fear association instead.

Criteria: The specific, trainer-defined response in a training session. The trainer clicks at the instant the animal achieves the criteria. Criteria can include not only the physical behavior but elements like latency, duration, and distance.

Crossover dog: A dog that has previously been trained by a non-clicker method who is now being clicker trained.

Crossover trainer: A trainer who previously used non-clicker methods to train animals who is now clicker training.

Cue: A stimulus that elicits a behavior. Cues may be verbal, physical (i.e., a hand signal), or environmental (i.e., a curb may become a cue to sit if the dog is always cued to sit before crossing a road).

Desensitization: The process of increasing a tolerance to a particular stimulus by gradually increasing the presence of the stimulus. Occurs when an animal is exposed to something but is able to control its reaction to it. It is usually accomplished through gradual, low-level exposure to the thing or situation.


Differential reinforcement: Some correct responses are rewarded and others aren't. All schedules of reinforcement except continuous reinforcement are a type of differential reinforcement.

Discrimination: Being able to tell the difference between situations. The better you are at discriminating, the more subtle the differences you can discriminate. Dogs are excellent discriminators, humans are not as good.

Event marker: A signal used to mark desired behavior at the instant it occurs. The clicker is an event marker.

External Dishibition: the opposite of E.I. it occurs during extinction and is also called “spontaneous recovery.” Spontaneous recovery takes the form of a renewed effort to make what previously worked work again.

External Inhibition: E.I. happens when an animal shows a steady increase in learning (understanding) a behavior, then suddenly seems to have forgotten everything it learned. This is normal and happens all the time we humans refer to it as a block.

Extinction: The weakening of behavior through non-reinforcement. "Ignoring" the behavior. In extinction, nothing is added or removed from the environment. For example, a treat lies on the other side of a fence. A dog reaches his paw under, but cannot reach the treat. Because reaching for the treat doesn't work - because it isn't reinforced through success - the dog will eventually quit reaching for the treat.

Extinction burst: A characteristic of extinction. If a previously-reinforced behavior is not reinforced, the animal will increase the intensity or frequency of the behavior in attempt to earn the reinforcement again. After these bursts, the offering of the behavior will diminish.

Fixed interval: A schedule of reinforcement in which the trainer reinforces the first correct response after a specific period of time - for example, after a minute.

Fixed ratio: A schedule of reinforcement in which the trainer reinforces the first correct response after a specific number of responses. Two-fers and three-fers are examples of fixed ratios.

Fluency:: The second stage of learning. Perfecting the behavior and having the behavior become automatic.

"Four quadrants of Operant Conditioning": An incorrect reference to the commonly-seen chart illustrating the concepts of reinforcement and punishment. This description is misleading in two ways. It neglects to mention extinction, and it implies that the other principles of Operant Conditioning are of equal value in a training program.

Generalization: The third stage of learning. The process of learning to perform the behavior under a different condition or in a different environment. Humans are excellent at generalization, dogs are not.

Habituation: Allows us to ignore unimportant stimuli in the environment. Habituation is the means by which dogs filter out what is not relevant or to their well-being. It is learning to ignore things that happen continuously on a regular basis, but pay attention to things that happen only occasionally.


Head halter: Similar to a horse's halter, a dog's head halter gives the trainer control of the dog's head, making it easier to manage a dog on leash until the dog has been taught to walk at the handler's side.

Instinctive Drift: the tendency of an organism to revert to instinctive behaviors that can interfere with the conditioned response.

Interval reinforcement: The trainer reinforces the dog according to a time schedule. In a fixed interval, the trainer reinforces the first correct response after a specific period of time - for example, every minute. In a variable interval, the trainer reinforces the first correct response after varying periods of time within a certain timeframe.

Jackpot: A "mega-reward" given after a particularly exceptional effort.

Keep Going Signal (KGS): A signal - verbal or otherwise - given in the middle of a behavior to tell the dog he is doing the behavior correctly and should keep doing what he's doing. Keep Going Signals are an unnecessary level of complexity in training.

Latency: The time between the cue and the response. Ideally, that time is zero - or as close to immediate as possible.

Maintenance: The fourth stage of learning. Practicing the behavior on an ongoing basis to ensure the behavior continues.

