eileenanddogs

Month: December 2012

10 Years with Cricket

10 Years with Cricket

Cricket
Cricket in 2009

Happy Gotcha Day!

On December 29, 2002, 10 years ago today, I drove 100 miles east to meet Cricket’s foster family from RatBone Rescues at a McDonald’s parking lot. She was the most beautiful little rat terrier I had ever seen. They had already gotten very attached to her and there were tears from them and whimpering from her when they passed her over to me. I had a crate in the car but left her loose in the front seat with me (this was 10 years ago). After about 10 minutes of crying and restless behavior from her, she came over and crawled into my lap as I drove and stayed there for the duration of the drive. She had thrown in her lot with me.

When I got home I took her straight to the back yard. She went to the bathroom and it was a little messy. She crept over to me and let me wipe her butt with a kleenex. In that moment she became my dog forever more. I had thrown in my lot with her.

I had picked a middle aged dog as a potential companion for my 10 year old male rattie and because I wanted to give an older dog a chance. I had been cruising the online rescue pages. I kept going back to Cricket. She looked so demure. (What a joke!) She is the only dog I have ever “shopped” for. All my other dogs, wonderful as they all are, have ended up on my doorstep without my having much of a voice in it. I thought I was picking her for Gabriel. Turns out she disliked him, as she always disliked any competitor for my attention. So Gabriel, bless his heart, didn’t really get a friend. But I did.

The vet said she was in solid middle age, about 6 or 7 years old. Although rat terriers are known to be long lived, I never imagined we could be together for 10 years! But we have.

Here is the story of our years together in pictures. If you click on one, you can click through them all in a slide show.

After looking at these together, it seems to me that it might paint a picture of a quiet, sedentary dog. That was surely not the case. I just tended to take a lot pictures when she was in bed or at least sitting still. Here is a short training video that shows neither me nor my filming skills (slightly improved since then) in a good light, but you can get an idea of her high energy.

In all the training videos I took of Summer for many years, you can hear Cricket demand barking in the background. “My turn, my turn!”

Tough pushy feisty stalwart heart dog.

For more posts about Cricket, see

 

Also two other YouTube videos:

Upcoming topics:

Visit eileenanddogs on YouTube

Zen Generalization: Hole in the Fence

Zen Generalization: Hole in the Fence

Snowy face Zani
Zani after playing in the snow

Sue Ailsby points out the Zen is one behavior that dogs tend to generalize well:

Leave It for all manner of toddler Zen situations…; Leave It nicely gets my dogs out of the front hall when we have visitors; Leave It helps us avoid a fight at the dog park as my dog heads for another dog’s ball; Leave It says “Stop paying attention to that cue hunky Doberman and pay attention to me!” –Training Levels, p. 441-442

It turns out that Leave It (my verbal signal is “Pas”) also means, “Don’t even think of continuing down that fallen tree trunk and jumping down on the wrong side of the ex pen so you can go through the hole that the root ball left under the fence and visit the neighbor’s yard!”

It even means it when I am 20 feet away and up a flight of steps! Good girl, Zani!

And if you’re wondering why I didn’t just call her, it’s because the ex pen fence was between us. I didn’t know what kind of confusion that could engender. So I cued Zen, talked her back the way she came, and gave her a hand signal to go around the ex pen. Life is good!

Thanks for reading and watching!

Upcoming topics:

Visit eileenanddogs on YouTube

Dog Faming 2: Their Gifts to Us

Dog Faming 2: Their Gifts to Us

Clara made a leap of faith when she was 10 weeks old
Feral Clara made a leap of faith: coming in my front door when she was 10 weeks old

Who knew that four photos and five short paragraphs would be my most popular blog post so far? I didn’t start Dog Faming but I hope I have done a little bit to promulgate it. I think its time has come!

I first read about Faming on Caninestein’s FaceBook page, which has a photo contest. They have a lovely theme for December: Our dogs’ greatest gifts to us. This is not a training brag or challenge. It is a way to express pure love and appreciation for our dogs.

I found this one harder to do than the previous one. It was so hard to choose, for each of my four dogs, just one thing. I am grateful to them for so much. And it’s more of a photographic challenge, too.  Can we portray their lovely qualities? Sometimes, but it was a lot harder for me than photographing a trick.

I hope to see some more of these out there. Here are my contributions.

Summer has been patient with me throughout my learning process
Summer, my crossover dog, has been patient with me throughout my learning process
Zani always looks for the fun in life
Zani always looks for the fun in life

Ah, little Cricket. I was tempted to just write, “Herself” on the sign. Just coming to be my doggie was such a gift. She has brought so much in such a small package.

