eileenanddogs

Month: June 2013

We Don’t Need to Stop Discussing “The Quadrants”

We Don’t Need to Stop Discussing “The Quadrants”

Every so often, in the midst of a discussion about operant learning,  someone will write,

The quadrants* don’t matter. Talking about the quadrants just confuses people and makes them pay more attention to theory than what is going on in front of them. To be truly humane we need to pay attention to the individual dogs and how they react to each teaching method.

I really wonder about that.

Of course the dog is the arbiter of what is pleasant and what is aversive and to what degree. But how good are most people at reading dogs, really? How many pictures and videos can you find on the Internet in 30 seconds that look roughly like the one below?

Head shot of handsome young man smiling with his eyes closed and holding a dog (black and rust; perhaps a min pin) with their heads very close. Dog's ears are back, mouth is tight, and it does not look happy.The background appears to be a swimming pool. The photo appears "slick" and staged and is titled, "True Friends."
Public Domain Image of Unhappy Dog Being Held Too Close By a Human

[If you are new to the blog or new to the concepts or nomenclature of operant learning, you may just want to skip down to the movie. It is an example of what I will be discussing here: using theory to inform our practice. It is particularly geared towards folks to whom the theory is new. Or if you really want to go for it, here is a whole post, including a video, that gives examples of all the processes of operant learning.]

Setting up “the quadrants” and observation of the dog as exclusive from one another is a false dichotomy. That is a rhetorical fallacy that implies that there are only two choices when there are actually more, or implies that two choices are mutually exclusive. It doesn’t have to be either or, folks, and I will put forth that that attitude can be harmful.

Learning theory and dog body language observation inform each other. Why encourage people to depend on just one and not the other? Why leave a gap in people’s understanding about the processes of learning, certain ones of which have been shown repeatedly in research and real life to have undesirable side effects?

I know that many pet owners who have hired trainers look at them like they have two heads if they start speaking about learning theory. I get that. Clients often just want a method to solve the problem. But when someone is eager to learn and serious about working with their dog, I think it’s a disservice not to share the nuts and bolts of how animals and humans learn. And it’s a disservice to discourage Internet discussions about the processes of learning. Yes, I know they can be tiresome. But just like with any other aspect of humane training, there are always people new to the subject who can benefit.

The more I see people objecting to “the quadrants”, the more I notice that most of them are attempting to veil their use of less humane techniques.

Here are the two main reasons I think teaching people about the processes of operant learning is important:

  1. Generalization of a behavior is one of the steps to fluency. One of our ongoing goals with dogs is to help them generalize. So I hope that trainers and teachers would want to help their human students generalize as well. With the humans it’s not only about generalizing behaviors, but about learning concepts and generalizing them as well. Studying the processes of learning and recognizing and naming them helps with this. If negative punishment in one situation stressed my dog out, wouldn’t I want to keep a special eye out for other negative punishment scenarios? Why would I not want that conceptual assistance?
  2. I also know from painful personal experience, and observation of, like, all of YouTube, that reading the body language of a dog and getting past one’s own assumptions is a difficult and time-consuming task. It’s easy for an experienced trainer to say, “Just look at the dog.” But can all students really do that and perceive what the dog is saying? I don’t think my observation skills are below average, but I gotta say, it took me lots less time to get the basics of operant learning processes than it did to learn to read dogs well. I’m still working very hard on that. Being informed by the theory about what kinds of situations to look out for can really make a difference for anyone who is  learning to observe and learning the language.

There was a video making semi-viral rounds on the clicker training community recently, often accompanied by comments like, “The power of positive reinforcement!” The video has an adorable, tiny young Yorkie with a bow in her hair doing all sorts of tricks. I saw it posted on a list of thousands of people, and not one person spoke up to discuss the stress signals the dog seemed to be throwing. (Not to mention that some of the tricks might have been physically too demanding for a pup.) Perhaps people were just being polite. I didn’t say anything myself because I had dealt with enough controversy that week, sigh. But the dog did not appear delighted with the training interaction at all.

I’m not linking to the video here, but will send a link privately to any curious folk who make a request through email (sidebar) or a comment.

It sure confirms my doubts about the advisability of just having everybody depend on “watching the dog.”

Examples

The following two stories are true. They both happened to me. One tells how my observation of dog body language led me to analyze and classify the reason for my dog’s stress. After the classification I could be alert to other similarly stressful situations. The other example tells how being informed of what quadrant/process I was using made me question a decision I had made, gain more empathy for my dog, and change my behavior. My (beginner) knowledge of learning processes helped in both cases.

Example #1: From Body Language To Learning and Generalization

My puppy Clara has always loved doing stuff with me and has great attention and a great work ethic. However, I have noticed that shaping can be quite stressful for her. I even wrote a post about shaping and stress. I started thinking about why it might be so. I realized that with my imperfect skills, the changing of criteria was hard on her. Riding the little extinction trails where one version of something ceases to be marked and reinforced and another behavior is desired was quite hard for her.