Morgan's Canon of Parsimony: In no case is an animal activity to be interpreted in terms of higher psychological processes, if it can be fairly interpreted in terms of processes which stand lower in the scale of psychological evolution and development."

In other words, at times we assume there are complex causes that motivate our dogs when in fact our dogs simply don't understand what we want them to do.

Negative punishment (P-): Take away something the animal will work for to suppress (lessen the frequency of) a behavior. For example, a dog jumps on you to get attention. By turning your back or leaving the room you apply P- by removing the attention he wants.

Negative reinforcement (R-): Remove something the animal will work to avoid to strengthen (increase the frequency of) a behavior. Heeling is traditionally taught through R-. The dog receives a "correction" when he walks anywhere except heel position. Walking in heel position increases because that is the only "safe" place - because the threat of correction is removed by walking there. The key to R- is an aversive must first be applied or threatened in order for it to be removed.

No Reward Marker (NRM): Intended to be a signal to say "No, that isn't what I want -- try again." From the OC perspective, it's intended to add a verbal cue to extinction. However, once something has been added to the situation, it is impossible to know whether a change occurred through extinction or punishment. No Reward Marks are usually an unnecessary level of complexity in a training program.

Operant Conditioning: The process of changing an animal's response to a certain stimulus by manipulating the consequences to the response. The five principles of Operant Conditioning were developed by B.F. Skinner. Clicker training is a subset of Operant Conditioning, using only positive reinforcement, extinction, and to a lesser extent, negative punishment.

Permanent criteria: Criteria that are found in the final behavior. Permanent criteria should be trained to a higher level of reliability than temporary criteria.

Positive punishment (P ): Add something the animal will work to avoid to suppress (lessen the frequency of) a behavior. For example, jerking on the lead to stop a dog from jumping on someone is P used to suppress the behavior of jumping. Other examples of P include: Jerking, popping, pulling, restraining, threatening use of aversive verbals or sounds, tapping, prodding, spanking, shocking, squeezing, slapping,pushing, lifting, dropping, the introduction of chemicals , gases or sprays in an aversive manner, twisting, clamping, restraining, kicking, punching, choking, pronging, hitting, sticking, aversive visual stimuli or aversive body language, flicking, forcing of head or body positioning, burning, cutting, stabbing, slamming, usage of blunt force, stressing, distressing, causing fear, intimidation, aversive compression, introduction of anything that is uncomfortable or unlpleasant so as to be avoided.

Positive reinforcement (R ): Add something the animal will work for to strengthen (increase the frequency of) a behavior. For example, give the dog a treat for sitting in order to increases the probability the dog will sit again.

Premack Principle: A theory stating that a stronger response will reinforce a weaker response.

Primary reinforcer: A reinforcer that the animal is born needing. Food, water, and sex are primary reinforcers.

Punishment: In Operant Conditioning, a consequence to a behavior in which something added to or removed from the situation makes the behavior less likely to occur in the future.

Rate of Reinforcement: The number of reinforcers given in a specific period of time. A high rate of reinforcement is critical to training success.

Ratio: A schedule of reinforcement in which the trainer reinforces based on number of responses. In a fixed ratio, the trainer reinforces the first correct response after a specific number of correct responses. Two-fers and three-fers are examples of fixed ratios. In a variable ratio, the trainer reinforces the first correct response after varying numbers of correct responses.

Reinforcement: In Operant Conditioning, a consequence to a behavior in which something added to or removed from the situation makes the behavior more likely to occur in the future.

Reinforcer: Anything dog will work to obtain.

Secondary reinforcer: A conditioned reinforcer. A reinforcer the animal is not born needing. Secondary reinforcers may be as or even more powerful than a primary reinforcer.

Sensitization: Occurs when an animal is exposed to something and becomes increasingly aware of it.

Spontaneous recovery: A characteristic of extinction in which a behavior that was thought to be extinct unexpectedly reappears. If the trainer ensures the behavior is not reinforced, it will disappear quickly.

Stimulus: A change in the environment. If the stimulus has no affect on the animal, it is a neutral stimulus. A stimulus that stands out in the environment - that the animal notices more than other environmental stimuli - is a salient stimulus. A stimulus that causes a change of state in the animal - for example, causes him to perform a specific behavior - is a discriminative stimulus.

Stimulus Package: The term used to describe the environment in which we train.

