by Eileen Anderson
I think I’ve figured something out.
I continue to see the concept of choice bandied about the positive reinforcement-based training world. It can be a code word for a setup that includes negative reinforcement. “I’m going to do something physically unfamiliar or unpleasant to you and you have the choice of staying here and getting a piece of food or leaving and being relieved from whatever it is I’m doing.” I’ve suggested that this is not a laudable kind of choice; as trainers we can use our skills and take our time so that the dog doesn’t want to leave in the first place.
It can also refer to human-centric preference tests, many of which are subject to extreme bias.
But here’s my new realization. I think we have grabbed hard onto the concept of choice because it seems like the opposite of force.
- Instead of pushing the dog’s butt down into a sit, I don’t. The dog now has a choice.
- Instead of restraining the dog for nail trims, I don’t. The dog now has a choice.
- Instead of pulling the dog away from the fire hydrant by his leash and collar, I let him sniff, or I give a cue for another behavior that I will strongly reinforce. He has a choice.
But there is a semantic mismatch here. Force and choice are not opposites.
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By Debbie Bauer
A common complaint among those who live with deaf (and blind/deaf) dogs is that they use their mouths roughly. This is very common throughout puppyhood and adolescence, but if dogs are not taught to use their mouths gently, this problem can extend into adulthood. Deaf dogs sometimes get a bad rap for being more aggressive than other dogs. But this is a myth. Let me tell you more …
Dogs use their mouths in many ways – when they eat, chew, play, discipline, bark, and too many more ways to list. Dogs can cause injury to humans if they are not taught to use their mouths gently and to be respectful of human skin. This means it is our responsibility to teach our dogs the behaviors that we like, such as treating our skin gently.
We cannot expect our dogs to stop using their mouths because it is a normal dog behavior. Just like when we use our hands. But just like we must learn to use our hands gently and appropriately in life, so must our puppies learn to use their mouths gently and appropriately.
Because there is a myth that deaf dogs are more likely to bite than hearing dogs, it is of utmost importance that we, as advocates for deaf dogs, make sure our dogs know how to be gentle and respectful with their mouths. It’s important that we can show others by example that deaf dogs can be safe and wonderful companions, so that more homeless deaf dogs can get adopted.
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by Pam Hogle
A few days ago, I heard a story on the radio about police dogs and their handlers. The reporter was talking to a retired police dog handler who now trains dogs and works as an expert witness. What he said was disturbing for anyone who gets stopped by a police officer-and-dog team, but, to anyone with dog training experience, sounds plausible.
What he was talking about was how common it is for the K9 handlers to miscue their dogs.
Sometimes it is conscious and intentional; the officer wants to do a search so he claims that the dog alerted. That gives him probable cause so the search is legal. That’s the idea, anyhow. This reporter said that “cops even joke about dogs being probable cause on four legs.” The trainer backs this up.
Sometimes, he says, the miscuing is unintentional — subconscious. The officer believes that there will be something to find, and he unconsciously signals this to the dog. A study done at the University of California, Davis, in 2011 tested teams on searchers where there was no contraband. The study was actually looking at the handlers’ behavior. Dogs are so attuned to their handlers — and often so eager to do what they think the person wants them to do — that they’ll signal. And the researchers found that, over and over, handlers led their dogs to alert to … nothing.
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