In the photos, Clara is doing a fast counterclockwise circle, which is a default stress behavior for her. Ironically, the behavior we were working on was, “Relax.” (We’re doing a lot better with that now.)

Clara circle 1
Clara circling during a shaping session (1)
Clara circle 3
Clara circling during a shaping session (2)

I have since learned more about shaping and know that if it’s done with careful manipulation of the environment like Skinner suggested and the great trainers can do, there can be much less of this type of stress. I like to think that my skills have improved. Clara has also grown up a little, and doesn’t think the world will end when she doesn’t get clicked.

But my realization that extinction in shaping was hard on Clara made me both more empathetic to her situation and also proactive in avoiding extinction in other scenarios. Her stressed body language made me analyze the cause of the stress, and being able to put a term to it allowed me to learn more about it and look for similar problems in other situations.

(Extinction is not one of the four operant learning processes that people call the quadrants. Extinction is when a behavior that has been previously reinforced ceases to get reinforcement. It is a process that can happen with both operantly learned and classically conditioned behavior. What’s important for my point is that it is a learning method that is often under my control and that I can choose whether or not to employ, and one that can definitely be stressful.)

Example #2: From Quadrants to Empathy

Early in my life with my dog Zani I picked her up and carried her into a public place. She is very friendly and immediately started to struggle to get me to put her down. Since I was just learning about reinforcement, and had learned that what you reinforce is what you get, I decided to hold onto her until she stopped. I didn’t want to positively reinforce her struggling by giving her immediately what she wanted. She finally stopped, I waited a few seconds, then put her down.

I mentioned this episode to my teacher, who said, ah yes, you used negative reinforcement instead! Up until that moment it had not trickled into my head that I had been using a mild aversive. Zani did not want to be held. She was struggling to get away. I not only hung onto her but I had tightened my grip until she figured out that struggling wouldn’t work. (There could be an element of positive punishment in here as well. But the duration of the tight grip, and the requirement for Zani to come up with a different behavior to escape it, even if the behavior was relaxing her body–these indicate that the major process was that of negative reinforcement.)

I grew up spending a lot of time in the country and was around a fair number of small animals and farm animals. Holding or holding down a struggling animal with force was just something you took for granted. You had to do it sometimes “for their own good” and it was something I was absolutely comfortable with.  I was 50 years old before I realized that there are things you can do to help prevent you and your animal from getting into this situation in the first place, and ways you can give them more of a say about things. And it was in part because my teacher reminded me of the different processes of operant learning. This led to empathy for Zani on my part, and for me not only to work on that specific situation but to be more aware of the negative reinforcement moments in the future.

Education about Learning Theory

Here is an example of the kind of thing that I believe can be helpful. This is a video I made that demonstrates what negative reinforcement can look like, and shows the same behavior trained with negative reinforcement vs positive reinforcement. It is a modest attempt at linking the theory, practice, and dog body language.

I’d be interested to know what the rest of you think. Can we train humanely without knowing learning theory? For me, the theory definitely helps.

Four quadrants of operant conditioning
Four quadrants of operant conditioning

*NOTE “The quadrants” is not optimal nomenclature in learning theory. I use the term throughout this piece because that is how the argument is almost always stated, and people might not know what I was talking about otherwise. Better nomenclature is “the processes of operant learning.” “The quadrants” is just a description of the shape of the diagram they fit in, as Dr. Susan Friedman points out.

Thanks for reading!

Coming up:

Eileenanddogs on YouTube

But We Don’t Give Our Kids a Cookie Every Time they Tie Their Shoes!

But We Don’t Give Our Kids a Cookie Every Time they Tie Their Shoes!

Here’s another remark often addressed to reinforcement based trainers, sometimes in a mocking tone, sometimes seriously:

A woman's hand is suspended over a clear glass cookie jar. The jar is full of Vanilla Wafers, a small, disc shaped light brown cookie. The hand is holding a cookie (has just pulled one out of the jar). But we don’t give our kids a cookie every time they tie their shoes or pay them a nickel every time they say thank you!

The writer often further implies that to do that with children would be the worst sort of bribery, indulgence, and permissive parenting (and-by-the-way-it’s-responsible-for-all-the-current-evils-of-society). And we’re being just as weak willed when training our dogs!

But the “cookie” objection is so easy to address. Continue reading “But We Don’t Give Our Kids a Cookie Every Time they Tie Their Shoes!”

Crossing Over

Crossing Over

A small dog, a black and white rat terrier with very large ears that stand up, is running towards the side of a human (you can see only the human's pant leg. The dog's mouth is open, her foot is raised in mid stride, and she looks excited and happy.
Cricket performing a recall in a training session after I crossed over

I am a crossover trainer, and we tend to like to tell our stories.

“Crossing over,” and “crossover trainer” refer to a trainer who switched from punishment based, or mixed training that included aversives, to training that is centered around positive reinforcement and avoids force, pain, and actions intended to “dominate” the dog.

