Choke Collar Pathology

 

by Daniel Antolec

Recently I persuaded a local pet supply store owner to sell me all his choke collars (at cost) and refrain from restocking them, in return for recommendations for safe body harnesses such as Perfect Fit and Balance. He was persuaded by data I presented to him about the pathology of choke collars.“I never knew they hurt dogs, and only carried them because people asked for them.”

Credit: Anne Corless and Dog Games Ltd. (UK)

Credit: Anne Corless and Dog Games Ltd. (UK)

I never knew either, years ago when I went to a trainer seeking help with my Labrador, Jake.  She told me to use a choke collar. Neither Jake or I liked the choke collar, it never helped in any way, and I quickly put it away.

Pet owners cannot be expected to know about the harmful consequences of using equipment unless they are informed.

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Do Dogs Use Tools?


by Pam Hogle

More than fifty years ago, Jane Goodall made a discovery that shook some scientists — particularly those that had long lists of all the things that made humans unique and superior to nonhumans. She saw Chimpanzees using tools.

Since then, other researchers have found other nonhumans using tools, from dolphins who use sponges to protect their beaks to elephants using tools to scratch itches, reach food, and plug water holes. Even crows use tools. But, as far as I know, no researchers have studied whether dogs use tools.

I’d argue that Koala, a guide dog educated at Guiding Eyes for the Blind in Yorktown Heights, New York, uses tools.

Koala had a problem. When she tried to chew on her antler, it would move. Sometimes it would slip out of her paws — oh, if only she had thumbs — and skitter across the floor. She loved the noise it made (especially when Deni was on the phone), but it was not efficient. She wanted to chew.

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If You’re Loving It, Why Leave?

 

by Eileen Anderson

Is “choice” a code word for negative reinforcement?

It can be. Seems like that’s the context where I see it pop up the most.

I’ve written a lot about choice. Two of my major points are:

  1. Many people are confused about using choice as an antecedent vs. a consequence; and
  2. People are rarely referring to choices between positive reinforcers when they write about their animals having a choice.

But here’s another thing that gets under my skin. These days it seems like many people who use the language of choice to describe their training are referring to the fact that they permit the animal to leave as relief from a difficult task. For instance, in a husbandry session, the dog may receive a food reinforcer for cooperative behavior. That constitutes positive reinforcement if we see cooperative behavior (usually staying still or focusing on something) increase or maintain. 1) The dog is allowed to leave as often as she wants. The session starts back up if she returns. The leaving constitutes negative reinforcement if we see leaving increase or maintain. But remember: escape is only a reinforcer if the activity is unpleasant.

Letting the dog leave is a good thing. But there is a big drawback if it is planned on as an expected response and built into a protocol.

Building escape behavior into a protocol can provide a disincentive to the human to make the process as pleasant for the dog as possible. Rather than working harder to create a situation where the dog doesn’t want to leave, the trainer can focus on saying that the dog is “empowered” by the ability to leave. On the contrary, some trainers, including myself, consider a dog repeatedly leaving as evidence that we have not worked hard enough at making the experience pleasant.  It’s a failure, not a goal. It means we didn’t set up our antecedents and graduated exposures well enough.Text: What does true free choice look like in a husbandry session? I tried it. My dogs LOVED it.

Forced vs. Free Choice

I have written about forced and free choice before. Forced choice applies to our husbandry example. The dog can stick with the session and get food or another appetitive stimulus, or the dog can leave. Leaving usually leads to an environment that is bare of other positive reinforcers, or has very weak ones. We deliberately set things up that way as an incentive for the dog to stick with the session. There is no shame in that. Controlling other reinforcers is a part of positive reinforcement-based training … Read more >

We are ALWAYS training

 

Kay Laurence is a master trainer who points out the obvious in this blog: We are always training our dogs no matter what we are doing. Happy reading!

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by Kay Laurence

We are always training because animals are always learningI had not really considered the props we use as significant objects for the dogs when competing in a ring or training environment. We are aware of using bedding or crates to give the dogs a sense of security, but our props can change the unfamiliar ring environment into something familiar – provided they have a really good history of reinforcement, carefully trained.

I love cross learning! Both Alex and I spend hours closely examining perfectly normal protocols in each of our own areas of training but are refreshingly new viewpoints of looking at training. In this blog Jen Digate clearly shows that for horses away from their herd has a different response than for dogs.

We always have to be considerate when training the dogs at the Barn. Our usual practice, certainly for play, is individual training for each dog one after the other – this gives everyone a chance to have the whole barn, without the worry of watching dogs, or the stress caused to watching dogs.

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A Positive Outlook on Canine Aggression

by Anna Francesca Bradley

Photo (c) CanStock Photo

Reactivity indicates a dog is not comfortable in a given situation. Photo (c) CanStock Photo

Reactivity indicates a dog is not comfortable in a given situation. Photo (c) CanStock Photo

It usually starts when I receive a call from a distressed client who informs me that their dog is, or has, suddenly turned ‘aggressive.’ They tell me their dog has ‘challenged’ them in some way: baring teeth, snarling, growling or may have even bitten (with various degrees of severity). Then, when I first meet with that client, they are usually in quite a state because they think their whole mutual loving and trusting relationship with their dog has been shattered, their dog has flipped personality. Some even feel scared of their canine friend.

Think Reactivity Not Aggression

One of the very first steps I take with clients is to replace the word ‘aggression’ with reactivity. Aggression is a big scary word with lots of negative associations. There are multiple forms of aggression and the very mention of it conjures numerous abhorrent mental images and essentially brands the dog.  Reactivity says ‘okay, my dog is uncomfortable in a specific situation, let’s do something about that’ – there are less pessimistic associations concerning that word.

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