Target: Something the animal is taught to touch with some part of his body. A target is generally stationary.

Target stick: A mobile target the animal is taught to follow. Target sticks are often used as lures.

Temporary criteria: Criteria that are stepping stones to a final behavior that won't, in their current form, be present in the final behavior. Temporary criteria should be trained only to about 80% reliability before "making it harder." If a temporary criterion is reinforced for too long, the animal may be reluctant to change its behavior.

Three-fer: The animal has to perform three correct behaviors in order to earn one click and one treat.

Throwing behaviors: When a dog offers behaviors in hopes of earning a reinforcement

Timing: The timing of the clicker. Ideally, the click should occur at exactly the same instant the target criterion is achieved. Timing is a mechanical skill and requires practice. The trainer must be able to recognize the behaviors that precede the target behavior in order to click at the same moment the target behavior occurs.

Traditional training: Compulsion training. Traditional training is characterized by modeling or luring to get the behavior and the use of negative reinforcement and positive punishment to "proof" it.

Training period: A pre-set period of time set aside for training. A training period may be composed of multiple training sessions.

Training session: Either a pre-set period of time or per-set number of repetitions. Your criteria should remain constant during a single session. At the end of a training session, you evaluate your animal's progress and decide whether to make the next session harder or stay at the same criteria.

Two-fer: The animal has to perform two correct behaviors in order to earn one click and one treat.

Variable interval: A schedule of reinforcement in which the trainer reinforces the first correct response after varying periods of time within a certain timeframe.

Variable ratio: A schedule of reinforcement in which the trainer reinforces the first correct response after varying numbers of correct responses.

Variable schedule of reinforcement (VSR): Technically, either a variable interval or variable ratio. However, most trainers use VSR to mean a variable ratio.

 

Dog or cat?

October 17th 2007 4:39 pm
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Which do you prefer?....



If you want someone who will do anything to please you, get a dog.

If you want someone who will bring you the newspaper without tearing through it first for the sports page, get a dog.

If you want someone who'll make a total fool of himself because he's so glad to see you, get a dog.

If you want someone who eats whatever you put in front of him and never says his mother made it better, get a dog.

If you want someone who's always eager to go out any time you ask and anywhere you want to go, get a dog.

If you want someone who can scare away burglars without waving a lethal weapon around, endangering you and all the neighbors, get a dog.

If you want someone who never touches the remote, couldn't care less about Monday Night Football, and watches dramatic movies with you as long as you want, get a dog.

If you want someone who'll be content just to snuggle up and keep you warm in bed, and who you can kick out of bed if he slobbers and snores, get a dog.

If you want someone who never criticizes anything you do, doesn't care how good or bad you look, acts as though every word you say is worth hearing, never complains, and loves you unconditionally all the time, get a DOG!

On the other hand...

If you want someone who never comes when you call him, totally ignores you when you walk in the room, leaves hair all over the place, walks allover you, prowls around all night and comes home only to eat and sleep all day, and acts as though you are there only to see that HE's happy...

Get a CAT

 

How to photograph a puppy...

October 17th 2007 4:38 pm
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How to photograph a puppy....



1. Remove film from box and load camera.

2. Remove film box from puppy's mouth and throw in trash.

3. Remove puppy from trash and brush coffee grounds from muzzle.

4. Choose a suitable background for photo.

5. Mount camera on tripod and focus.

6. Find puppy and take dirty sock from mouth.

7. Place puppy in pre-focused spot and return to camera.

8. Forget about spot and crawl after puppy on knees.

9. Focus with one hand and fend off puppy with other hand.

10. Get tissue and clean nose print from lens.

11. Put cat outside and put peroxide on the scratch on puppy's nose.

13. Put magazines back on coffee table.

14. Try to get puppy's attention by squeaking toy over your head.

15. Replace your glasses and check camera for damage.

16. Jump up in time to grab puppy by scruff of neck and say, "No, outside! No, outside!"

17. Clean up mess.

18. Sit back in chair with lemonade and resolve to teach puppy "sit" and "stay" the first thing in the morning.

 

A Pets Diary...

August 27th 2007 4:36 pm
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Just had to share...