I have written the story of my transformation, and Ines Gaschot is graciously hosting it at her blog, “The Crossover Trainer.” She has lots of interesting crossover stories over there as well as many other lovely blog posts. I hope you’ll not only go over and read mine, but check out the rest of her blog and website too if you haven’t already.

So here is how to get to my crossover story, complete with an embarrassing picture of Summer and me graduating from our first obedience class in 2006. (She didn’t much like the mortarboard.)

Crossing Over: A Pet Owner’s Story

Thanks for reading!

Coming up:

Eileenanddogs on YouTube

The Ex-Pen Garden

The Ex-Pen Garden

How about something light and pleasant to get ready for the weekend!

One of my life goals has always been to have a big vegetable garden. And when I got my own place I did it.

These are low res photos because hey, it was 2001. Scroll over an individual photo for the caption. Click it to enlarge (a little). See the nifty little fence my friend designed and helped me build?

That was my garden in 2001. I expanded it in 2004.

My garden in 2004
My garden in 2004 with a cameo by Gabriel, my late rat terrier mix

But all that was before I had agile dogs. Summer and Zani could both happily jump the fence but I left it there and did garden some. Then this happened.

Link for email subscribers.

That’s 11-week old Clara climbing a fence made of chicken wire and PVC, inserting her little paws in the holes in the chicken wire. I pulled the fence down the next day, since it had gone from useless to dangerous.

As a formerly feral puppy, Clara had all sorts of unexpected skills which she demonstrated with confidence.

So now my garden looks like this. I.e., mostly fallow and overgrown except a couple of leftover herbs and perennials, and being used as a dog playground.

My non garden in 2013
My non garden in 2013

Kind of like a weedy desert out there….

But this year I realized something. Exercise pens can keep dogs out as well as keep them in. Voila: the Ex-Pen Garden.

Ex pen with dogs outside, plants inside!
Ex pen with dogs outside, plants inside!
Introducing the Ex-Pen Garden!
I can cover it easily when hardening off plants
Ex-Pen Garden showing baby pepper plants
There they are:  baby pepper plants

I’ve got five hot pepper plants in there now: a jalapeño, a poblano, a serrano, and two habaneros, and a basil plant. Plus I have another ex-pen. I can expand! It was REALLY nice to plant something!

Of course what has created a decent barrier for dogs (two of them really could jump it but so far are not motivated to try) has turned out to be a magnet for the neighborhood cats. More on that in a future post.

Release the hounds!
Release the hounds! (That was a 50 foot group stay, in case you thought there was no training in this post!)

Thanks for viewing! Coming up:

Eileenanddogs on YouTube

But It’s Unhealthy to Protect Your Dog from All Stress!

But It’s Unhealthy to Protect Your Dog from All Stress!

Not all training sessions are stressful
Not all training sessions are stressful

“But it’s unhealthy to protect your dog from everything! If you do that, it’s just like overprotecting your child. They won’t be able to cope with the real world!”

This is another one of the criticisms one often reads about force-free training. It is generally presented by someone advocating the use of aversives in training. They’ve found another reason to say training with pain is necessary. They can say it’s all for the future good of the dog!

What is Stress?

The question of stress is one that I have given some careful consideration to. Stress has many definitions, but here are a few pertinent ones:

“A physical, chemical, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension and may be a factor in disease causation.”–Merriam-Webster online

“The non-specific response of the body to any demand for change.”–Hans Selye, 1936, the Hungarian endocrinologist who coined the word.

(Selye also coined the word eustress: “Stress that is healthy or gives you a sense of fulfillment.”)

Is Stress OK At All?

Clearly stress is a serious deal, but maybe not all bad. I believe:

  • little stress can be beneficial to learning; and
  • the optimal amount of stress for learning varies inversely with the difficulty of the task.

How to Use this Information About Stress

If little bit of stress can sometimes be a good thing, how on earth would you do that in a humane way? In the first place, not with positive punishment or negative reinforcement. That means not by hurting, scaring, or pressuring your dog if they make a mistake or to get them to do the “right” thing.

Introducing aversives into training as a way of preparing the student for the real world doesn’t make sense. That’s like deciding, “I want my kids to be able to cope with the real world, so I’m going to pinch them whenever they make a mistake doing their math homework.” 

Huh? I really hope that’s not the type of world you’re planning for your child or dog. As strange as our world may be, that’s not something that happens very often. (Plus, way to go! Isn’t your kid going to just LOVE math now!) Much more often, if your daughter grows up to use math in her job, the difficulty will come if she has to do it while 1) the person in the next cube in her office is playing music; 2) her boss just fussed at her; or 3) she has a sick kid at home.

Now we’re getting somewhere. Those are real life stressors.

In psych experiments, stress is induced in humans in a variety of ways, but generally by exposing the humans to something stressful before or during the actual work of the experiment that is not contingent on their performance of a task. It may be social pressure, a self control exercise, or something like a cold pressor test, where a person is asked to leave his or her arm immersed in extremely cold water as long as they can stand it. (There are certainly experiments with all sorts of animals and humans where various unpleasant or painful things are used for punishment, and we would do well to heed the outcome of those experiments. My point here is that you don’t need contingent aversives to raise a person or animal’s stress level.)

