Language and Dog Training: Do the Words We Use Matter?

Ok, I admit it! At heart I am a scientist. My training is in maths, physics and psychology – I'm proud of my geek status and am happy to own it! However, the people I train on a daily basis are not geeks. They do not get a thrill when confronted with a new scientific bit of jargon to digest; they just want to be able to DO THE THING, dammit! So, wi...
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The Science Cafe: Oh No! It's the Fourth Again!

For July 4th, we brought together Amy Cook, Ph.D.; Deb Jones, Ph.D.; Jennifer Summerfield, DVM; and Jessica Hekman, Ph.D. for the latest edition of the Science Cafe!  Below is the recording from their hour-and-a-half live webinar discussion of phobias, focusing on noise phobias in particular. The summer holidays can be the absolute W...
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755 Hits

Will Peeing On Your Dog Fix His Resource Guarding Problem?

Yes, this is something I actually heard a trainer say at a workshop I was giving overseas.

In fact, having the unique opportunity to travel the world, giving talks about working with and modifying aggressive behaviors in dogs, I've been privy to some really interesting viewpoints when it comes to dog training.

"Spitting in your dog's food to claim ownership" is another one that ranks up there in the bizarre — and appetite spoiling — category.

While it would seem obvious that urinating on a dog will not fix a resource guarding issue, there are still a plethora of erroneous recommendations being doled out as gospel online and by well-meaning dog enthusiasts.

Some of these include:

  • Reaching into a dog's food bowl while they are eating so they "get used to it"
  • Taking their food bowl away while they are eating so "they know you own it"
  • Petting the dog while they are eating so they "get used to it"

This "advice" actually creates a lot of business for dog trainers and behavior consultants who work with resource guarding in dogs. A fair amount of my cases involving dogs who guard food bowls or other ingestible items have a history of being exposed to these annoying human attempts of well-intentioned, but ultimately doomed, proactivity. 

Now, there are some dogs who habituate to these interruptions during what should be a peaceful meal time — but why risk it? 

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3595 Hits

The Science Cafe: Science in the Media

Welcome to the Science Cafe! On March 20, 2019, three FDSA instructors with science PhDs hung out for an hour or two and talked science online.

The docs:

The subject: They chatted about a 2017 study on punishment-based dog training and social media coverage of the study. Sometimes, social media coverage is all you get, when studies (like this one) are not open access. How much can we trust this coverage? What does the full study actually say?

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1125 Hits

Q&A with Helene Lawler: Beyond the Click with R+ 2.0

​For today's post we posed a few questions on the concept of R+ 2.0 to FDSA Instructor Helene Lawler. Below are our questions, along with her response! 

During your time as a trainer, how has positive training evolved?

I brought home my first puppy just shy of 30 years ago. I remember calling around for trainers and being told to wait until the puppy was six months old, or even older. Finally I found someone who said something that made sense to me: "Your puppy is 9 weeks old? You've already missed two critical weeks of training. Get over here right now!"

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Unintended Consequences: Understanding Poisoned Cues

In positive reinforcement training, a cue is something that indicates to the learner (your dog) that you would like her to do a certain behavior.

Most cues in dog training are verbal or visual. But cues can be olfactory (a dog training in scent work sniffs the odor and sits) or auditory (a click in clicker training), or environmental (you take your dog out of the car at the trailhead, and she knows she is going for a walk). A touch can also be a cue.

The dog learns that when she hears, sees, smells, or feels the cue, and performs the correct behavior, she will earn a reward.

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1832 Hits

Thresholds & Dog Training: When is your dog actually over threshold?

 If you manage a stressed dog, you likely think about thresholds quite a bit.

You think about whether your dog is "over threshold" in a given situation, and you may be continually planning how to keep him "under threshold" as much as possible.

Even if you don't have a dog with a tendency toward fear, reactivity, or stress, you want your dog to be in an optimal emotional state for learning, and that may lead you to thinking about what might push your dog "over threshold" and cause you to have to switch gears.

But just what is this "threshold?"

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6915 Hits

The Science Cafe: Socialization and Sensitive Periods in Dogs

Welcome to the Science Cafe! On December 10, 2018, three FDSA instructors with science PhDs hung out for an hour or two and talked science online.

The docs:

The subject: Hartley, Catherine A., and Francis S. Lee. "Sensitive periods in affective development: Nonlinear maturation of fear learning." Neuropsychopharmacology 40.1 (2015): 50.

(You don't have to have read the paper to appreciate the chat, but a lot of people did!) 

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2494 Hits

How it Works: Operant Conditioning and Classical Conditioning Explained

If you've been in dog training for a while you've likely come across the learning models of Operant Conditioning and Classical Conditioning. You can hardly pick up a training book anymore without either one or both being mentioned — and that is a great thing!

However, if you aren't sure what each of these models is, you aren't alone.

Each has potentially confusing concepts, and each governs a different part of our teaching experience with dogs. You're using them both all the time whether you understand them well or not, so let's get them sorted out, shall we? 

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6247 Hits