Reward the good, ignore the bad, is a common dog training phrase. But it's somewhat of a misunderstanding of learning theory. Learning theory tells us that animals are more likely to repeat behaviour which is rewarded (reinforced), and that unrewarded behaviour is likely to go away (known as extinction). Ignoring unwanted behaviour, however, doesn’t guarantee that it … Continue reading Reward the good, ignore the bad. Absolutely not!
Instinctive drift The preparedness of animals to seek appetitive and avoid aversive stimuli is fundamental to their ability to learn through operant conditioning (Jablonsky and DeVries, 1972). However, although operant learning has been used to train various species to perform particular behaviours, the learned behaviour may drift towards an innate species-specific behaviour. For example, Breland … Continue reading The importance of understanding an animal’s instinctive behaviour repertoire
Traditionally, dog training has been all about what the human wants or needs. For example, stay, stand, eat this, don't eat that, stand still and be groomed, accept nail trimming, come here, keep out of my way, walk at my side, stop barking, don't growl,.......................... We really are incredibly demanding of dogs. I don't think … Continue reading What dogs need!
As dog trainers, what do we think of our own abilities? I imagine that almost all dog trainers believe themselves to be, at the very least, competent. It stands to reason that we would not be training dogs if we thought otherwise. But are we all competent, or are some of us hugely overestimating our … Continue reading DON’T MISTAKE A DOG TRAINER’S CONFIDENCE FOR ABILITY
The notion that, when used correctly, choke chains, prong collars and shock collars are good options, is common. We only need to take a look around social media to see these arguments raging on a daily basis. Aren't we all just animal lovers trying to do the best for our pets? On the whole, yes, … Continue reading Are choke chains, prong collars and shock collars okay if used correctly?
I recently read that scatter feeding (scattering food around) is a bizarre fad that will teach your dog to eat everything they find and possibly kill them. So here’s what I think. I understand that this conclusion can easily be arrived at, “scatter food and they’ll eat anything on the ground”. However, let’s take a … Continue reading Scatter Feeding: Are you killing your dog?
We see the argument put forward frequently that our dogs actually prefer to work for food rather than getting food for free. At first look, this seems illogical. Why would any animal choose a path of work and effort rather than a path of freebies? Foraging, hunting, and seeking are innate behaviours which are surely … Continue reading Contrafreeloading: Why animals may prefer to work for food
I tend to struggle with the concept of behavioural extinction. Despite its place in many textbooks and journals, it doesn't sit well in my mind. A note for the non training theory geeks: In this context, punishment simply means to reduce the likelihood of something reoccurring, negative means to take something away, and environment refers … Continue reading Extinction, really? is it?
There has long been discussion over the ability of dogs to feel guilt, but what is guilt? Guilt is a feeling of regret that you have acted in a way which doesn't fit your morals and goes against your own ethical values. Ethical and moral values are constantly changing along with society. For example, particular … Continue reading Do dogs feel guilt?
Dogs love to sniff; hardly a revelation I know but just think about it for a moment. Dogs really really love to sniff. It's compulsive, it's innate, it's part of what they are, they're furry, sniffy, wagging machines. They sniff anything and everything. Sniffing is largely how they evaluate the world around them. They sniff … Continue reading Let Them Sniff.