Screen Shot 2013-03-31 at 8.56.53 PM
Summer attentive and involved in leash practice

So if a little stress could be OK, can we get any ideas about how to fit it into a humane training structure? You bet!

Summer stress on porch
Summer stressed and distracted in same session

Enter Mr. Skinner and his cohorts. Contrary to his popular image as someone overly cerebral in a white lab coat who trained animals in a completely sterile environment, Skinner was also passionately interested in human education. Preparation for real world situations was a cornerstone of his methods.

Skinner believed that an animal or human did not have to make mistakes to learn the correct behavior or answer. I haven’t gotten to the original Skinnerian source yet, but this has been borne out in subsequent research. (Here’s one of several articles: “The Implicit Benefits of Training Without Errors“)

This brings up so called “errorless learning” again, since making errors is generally considered to cause stress, even when teaching with positive reinforcement. During Skinner’s time there was much discussion about whether stress was necessary or beneficial to learning.

Here is a very interesting quote from “B.F. Skinner: A Reappraisal,” by Marc Richelle:

Skinner […] insisted on building the required behavior with as few errors as possible, the ideal being errorless learning. This was subject to debate among the first generation of specialists, some of them arguing, on the contrary, that errors have some virtues and that in any case they can never be completely eliminated in practice. One must admit that a natural life environment does not provide many occasions for errorless learning, and that education should prepare for real life, which implies some tolerance of failure and frustration. (bold added)

Skinner didn’t even consider the use of punishment in teaching. He said, in “The Technology of Teaching, A Review Lecture” (1965):

“Teaching is the arrangement of contingencies of reinforcement under which students learn.”

and

“…aversive control is the most shameful of irrelevancies.”

Punishment is not considered. So when he says that education should prepare students for tolerance of failure and frustration, how did he mean to do that?  By making the learning process more challenging to the student. And there are at least two ways to do that:

  1. By deliberately making the presentation of the material itself faster or more challenging; and
  2. By allowing the learning to take place in progressively more difficult and distracting environments.

I submit that in training our dogs, it takes no special effort to expose them to environmental stressors. They happen all the time! It does take an effort to make sure that the challenges we give our dogs are gradual and fair.  Noise, activity from other dogs, riding in the car, being left alone, meeting strangers, uncertainty in a routine, extremes of temperature, being boxed in or confined, being on leash, being in a new environment, and dozens of other things can all cause stress in your dog, especially if she has not been prepared for it. People ask their dogs to perform in these situations frequently.

Don’t you think there is much more danger of overdoing it than underdoing it?

Zani stress sniffing in her leash practice session
Zani stress sniffing in her leash practice session

Real Life Example

Here’s an example video of something that sounds pretty benign: I was practicing leash, Zen (self control), and attention exercises with my dogs Zani and Summer on my front porch. There was quite a bit going on. In the video you can see Zani give a little flurry of stress signals when a dog barks loudly. She works at paying attention and recovers nicely. Summer was also working hard to pay attention but the situation was more difficult for her. They both got practice dealing with a stressful distraction, but I think Zani’s was just at the right level, and Summer’s was a little too tough for her. See what you think.

Link to the video for email subscribers.

By the way, we practiced the next day, and Summer handled some similar distractions with less apparent stress. The video on my post about my dogs working for kibble has  some of the footage of Summer from the next day. (The footage of Zani in that video is mostly the same as that in the video above in this post.)

Most of us do need to teach our dogs to be able to pay attention in challenging environments, just like we ourselves need to learn that. Think of all the times you had to learn something or perform a task where perhaps there was lots of noise. Or you had a sore toe. Or you just had a fight with a loved one. We ask our dogs to the the doggie equivalents of those frequently and we often don’t even know it!

The argument that you need to use aversives in training in order to teach your dog coping skills is a completely empty one.

Are you conscious of what makes your dogs stress out? Have you been able to teach them to cope? I’d love to hear about it.

Thanks for reading!

Coming up:

Eileenanddogs on YouTube

© Eileen Anderson 2013                                                                                                                               eileenanddogs.com

Rudelführer – Packleader

Rudelführer – Packleader

Note to English speaking readers: I have two articles on the topic of “pack leader.”

  1. One was published in this blog: Pack Leader.
  2. The other one is a freestanding article that is a bit longer and has some references. It can be found here: Leader of the Pack. The German translation below is of this second article.  You can read it in English by following the link.

“Rudelführer zu sein” ist altmodischer Nonsens

A brown and white stuffed dog iw being held forcefully on her back. You can see a woman's arms coming down and her hands are on the dog's belly and the underside of her neck, pushing hard.