---------------------------------------------- ------------------------------------


EXCERPTS FROM THE DOG'S DAILY DIARY

8:00 am - Oh Boy! Dog food! My favorite!
9:30 am - Oh Boy! A car ride! My favorite!
9:40 am - Oh Boy! A walk! My favorite!
10:30 am - Oh Boy! A car ride! My favorite!
11:30 am - Oh Boy! Dog food! My favorite!
12:00 noon - Oh Boy! The kids! My favorite!
1:00 pm - Oh Boy! The yard! My favorite!
4:00 pm - Oh Boy! The kids! My favorite!
5:00 pm - Oh Boy! Dog food! My favorite!
5:30 pm - Oh Boy! Mom! My favorite!
6:00 pm - Oh Boy! Playing ball! My favorite!
6:30 pm - Oh Boy! Sleeping in master's bed! My favorite!

EXCERPTS FROM THE CAT'S DAILY DIARY:

Day 283 Of My Captivity. My captors continue to taunt me with bizarre little dangling objects. They dine lavishly on fresh meat, while I am forced to eat dry cereal. The only thing that keeps me going is the hope of escape, and the mild satisfaction I get from ruining the occasional piece of furniture.

Tomorrow I may eat another houseplant. Today my attempt to kill my captors by weaving around their feet while they were walking almost succeeded; must try this at the top of the stairs. In an attempt to disgust and repulse these vile oppressors, I once again induced myself to vomit on their favorite chair; must try this on their bed. Decapitated a mouse and brought them the headless body, in attempt to make them aware of what I am capable of, and to try to strike fear into their hearts. They only cooed and condescended about what a good little cat I was. Hmmm, not working according to plan.

There was some sort of gathering of their accomplices. I was placed in solitary throughout the event. However, I could hear the noise and smell the food. More importantly I overheard that my confinement was due to MY power of "allergies." Must learn what this is and how to use it to my advantage. I am convinced the other captives are flunkies and maybe snitches. The dog is routinely released and seems more than happy to return. He is obviously a half-wit. The bird on the other hand has got to be an informant, and speaks with them regularly. I am certain he reports my every move. Due to his current placement in the metal room, his safety is assured. But I can wait, it is only a matter of time...

Author unknown

 

House Rules...

August 27th 2007 4:29 pm
[ Leave A Comment ]

PET RULES

To be posted VERY LOW on the refrigerator door - nose height.

Dear Dogs and Cats,

The dishes with the paw print are yours and contain your food. The other dishes are mine and contain my food Please note, placing a paw print in the middle of my plate and food does not stake a claim for it becoming your food and dish, nor do I find that aesthetically pleasing in the slightest.

The stairway was not designed by NASCAR and is not a racetrack. Beating me to the bottom is not the object. Tripping me doesn't help because I fall faster than you can run.

I cannot buy anything bigger than a king sized bed. I am very sorry about this. Do not think I will continue sleeping on the couch to ensure your comfort. Dogs and cats can actually curl up in a ball when they sleep. It is not necessary to sleep perpendicular to each other stretched out to the fullest extent possible. I also know that sticking tails straight out and having tongues hanging out the other end to maximize space is nothing but sarcasm.

For the last time, there is not a secret exit from the bathroom. If by some miracle I beat you there and manage to get the door shut, it is not necessary to claw, whine, meow, try to turn the knob or get your paw under the edge and try to pull the door open. I must exit through the same door I entered. Also, I have been using the bathroom for years --canine or feline attendance is not required.

The proper order is kiss me, then go smell the other dog or cat's butt. I cannot stress this enough!

To pacify you, my dear pets, I have posted the following message on our front door:

To All Non-Pet Owners Who Visit & Like to Complain About Our Pets:
1. They live here. You don't.
2. If you don't want their hair on your clothes, stay off the furniture. (That's why they call it "fur"niture.)
3. I like my pets a lot better than I like most people.
4. To you, it's an animal. To me, he/she is an adopted son/daughter who is short, hairy, walks on all fours and doesn't speak clearly.

Remember: Dogs and cats are better than kids because they:

1. Eat less
2. Don't ask for money all the time
3. Are easier to train
4. Normally come when called
5. Never ask to drive the car
6. Don't hang out with drug-using friends
7. Don't smoke or drink
8. Don't have to buy the latest fashions
9. Don't want to wear your clothes
10. Don't need a gazillion dollars for college, and...
11. If they get pregnant, you can sell their children

 
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