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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The Problem with Punishment

Punishment comes at a price. Learn more about this by reading this blog by Anna Francesca Bradley. 

Punishment generates negative emotions of frustration, anger, anxiety, fear and causes pain; a far better approach is to work with your dog and not against (c) CanStock Photo/adogslifephoto

Punishment generates negative emotions of frustration, anger, anxiety, fear and causes pain; a far better approach is to work with your dog and not against (c) CanStock Photo/adogslifephoto

Fortunately today, thanks to force free advocating organizations like Pet Professional Guild, there is much more awareness of the detrimental effects of punishment.  Sadly though, in some quarters it still prevails and is even advocated by some and perpetuated by the media.  So what actually is the definition of ‘punishment’?, what constitutes it? What are the alternatives? Let’s take a look.

What Is Punishment?

Speaking scientifically, there are two forms of punishment – positive and negative. Let’s deal with positive punishment first. Positive punishment refers to when something is added into your pet’s world that he/she deems unpleasant.  This ‘something’ will suppress your pet’s behaviour and your pet will work to avoid it.

What Constitutes Positive Punishment?

Obvious examples are electric shock devices, physical corrections such as smacking or hitting the dog and so called ‘alpha dog’ techniques such as ear pinching, nose blowing and rolling etc.  To be effective, if we can call it that, punishment must be gradually increased over time since an animal will gradually habituate to its effects.

Punishment is not always obvious

This is a problem I often encounter. Owners I work with are sometimes horrified when it is gently pointed out that what they are actually doing is construed by the dog as positive punishment.  Nose taps delivered to a mouthing puppy are perhaps a less subtle example, but leash jerking a pulling dog, shouting at a dog for something the owner deems inappropriate, body shaping a dog into position whilst training, yanking a dog whilst pulling towards another dog or whilst jumping etc.

What’s The Problem Here? – Emotional and Physical Levels

The problem we have with punishment is multidimensional. We have the physical aspect of jerking, yanking, shocking, pulling etc. which of courses causes pain in various aspects of the dog’s body.  This may be exacerbated if the dog already has complications such as musculoskeletal disorders or skin complaints for example or is an older individual or growing puppy.  But we must also consider positive punishment at an emotional level.  Consider anthropomorphically, what would your reaction be should you be electrically shocked, hit, yanked, pushed to the floor, jerked away from something you really wanted to look at?  My guess is a mixture of emotions and feelings including anger, frustration, anxiety, fear, a good risk of aggression resulting from these last two emotions and pain.  These are not positive feelings!  This is the crux of the problem with punishment, the animal is left feeling bad to put it very simplistically.  What is very sad is that in many cases, emotional shutdown results – we call this learned helplessness.  The animal simply completely mentally and emotionally shuts down and appears to comply with the human. Most times passive posturing will be observed. Of course, the animal is not at all complying but has just lost all emotional resilience to respond in any other way – the human usually responds with glee that their techniques are working…very sad.  I recall one dog I worked with whose behaviour had progressed so far due to a near lifetime of positive punishment, it was symptomatic of post traumatic stress disorder.

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Local Enhancement and Socially Facilitated Behaviors in Dogs

PPG has posted another outstanding blog by Eileen Anderson!
If you are dog training geek, be sure to give this a read!

Three dogs lying on the grass as seen from above. It is local enhancement, imitation, or just that they agree on the best place for sun baths?

This post started out as one thing and transformed into another as I went along, as many of mine do. I have been familiar for a while with the term local enhancement for a type of social learning in dogs. I had some videos that I felt were good examples. But while researching this post and putting the clips together into a movie, I learned that the concepts and definitions were a lot less cut and dried than I thought.

This topic is up for lots of interpretation and discussion in the literature and I have found it to be underrepresented in discussions about dog behavior. I felt that at least an introduction to the subject would be helpful. I have gone with the most thorough, most recent, and most cited sources.  I am open to additional information and hope for a good discussion.

Terms and Definitions

There are several different types of socially facilitated behaviors and social learning. These are two separate terms since behaviors can be socially facilitated without subsequent learning (Heyes, 1994, p. 214). Also the types of social facilitation overlap, and more than one can be going on at the same time. Among the types are behavioral contagion, local enhancement, stimulus enhancement, observational conditioning, copying, emulation, and imitation.

I got interested in local enhancement since I was pretty sure I saw it happening with my dogs.  Like most of the other types, it involves animals performing similar behaviors as a result of observation or other perception of another animal. But it is not classified as imitation.

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Marshmallow Tests for Dogs

 
By Pam Hogle

A guide dog partner, Deni Elliott, devised a dog version of the marshmallow test for her guide dog. She administered it to her guide Alberta a few years ago. Alberta did well; she actually did many of the things that children who take the marshmallow test do — she looked away, she distracted herself. She didn’t use her toes as a piano or sing a song, but she did distract herself from temptation. In her case, temptation was a bowl full of dog cookies.

We were delighted with her response, and, accepting much of the conventional understanding of the marshmallow test, believed that it indicated strong self-restraint and the ability to delay gratification.

Alberta unfortunately had to retire last year, and Deni got a new guide, Koala. Both girls were raised and trained by Guiding Eyes, in Yorktown Heights, NY; both are bright, funny, smart Labradors.

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