Wenn ein Hundetrainer dir erzählt, dass deine Probleme mit deinem Hund daraus resultieren, dass du nicht der Rudelführer bist, dann sagt das nur eines über diese Person:
1. Dass sie der Forschung über Wölfe und Hunde keinerlei Beachtung geschenkt hat.
2. Dass wenig darüber weiss, wie Tiere lernen.
3. Dass sie wahrscheinlich über keine nennenswerte Qualifikation verfügt.
4. Dass sie einer irrigen Auffassung nachhängt, nur weil sie sich richtig anhört und einfach zu verkaufen ist.

Sie liegt in jedem Fall falsch! Und es ist wichtig zu wissen warum, damit diese Ideen keinem Hund Schaden zufügen können.

Der Mythos der “Rudelführertheorie” ist so leicht zu entlarven!

Die Rudelführertheorie auf den Punkt gebracht:

1. Hunde und Wölfe sind gleich.
2. Wölfe gründen Rudel und suchen ständig nach einer höheren Stellung im Rudel, demzufolge ist das auch bei Hunden so.
3. Wenn dein Hund dich anspringt oder Essen vom Tisch klaut (oder jegliches andere Verhalten zeigt, das Menschen nicht mögen), versucht er dich zu dominieren und der (Rudel-) Chef von dir, deiner Familie und deinen anderen Hunden zu sein.

Das Problem ist, dass nicht ein einziger dieser Punkte wahr ist. Informationen darüber sind überall griffbereit. Eileen gibt in einem Blogartikel einen kurzen Überblick über die Grundfehler der Rudelführertheorie (in Englisch). Aber wir müssen ihr ja nicht glauben. Schauen wir uns einmal an, was die Experten (inklusive einem Experten für Wölfe) über den Mythos der “Rüdelführertheorie” sagen:

Was ist eigentlich mit dem Begriff Alpha-Wolf passiert?

L. David Mech, einer der ersten Menschen, der das Verhalten der Wölfe studiert hat und für den Begriff “Alpha Wolf” massgeblich verantwortlich ist, verfasste in 2008 den oben genannten Artikel. Er erklärt darin, wo die Forschung Fehler gemacht hat und vom Weg abgekommen ist.
Auch in diesem Video (in Englisch) erklärt L. Davis Mech, warum der Terminus “Alpha-Wolf” nicht korrekt ist und wie er damals (um 1970) entstanden ist.

Einen guten Artikel zum Thema Wolfsrudel/ Mythos Dominanz stellt Spass-Mit-Hund.de zum Lesen bereit. Wer mehr wissen möchte, liest ebenfalls noch den Artikel Die Sache mit der Dominanz auf der Seite.

Eine umfangreiche Liste mit vermeintlichem Dominanzverhalten findet ihr auf der verlinkten Seite von korrectkritters.com (in Englisch).

Dominanz – was ist dran?.

Georgia Lewis hat mit diesem Artikel eine wundervolle Zusammenfassung von Wolf- und Hundeverhalten, Mythen der Hundeerziehung und Lösungsvorschlägen veröffentlicht und weitestgehend den Dominanzgedanken entzaubert.

Bewertung des so genannten Alpha-Status und der im Hundeerziehungsbereich gebräuchlichen Begriffe Rudelführer und Dominanz

Wenn es um aktuelle Forschungsberichte zum Wolf- Und Hundeverhalten geht, kommen wir nicht an Günther Bloch und der Hundefarm.eifel.de vorbei. Mehr Wissen geht fast nicht.

Pack Leader!
21 erfolgreiche Hundetrainer erzählen, warum sie es gar nicht erst nötig haben, Rudelchef zu sein. 21 Argumente, warum auch für uns keinen Sinn macht, über die “Chefposition” auch nur nachzudenken.

Geht uns das was an?

Ja, denn die Rudelführertheorie ermutigt Menschen, ihren Hunden Schmerzen zuzufügen

Die Menschen, die irrtümlich glauben, dass ihre Hausgemeinschaft streng hierachisch funktioniert und dass ihr Hund ehrgeizige Bestrebungen hat, an deren Spitze zu stehen, haben eine grundlegende Empfehlung an dich, nämlich, deinem Hund grundsätzlich einen Dämpfer zu verpassen. Hunde sind vierbeinige Lebewesen, also wird das Reduzieren der Belohnungen, Degradierung, selbst öffentliche Erniedrigung nicht ausreichen, um dem Hund seinen niederen Rang zu erklären. Es hinterlässt nur Schmerz und Gewalt.

Die Menschen, die die Rudelführertheorie vertreten, ignorieren seit Jahrzehnten bestehende Forschungsergebnisse. Die Fehlinterpretation von Hundeverhalten und seiner Motivation führt somit zu falschen Reaktionen. Die Verhaltensforschung zeigt, dass Verhalten Konsequenzen hat. Durch Ändern der Auslöser (Vorgeschichte oder gesprochene Kommandos) oder der Resultate kann jedes tierisches Verhalten modifiziert werden. Das Beste daran ist, dass die “Motivation” absolut irrelevant ist. Sobald man sagen kann, welchen Vorteil der Hund durch ein bestimmtes Verhalten hat, gibt es ein halbes Dutzend humane Wege, die Situation so zu drehen, dass der Hund entweder das selbe in einer akzeptablen Art und Weise errreichen kann oder, dass er ein Alternativverhalten lernen kann, dass ihm einen besseren “Gewinn” verschafft.

