It is Unwise to Say, “Just Ignore the Problem Behavior!”

Niki Tudge shares some important information about the misguided advice of “ignoring unwanted behavior”.

Ignoring a problem behavior is just one part of the equation; at the same time, an incompatible or alternative behavior must be reinforced (c) CanStock Photo/websubstance

By Niki Tudge

Last week, while perusing my Facebook news feed while I drank my morning coffee, I came across a link to a blog advocating for force-free dog training methods.  This short blog had a video link which was showing a dog trainer punishing a dog for a problematic behavior. In summary, the positive reinforcement trainer was quoted as saying “encouraging the behaviors we want and ignoring behaviors we don’t, is the correct and positive way to train your pup without using physical force”.

I always try to read blogs and articles from a dog owner perspective. A perspective that probably has little, if any, knowledge of learning theory or the principles we base our dog training on. If I were a dog owner and I read the aforementioned blog I would wonder, do I ignore my dog’s jumping, snapping, growling and pulling? How is that going to work? What am I actually accomplishing? I would think that I would be doing less to help train my dog than I am doing by “correcting” them. Why would these ‘force-free’ methods be more effective than the methods I am currently using?

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Why Prong Collars Hurt

Thank you Eileen Anderson for writing an informative blog on the physics of a prong collar.

Please see additional note at the bottom of the post.

14 inch prong collar

Prong collars, also called pinch collars, are metal chain collars for dogs that include links of prongs whose ends press into the dog’s neck.

When a dog pulls on leash, moves out of position, or is “corrected” with a quick snap of the leash, force is exerted on the dog’s neck through the points of contact of the prongs.

Force is also exerted in these situations when the dog is wearing a flat collar. A correction applied to a dog on a flat collar can also be uncomfortable or even harm the dog.

But when we look at the physics, we can see why the prong collar is more uncomfortable, painful, and potentially damaging.

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“Naughty” Dog Or Normal Dog?

by Anna Francesca Bradley

Dogs do not deliberately set out to make their owners' lives difficult. Photo: Susan Nilson

In spite of the various labels commonly assigned to them, dogs do not deliberately set out to make their owners’ lives difficult. Photo: Susan Nilson

I’ve lost count as to how many times I’ve heard that Fido is ‘really naughty,’ ‘he’s doing it deliberately,’ ‘he’s trying to spite me,’ or, if an owner has more than one dog, ‘they’re trying to gang up on me!’ But are these labels in any way helpful? Let’s consider this for a moment.

Ask yourself ‘Why?’ before reacting 

The number one point I would like all dog owners to consider when their dog is not responding in the way they would like their dog to respond is ask a simple question – why? Ask this question before reacting by ascribing labels to the dog (‘he’s dumb,’ ‘thick,’ ‘just a dog,’ ‘not as good as the previous dog,’ ‘carrying out traits characteristic of certain breed,’ etc.) or worse responding with punishment – think first.

Dogs do not plan to ruin our day!

Contrary to what may sometimes be thought, dogs do not lie in their baskets at night rubbing their paws with glee, planning to leap all over your house guest’s lovely new outfit at the following night’s dinner or ruin your brand new carpet you’ve been waiting for, for weeks.  Yes, we all know that these things are infuriating, but ask yourself why did they happen, how could they have been prevented, what could have been done – before blaming the dog.  Whilst dogs are undeniably intelligent and there is a lot of research being carried out currently to determine the extent of this intelligence, they lack the mental capacity for deliberate pre-planned delinquency.

So, if your dog is not responding as you’d hoped and you are asking why?  What could be the reasons?  Of course, they are multitudinous, but lets have a look at some of the most common ones:

Too many distractions

Extremely common of course.  If you’re asking your dog to come back to you in the house/garden, and he comes most of the time, then he doesn’t when he’s in the park/woods/beach – why? There’s simply too much competition for your attention. Remember that a dog is highly driven not only by the visuals but by audible and olfactory senses.  Whilst you may not see distractions around you, your dog will hear, smell, taste a whole different world.  Don’t get cross with him, understand that you need to drop the level of competing distraction for a little while and train at this level, get a good response, then increase the competition.

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Dog Car Safety: Help – An Escapee!

 

by Louise Stapleton-Frappell

Recently, my nephew and I saw a dog running down a busy main road. She was very lucky as between us we managed to redirect her down an alleyway away from all the traffic and eventually I got her to come near enough to me so that I could take hold of her collar. She was obviously very frightened and stressed. A scared dog may well bite so my approach was very slow, low, friendly and unthreatening in order to gain some trust and not put either of us in a risky situation.

She was wearing a rabies tag with the name of a local vet on the back. I held her collar and soothed her while my nephew ran to our car to fetch a leash and some tasty treats.  As there was no sign of her owner, I walked her to my car which she happily jumped into. We took her to the vet’s office where they scanned her chip to retrieve her name and owner’s phone number.

It turned out that the dog’s owner was searching for her in a supermarket car park. She had opened the car door and her dog had jumped out and run away. The area we found her in was quite a distance from that supermarket! She was very lucky not to have been runover or lost forever.

Thankfully this story had a happy ending and Princesa was reunited with her owner but not all dogs are as lucky as she was.

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Do Dogs Have a Negativity Bias?

 

This is a fascinating article by Linda Case on Negativity Bias and how it probably also applies to dogs. This article helps support the need for positive reinforcement based training!


Negativity bias – We all suffer from it.

This is the  phenomenon in which we naturally pay more attention to and give more weight to negative information and experiences compared with those that are positive. It is this particular cognitive bias that causes us to be more hurt or discouraged by insults or criticism than we are pleased or encouraged by compliments and shining reviews.

It’s hardwired: We cannot easily escape negativity bias. Research studies have shown that the human brain actually experiences stronger neural activity when reacting to negative information compared with when we are given positive information. As a result unpleasant experiences are inevitably more memorable to us than are pleasurable ones.

Why do we have it? Our negativity bias is thought to have evolved as a method for keeping ourselves and those we love out of harm’s way. Think about it like this – your chances of survival are greater if you have a natural tendency to pay more attention to things that may be harmful to you, than if you exist with a more rose-colored view of the world and attend more readily to things that are pleasurable and harmless. Missing the lethal stuff can be, well, lethal (which means that you did not stay around long enough to reproduce and pass along your rosy view of the world to your offspring). In addition to wreaking havoc on our self-esteem, the negativity bias helps to explain why humans love to gossip and why we have a tendency to remember (and sometimes repeat) negative information about others.

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