Cricket is the most stalwart and courageous dog I know
Cricket is the most stalwart and courageous dog I know

Yes, even tough girls need a lot of sleep when they get older. And you try getting a good photo of an awake dog with dementia sometime…maybe I’ll publish the outtakes one of these days.

Thanks for reading! And go fame your dogs!  Caninestein is asking for more entries.

Upcoming topics:

Visit eileenanddogs on YouTube

Classical Conditioning: Creating a Positive Response to Barking

Classical Conditioning: Creating a Positive Response to Barking

Tan dog sucking spray cheese out of the can
Thrilling photo of classical conditioning in action

Classical conditioning examples of dogs and other animals on YouTube are rare. And there’s a reason. It’s because the process is generally comparable to watching grass grow. The creature being conditioned isn’t necessarily doing anything. The action is often off camera. And you have to do many repetitions to see any results.

You could make a 2 minute video of shaping your dog to blow bubbles in a bowl of water and that is fun and impressive. Lots of action, and look how fast the dog learns! It might go viral. Or you could show your dog doing nothing at all while you feed her because the doorbell is ringing. I’m betting it won’t go viral, but one can always hope. Here’s an exciting picture of classical conditioning in action.

I seem to have a knack for stumbling into these weird little holes in the Internet video world. I like filling them with videos. After I published The Barking Recall, several people asked me to show how I taught Clara to lick her chops, wag her tail, and look for treats instead of joining in when Summer barked. I figured I’d give it a try, boring or not.

Small tan puppy with black muzzle and tail looking up at camera
Clara on the day she arrived (about 10 weeks old)

The process can be summed up in one sentence. Starting when Clara was a puppy, every time Summer barked, no matter what Clara was doing, I gave her her favorite treat:  canned cheese.

The process is pretty straightforward. There are two important factors though: timing and consistency.

The timing is that the treat has to come after the event. That sounds easy, but in the real world it can get tricky. If you are conditioning your dog to some visual event, say the appearance of a silent scary monster, if you see it first and start scrabbling for the food, your dog’s experience can be seriously messed up. To her the food starts coming, then the scary monster appears, instead of the other way around. Food predicts monster.  If you do that enough times your dog could end up getting worried whenever you reach for a treat and still be scared of the monster. Not good. But in our case, since I wasn’t likely to know before Clara that Summer was barking, I didn’t have any problems like that.

The other factor, consistency, can be hard if you work outside of the home. To convert a neutral or scary thing to a good thing by associating it with other good things, you have to provide them virtually every time the event happens, at least at first. That’s why I have never tried to condition Summer out of her fear of delivery trucks. For her to learn that the sound of delivery trucks on the street predicts wonderful things, I would have to be there to provide the wonderful things a large majority of the time. Poor Summer; I just can’t prevent the trucks from coming when I am at work, or take enough weeks off to be there every time.

Again, I was lucky with Clara, in that I was home a lot when she was a puppy, and that I could separate her from Summer when I was not home.

A few other things bear mentioning.

First, note that I am referring to classical conditioning, not counter conditioning. Counter conditioning is when you perform this same process on an animal who already has a negative emotional reaction to the event (like Summer and loud trucks, or Zani and the elliptical exercise machine).  The process is the same, but even more attention must be seminar about counterconditioning aggression in dogs, there is Kathy Sdao’s Cujo Meets Pavlov: Classical Conditioning for On-Leash Aggression DVD set.

I had the great fortune to start conditioning Clara when she was a puppy, so I had a blank slate. She was certainly attentive when another dog barked, but she was too little to join in a barking frenzy, which was the otherwise inevitable behavior I was aiming to prevent.

Another issue that commonly pops up in discussions of classical conditioning is concerns about accidentally performing operant conditioning instead. Once we humans learn about operant conditioning, it’s hard to understand why classical can trump it. Case in point: what if Clara was chewing on Zani or peeing on the carpet right when Summer was barking and I gave her her canned cheese? Cringe. Who wants to do that? Aren’t we reinforcing the biting or peeing? In general, no. Here’s why. Let’s say Summer barked 50 times during a week and I gave Clara canned cheese each time. During each one of those times she was doing something, even if it was just sleeping. But it was a variety of things. During one of those times she was biting Zani. During another she was peeing on the carpet. So she got 50 pairings of Summer barking and cheese, but only one of biting and cheese and one of peeing and cheese. And the barking/cheese relationship still existed even when she herself was biting or peeing. So she is well on her way to learning that Summer barking predicts cheese, no matter what she herself is doing. That will trump the individual behaviors she is performing.