Ob du nun bewusst versuchst, der Rudelchef zu sein oder nicht, es existiert bereits ein grosses Machtgefälle zwischen dir und deinen Hunden. Das ist ihnen auch sehr bewusst. Sie wissen, dass das Futter von dir kommt, genau so die Möglichkeit, nach draussen zu gehen und Spass zu haben, kommt (hofffentlich) ebenfalls von dir. Du hast die Schlüssel zum Schrank, kannst die Schnallen an Halsband und Geschirr verstellen und kaufst das Spielzeug. Wenn du doch schon so viel Macht besitzt, warum solltest du deinen Hunden dann noch Schmerzen zufügen?

Absurde Empfehlungen

Warum lachen wir nicht über solche Ratschläge?

Sicher zu stellen, dass man immer vor seinem Hund isst und immer vor ihm zur Tür hinaus geht, sind die zwei der Standardempfehlungen, die immer im Zusammenhang mit der “Rudelführertheorie” genannt werden.

Betrachten wir das mal mit etwas gesundem Menschenverstand und Lebenserfahrung. Hast du jemals jemanden sagen hören “Fido hat mir unheimliche Probleme bereitet, aber nachdem ich angefangen habe vor ihm zu essen noch bevor er seine Mahlzeit bekommen hat und ihn dazu gebracht habe hinter mir durch die Tür zu gehen, hat er aufgehört mich anzuspringen, Futter aus der Küche zu stibitzen, zu bellen, wenn es klingelt und Katzen zu jagen.”?

Nachtigall ich höre dich trapsen

Ok, da müssen wir nicht wirklich lange nachdenken, diese Vorgehensweisen werden Fidos Verhaltensprobleme nicht lösen. Aber was können wir stattdessen tun? Bücher über Hundeverhalten und positive Bestärkung im Training lesen, wäre ein Anfang. Wenn nötig, nach einem Hundetrainer suchen, der mit gewaltfreien Methoden arbeitet. (Tipp: Die meisten Trainer, die vor kurzem ihre Qualifikation erlangt haben, arbeiten so!)

Auf dieser Liste findet ihr ein Sammlung von guten Büchern zum Thema Hundetraining.

Und hier eine Liste mit aEnglischen Büchern.

Hier kommt mein Geständnis: Ich habe dem “Vor deinem Hund essen” Ratschlag auch einmal Folge geleistet. Aber die Idee meine Mahlzeiten nach dem Hund zu arrangieren hat mir nicht gefallen. (Ich war damals schon auf dem richtigen Weg; denn wenn ich schon diejenige bin, die die Verantwortung hat, sollte ich dann nicht auch die Freiheit haben, zu essen, wann ich es will?).
crackers in dog dishIch las einen Ratschlag um das abzukürzen und der besagte, dass ich einige Cracker zur Hand haben sollte, wenn ich das Futter für die Hunde zubereite. Ich sollte das Hundefutter in die Schüssel tun und und es so aussehen lassen, als würde ich das Futter aus der Schüssel, in dem Fall den Cracker, demonstrativ essen. Auf diesem Wege würde ich direkt aus seiner Schüssel “vor meinem Hund essen” (!), und somit müsste ich nicht meine Essensgewohnheiten umstellen.

Ja, ich habe das so gemacht. Und stell dir vor: Es hat meinen jungen Hund nicht davon abgehalten, ungeeignete Sachen zu zerkauen oder mit meinem anderen Hund zu streiten. Stell dir vor: Ich glaube ich habe einfach nicht dominant genug gekaut.

Was Buffy dazu sagt

Jean Donaldsons Hund meint dazu:

Bild Buffy

Text: Hallo, ich bin Buffy.
Mein Futterneid, mein Resourcenverteidigung, mein Aggression gegen fremde Menschen und andere Hunde wurden alle durch “Verhaltensmodifikation auf Anfängerniveau” geändert. Was zur Hölle ist ein Rudelführer?

Jean Donaldson ist eine bedeutende Hundetrainerin, die viele Bücher über Hundeverhalten und Training geschrieben hat. Sie leitet eine der Ausbildungsstätten für Hundetrainer – The Academy for Dog Trainers. Sie hat es nicht nötig, Rudelführer zu sein.

Die Alpha-Rolle

Apropos lächerlich:

Bei Anhängern der “Rudelführertheorie” steht die “Alpha-Rolle” im Fokus, um den Hund auf seinen Platz zu verweisen. Auch das basiert, mal wieder, auf Fehlinformationen.

Das Verhalten unter Wölfen, das einer Alpha-Rolle am nächsten kömmt, ist, wenn ein Wolf einem vermeintlich stärkerem Wolf beim Futter den Vortritt lässt. Diese “Unterwefung” zeigt er durch das Rollen auf die Seite oder Zeigen des Bauches. Das ist normalerweise nicht mit Agression verbunden.

In diesem Video ist das deutlich zu sehen.

In sehr spezifischen Situationen, die die Paarung und Fütterung einschliessen, kann man sehen, wie ein Wolf einen anderen Wolf festhält (nach wie vor scheint präventive Unterwerfung die Regel zu sein). Auf der Seite Doggone Safe von Joan Orr (in Englisch) findet ihr mehr Informationen zu dem Thema und auch einen Link (in Englisch) zu einem Interview mit den Experten auf dem Gebiet der Wolfforschung, Lorna und Ray Coppinger, in dem sie Stellung zu den häufigsten Mythen rund um den Therminus “Alpha” nehmen.

Von Eileen Anderson, March 2013
https://eileenanddogs.com/

Übersetzt von
Silvia Deimeke (Blog)

From Eileen: I’ll be posting back in English soon! But I am always ready to collaborate on translating posts and video narrations. Just send me an email using the sidebar.

Coming up:

Eileenanddogs on YouTube

Introduction to the Exercise Ball

Introduction to the Exercise Ball

Small black and rust colored hound dog is putting her front paw on a red exercise ball (peanut shaped). Her mouth is open, anticipating a treat.
Zani’s ready for a treat for foot targeting the peanut

I bought an exercise ball, a FitPAWS peanut, from CleanRun a couple of years ago. It’s a device to help dogs develop core strength and balance.

After seeing some YouTube videos and even a professional DVD that showed dogs and puppies being placed on exercise balls and held there while they were clearly stressed and uncomfortable, I decided to make a video showing how I introduced my dogs to the ball. We went comparatively slowly, over the course of a few days, with no force or pressure. I wanted my dogs to have a great association with the ball and no anxiety attached to it. So from the very beginning they always had a choice; they could walk away, jump off, take a break.

As is typical, giving them choice in the matter and building good associations made them absolutely fanatically fixated on getting on the ball! And once more, going slow turned out to be fast!

Small black and rust colored hound dog has both  her front paws on a red exercise ball (peanut shaped).
Zani has her whole front end up on the peanut!

You can see in the short video that I used a combination of shaping, targeting, and treat placement to get Zani happily on the ball in a few daily sessions. This method can be used to introduce a dog to all sorts of unfamiliar objects and equipment.

Small black and rust colored hound is standing on top of a red exercise ball (peanut shaped).
And she’s up on the peanut!

Zani’s a confident little dog and I probably could have done it all in one day, but 1) I wanted to take no risks of rushing her psychologically; and 2) we are dealing with a physical skill that builds muscles, and I didn’t want to overdo.

If you are considering getting an exercise ball for your dog, be sure and check it out with your vet. Also, size the ball correctly (CleanRun and the ball vendors such as  can help with that). I hope your dog enjoys it as much as Zani does.

I like easy ways (for me!) to exercise my dogs. Don’t forget flirt poles, too!

Link to the video for email subscribers.

Thanks for watching!

Coming up:

Eileenanddogs on YouTube

She’s Gone

She’s Gone

A small, visibly old (lots of gray and white on face) terrier is asleep in brown haired woman's lap. The dog's head is hanging over the woman's arm. The woman is wearing a brown mock turtleneck. The dog is mostly black and white with large ears.
17 year old Cricket having a snooze at the office in March 2013

Head’s up: frank talk of euthanasia and some raw language.

Cricket died on May 31st and I am not OK with that.

Elizabeth Kubler Ross’ stages of grief are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. I guess “nauseated, furious rejection” of the whole idea belongs somewhere among the first two.

It’s just not OK with me. I don’t have strong beliefs about the afterlife (though please, those of you who do, I welcome your comments. I can take comfort from them). She is gone from my life here on earth and I’m not OK with that.

I can’t seem to write, except to write about her. Some for public, mostly for me. Folks have been kindly asking when I would blog about it—I guess I’ll give you the raw story.

It’s not OK with me that I remember so much of the past two years—no wait, that is OK—but I’m frustrated that I don’t have vivid memories of her in her prime. I am going through 800+ unnamed Flip videos that are no longer in a library and finding every one that she is in. Even if she is just barking in the background. Her “prime” means she was about 12 years old!

Cricket has had dementia for two to three years. She also had extreme neurological weakness in her hind end, and chronic, though not extreme, GI problems. For more than a year she has not had the muscle tone to sit in my lap without my bracing her. Her dementia was so advanced that for the past five weeks she could not figure out how to drink water on her own. Her neurological wires had gotten so crossed that she startled at almost any sensory input.  She no longer had the muscle tone in her rear to sit normally; she splayed her hind legs out or let them both go out to the side, and hunched her back.

Yet she had a great appetite and still had pleasures in life. She was on medication for arthritis just to be sure, but I don’t think she was in much or any pain.

I have known for a year that this dog would not die a peaceful death at home. Her heart, other organs, and general constitution were way too strong. I knew I would have to intervene. In the past few weeks she has taken another step down into frailty and I have been waiting for some sign that the balance had tipped.