For fun, here is a link to an entertaining video of a Psych project where a man transforms a neutral event, the sound of a cow mooing, into a predictor that he will turn off the TV that his children are watching. He is conditioning a negative emotional response to the mooing sound. You can watch the short video and realize that what the children are doing when the moo sound happens is irrelevant. Even though something bad happens, what they are doing at the time does not get punished. The consistency of the TV going off after the mooing sound makes that the relevant pairing, and it doesn’t involve the children’s behavior.

Finally, here’s some clarification about what the classical response actually is. Classical conditioning is also called respondent conditioning. The internal changes we are seeking have to do with involuntary, respondent behaviors. Sneezing, startling, drooling, or experiencing an emotion are all things that happen without our volition. So if we are conditioning with food, we are aiming for a gustatory response. That means the body is preparing to eat, which causes hormonal chain reactions and preparation of the relevant organs and body systems. This response is mostly internal and invisible.

So how do we know if it is happening? Pavlov was lucky he had dogs, because many of them visibly drool in anticipation of food. If he had been using, say, lizards, would we know about respondent conditioning today?

What if you have a dog who doesn’t drool? Or perhaps the dog is having the gustatory response but not quite to the level that would cause drool. We can extrapolate that the invisible internal response is occurring from the operant responses that we do see. Clara now runs to me, wagging her tail, when Summer barks. Those are operant behaviors that are extremely unlikely to occur consistently without there having been some trigger other than the barking. They are not a common response to a barking dog. But they are likely caused by the conditioning, and pretty reliable indicators of it. In Clara’s case, even licking her chops is operant, but it is a direct result of the commencement of salivation.

So here’s my video on the method of pairing barking and wonderful treats. I hope it is more interesting than watching grass grow.

SPOILER ALERT: At the end of the video I test Clara’s response on camera when I am not home and someone impersonates the mailman. Both dogs hear the person on the porch. Summer immediately barks and continues to do so. Clara jumps to her feet in her crate and stands there, listening. She does not bark. Neither does she drool and wag her tail. But I am pleased with her response. Someone coming up on the front porch is a event a dog would normally pay attention to and I’m glad she did. She was extremely attentive, but she did not get into a frenzied state or “catch” Summer’s barking. I think this is likely due to the conditioning and its result that she never practices that behavior when I am home. Without the automatic barking and arousal, she was able to make an assessment (anthropomorphically speaking) that the sound of the mailman was the same as it is every day, and it has never predicted anything bad.

And in case you’re wondering: this conditioning did not inhibit Clara’s barking in response to various events that she herself finds alarming or exciting. There are plenty of those episodes. The conditioning just inhibits her from joining in contagious, group barking.

If you didn’t see my post The Barking Recall, you might want to check it out now. It features a video that shows how barking eventually became a trigger for Clara to check in with me, even when I am out of sight, and how it helped create Clara’s strong recall.

Thanks for reading!

Upcoming topics:

Play with Your Dog: For Research

Play with Your Dog: For Research

Clara flirtpole waiting

Alexandra Horowitz and her Dog Cognition Lab are investigating play between dogs and people. So was there ever a more fun way to participate in a research study?

Clara flirt pole still

For those who aren’t familiar with Dr. Horowitz, she wrote a great book called “Inside of a Dog.” She is also the one who authored the study that demonstrated that dogs’ appeasement behaviors after being scolded have no relationship to whether they did the deed in question.

So here’s the link to the new research study on play. Let’s all flock on over there and submit videos!

Dog-human Play Study

The hard part for me was choosing what game to play. But Clara’s current passion for the flirtpole is such fun, even though our releases need a little work. Ahem.

Our submission is below. There’s a time limit of 60 seconds, so that’s why it ends pretty abruptly. It was actually our 5th session of the day. I had cut my head out of the first several takes. She is moving more slowly by this time, but still In the Game for sure.

I hope lots of people participate. I can’t wait to see what comes of the study.

Imminent post: Classical Conditioning: Creating a Positive Response to Barking

ADDENDUM, 12/20/12

At the request of a couple of friends, here is more of Clara with the flirtpole. This is a session earlier in the day than the one we sent to Dr. Horowitz’ study, and Clara is very very excited. She also outsmarts me to get the toy back.

Enjoy!

Is It Really Just a Tap? Shock Collar Training Explained

Is It Really Just a Tap? Shock Collar Training Explained

Holding down the button on a shock collar remote

Shock collar trainers have several names for the shocks that they administer through the collar. A tap. A stim. A nick. A page. Static. Application of pressure.  It sounds like something short and relatively benign.