It happened on Friday. She threw up, then had an extended seizure. She aspirated vomit. She was with me at my office at the time and my coworker helped me care for her. After two hours she was still sputtering and had not gotten out all the matter, but I had already made the decision. If she had seized once, it could and would happen again. And the next time I might not be with her. Every time I left her home, as safe as I made things, there were ways she could hurt herself or suffer. The seizure was probably related to her canine cognitive dysfunction and she was way too frail to experiment with other treatment drugs.

Just like I have long known I would have to euthanize her, I have also known she was not going to go down easily. She’s just not that kind of dog. The last two animals I had to euthanize were both cats and both were seriously ill. One with cancer that had spread to the brain, the other with complications of diabetes. Both slid away from life with relief, one of them still purring.

In your dreams, Eileen. Everything I knew about Cricket said it would not go that way and it didn’t. I had been trying to prepare. Months before, I had asked the vet for an oral sedative to give Cricket before I ever brought her to the vet for her final visit so she wouldn’t be nervous. We “practiced” with a dose one day and I’m glad we did. Cricket got a paradoxical reaction and got all hyped up and anxious and weaved around drunkenly for a few hours. So much for that idea, and for my fantasy that she could already be relaxed and dreamy when we went.

But on Friday she wasn’t very anxious, at first. But she was completely alert and looking around and not liking the doctor, as usual. I didn’t try to give her treats since I was pretty sure they wouldn’t stay down. Though a perfect last meal had been part of the fantasy, too. (She had eaten very well and happily that morning, however.)

I spoke to the vet about giving her anesthesia first before even inserting the IV, and the vet didn’t recommend it, saying it could just lengthen the trauma, so I agreed to the standard procedure. Can’t know if what happened was better or worse than what would have happened otherwise.

The vet first administered anesthesia through the IV in Cricket’s front leg first, as is typical, before giving the drug that stops the heart. Cricket reacted strongly to the anesthetic, startling and whimpering. Damn damn damn. Horror. Then she settled down after it got into her system. After the infusion of the second drug, nothing happened. Cricket sat in my lap looking around. The doctor had given Cricket (who weighs 12 lbs), the dosage for a 30 lb dog and nothing at all happened.

The doctor brought a second dose. This time Cricket didn’t startle, so she must have been starting to get at least a little anesthetized. This dose (we were now up to the dose for a 60 lb dog) made her sleepy and slowed her metabolism. She essentially went to sleep in my lap, although my dear friend who was there said that she was still peeking out at the world. I watched her breathe. It was regular and a little slow, exactly as it was when she slept. And it stayed that way. The vet said her heartbeat was slightly irregular, was all. It was lovely to hold her when she was finally (probably, hopefully!) relaxed and asleep.

The vet got a third dose (up to a 90 lb dog dose now) and injected it directly into a back leg this time. I was desperate that this would startle or hurt her, but she didn’t flinch in the least. I hope it didn’t hurt. I watched her take her two last breaths. I held her close, probably closer than she would have liked were she awake and alive. But her little body felt so right up next to my breast, as always.

I asked the vet, not entirely joking, how she figured to get Cricket’s body away from me.

I asked for her ashes, something I have never done before. I’m an amateur potter and will make a little container.

My other dogs have much more freedom and will get more of my attention. After while. My life is so much physically easier now. But right now I basically don’t fucking care.

It is not all right with me that she is gone. I had 15 months to get ready for this. I thought we were coming to the end of the line ages ago. Perhaps it should have helped me prepare. But actually, I think it let me pretend that I would have her forever. As it should have been. The little Energizer Terrier, who keeps going and going.

Small white, black, and brown short coated rat terrier stand straight and tall and looks straight up at the camera (and her person)
Cricket ready for supper in 2008

Even now as I am sitting here I am waiting for her to walk straight up to me, stiff legged as always, stand straight and tall with those huge ears and look me in the eye, as she always did. Even when she could barely walk and see only fuzzily. (Other dogs hated her body language. Rude little terrier.) Waiting for her to find me wherever I am in the house and bump her nose to my leg just to be sure it was me. She fell away from the other humans in her life because of the dementia, but she always knew and loved me. We were each others’ anchors. And now I am adrift.

Because I remember the old doggie so well and want to remember the little spitfire, I made a video montage mostly from old training clips from when she was about 12. My training skills are rudimentary (why oh why did I repeatedly pull her out of position after the click!), I miss her ears with the camera half the time because I didn’t have a tripod, but it’s worth it to me to watch her. And I hope you all will enjoy seeing what a little ball of fire she was.

Link to the video for email subscribers.

Two years after Cricket died, I released my book: Remember Me? Loving and Caring for a Dog with Canine Cognitive Dysfunction. It won a Maxwell Award in 2016, and is available in paperback, hardback, and all major electronic formats.

Thanks for reading. Please remember my little girl.

Cricket always touched me whenever she could

 

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