Even the word “shock,” although it has much more negative connotations (which is why shock collar trainers usually don’t use the word), sounds like something brief. If you get a shock from scuffing your feet on the carpet then touching metal, it is unpleasant but over in milliseconds.

What many people don’t realize is that in many types of shock collar training, the electric shock is on for much longer periods. In the initial training sessions it is turned on and left on until the dog figures out, sometimes with very little effective information from the trainer, what she is supposed to do to get it to turn off.

Here is what that training can look like. (This video uses a stuffed dog as a demo.) Since with many actual shock training videos you can’t tell when the shock is applied and how long it lasts, I have shown that pictorially in the video.

This method uses what is called negative reinforcement. Negative reinforcement is in play whenever you are trying to get an animal to do something by using something painful or uncomfortable. (This is in contrast to positive punishment, which is used to get the dog to stop doing something. Shock training is used for that, too.) When a shock collar is used in negative reinforcement training, the shock is turned on, and left on, until the dog does the desired behavior. Some common applications are for recalls, crate training, platform training, and taking and holding a retrieve item. Negative reinforcement is also called “escape and avoidance” training. In this case the animal is working to escape or avoid the shock.

Science tells us there are two ways to get repeated behavior. One is to add something the dog likes after she does it. (Dog sits, and gets a treat.) The other is to take away something the dog doesn’t like after she does it. The handler pinches a dog’s ear until she grabs and holds the dumbbell in her mouth, then the handler releases the ear. There is no “neutral” way to get behavior to repeat. Behavior is driven by consequences. If you don’t see something either pleasant or aversive influencing the dog’s behavior in a training session, you haven’t looked hard enough. (Hint: it’s usually not praise.)

So when the shock collar trainers say that the shock doesn’t hurt–that’s not true.  During the initial training period, it must be painful, uncomfortable, or frightening, or it wouldn’t work. It has to have some unpleasant feeling that is robust enough to get the dog to work to make it stop. An example of a dog exhibiting absolute misery during his first session with a shock trainer is on my page Shock Training Session Video Analysis.

It’s true that after the initial stages of training, the shocks can be shorter and at a lower level. Sometimes just having the dog wear the collar, or using the vibration function only is enough to get compliance. Being trained with shock leaves a history of pain and discomfort behind it.  And the possibility of it never goes away as long as the dog is wearing the collar. The dog understands this from experience, because she has already learned the consequence of not responding immediately. The consequence is pain. As Kelly Blackwell, a well known shock trainer, describes the dog’s understanding of shock collar training: “If I don’t do it, they can and will make me do it.” You can see her videos on my Shock Collar Training vs Force Free Video Examples page.

It is even possible to manipulate collars so the dog doesn’t know which collar delivers a shock. A trainer can thus get compliance from a dog who is not even wearing a shock collar. Also if the dog associates the shock with the trainer, the dog may comply without wearing the collar. In both of these cases, the threat of shock is still there to the dog.

That is how you train behaviors with a shock collar. Leave the shock on until the dog complies, then release it when she does. If that level of shock does not work, raise to a more painful level.  Once the dog understands how the system works, most dogs will comply at lower levels of pain or just the threat in order to avoid the escalation.

Video Comparison

One of the advantages claimed by shock trainers is that their dogs can be off leash.   Which of these dogs in the following videos appears to be enjoying his freedom more: the one who just learned to come when called because otherwise he will be shocked, or the one trained force free, doing a long distance recall, and who was called away from sniffing, to boot? Watch the body language.

“Dog training using remote training collar by BigLeash”

(This is not a stuffed dog but a real beagle being trained, in case you would rather not watch. The actual training starts at about 1:40. )

“Stanley, come!”

(Beagle/rat terrier mix trained without force, doing two quick, responsive, happy recalls)

More Comparison and Analysis

Three new resources:

Shock Collar Training vs Force Free Video Examples. This is a resource page that contrasts videos of dogs being trained with shock and videos of training the same or similar behaviors force free.

Shock Training Session Video Analysis. Some very generous trainers from the Observation Skills for Dog Training FaceBook group helped me do a second by second observational listing of the body language of a dog undergoing his first shock training session. There is also analysis and commentary on the training techniques used.

Training Your Dog with a Shock Collar: How Will You Decide? An article written for a lay audience in plain language on the risks and damage caused by shock collar use. There are links to scholarly resources and statements by credentialed experts to back up the statements made.

Thanks for reading. Please pass this along to anyone who may be considering using shock or hiring a shock trainer because they have heard that the shock is “just like a tap on the shoulder.”

Upcoming topics:

Theme: Overlay by Kaira Extra Text
Cape Town, South Africa