E289: Kellie Snider - "Constructional Aggression Treatment"

Kellie Snider helped develop the Constructional Aggression Treatment as part of her thesis in grad school — today, she joins me on the podcast to talk about what it is, how it works, and why negative reinforcement, in this case, gets an undeservedly bad rap. 


Melissa Breau: This is Melissa Breau, and you're listening to the Fenzi Dog Sports Podcast, brought to you by the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy, an online school dedicated to providing high quality instruction for competitive dog sports, using only the most current and progressive trending methods.

Today I have Kellie Snider here with me to chat about CAT. Hi Kellie. Welcome to the podcast!

Kellie Snider: Hi. Thanks for having me. I'm super excited to talk about this.

Melissa Breau: So to start us out, can you just share a little bit about you, who you are, your current pets and what you're working on with them, if anything?

Kellie Snider: Who I am, I'm Kellie Snider. I did the Constructional Aggression work as my graduate thesis. So we worked with a bunch of dogs back then. That's where most people know me from current pets. I'm fresh outta dogs at the moment, but we have–I know it's sad–but we have three cats. We're enjoying our cat-centric life at the moment. It's just not a good time to reload with dogs at this time.

So it goes sometimes and what I'm working on with them, to be honest, we do a little target training at night because they love it. So every night they line up on my bed. It used to be dog, dog, cat, cat, cat. And now it's just cat, cat, cat. But they line up, we do some high fives, you know, we do a little stuff and that's really how deep it goes these days.

Melissa Breau: I mean, I think it's super cute that you've taught your cats to do high fives.

Kellie Snider: They're adorable. They're adorable and they impress people. We had a cat sitter. She was like, whoa, your cats can do that. And I'm like, yes. They love it. Cats are fun to train, especially cuz nobody expects them to love it.

Melissa Breau: Yeah, Yeah, absolutely.

I did a little bit of research before hopping on and I feel like you've got kind of an interesting story. Do you wanna just share a little bit about how you got into behavior analysis?

Kellie Snider: Well I had a cockatoo back in the late nineties and she fell in love with my husband and decided that I was the evil witch that should be killed.

And she, you know, cockatoos have pretty powerful beaks and she would bite the crap out of me and she was technically my bird and I was the one that had to take care of her. But as soon as he walked in the door, all bets were off. She was his bird. And so it got to the point I knew nothing about training or behavior at that point.

It got to the point that it was risking my health and wellbeing and she bit one of my children who was about, I don't know, about eight at the time and it's like I have to do something. So back in the late nineties, you know, the state of the internet at that point. But I got on this listserv and went looking for help with my parrot and I found a bunch of parrot trainers that were on a group and a couple of them, Doug Cook and Linda Morrow, her name is different now, but they were clicker trainers with exotic bird shows. And they basically emailed me for how to work with my bird and the goal was not to treat the aggression so much as just to teach her to do other things that she would have fun doing with me. So I taught her to turn in a circle, to hang upside down, to put little toys in a little plastic basket, to pull a little wagon.

And her whole attitude changed. I suddenly became this fun person and I got really hooked on behavior at the time because it's like, how cool is that? So they recommended that I read Don't Shoot the Dog by Karen Pryor. And I read it over and over and I read everything that was available at that time, which wasn't a whole lot but I had become friends with Marion Bailey through that listserv. But she and I became friends through email and she said, you know, if you really wanna learn about behavior, you should go study at the University of North Texas. I lived in Dallas at the time and she said, "that's what you need to do."

And at that point I hadn't finished my bachelor's degree because I kept changing degrees and didn't know what I wanted to be, even though I was long past grown up at that point. But I went back to school, finished my bachelor's in behavior analysis and then I hadn't had enough yet, so I went ahead and got a master's in it as well.

And that's where the CAT research came from. It turned out to be my graduate graduate thesis.

Melissa Breau: Awesome. So what about the field pulled you in and convinced you to back and get the bachelor's, and then a master's degree? What is it about behavior analysis that hooked you?

Kellie Snider: It was a really streamlined way of understanding how we all work because behavior analysis isn't about human behavior or animal behavior, it's about behavior. And for whatever species you're dealing with, there are certain things that are the same. If I was going to train a horse versus a tiger, I wouldn't be feeding the horse meat. I mean I would be feeding them what's relevant to them. That part is different when you're training different species and a lot of their various natural behaviors that they do are different.

But if you follow a behavior with something that's worthwhile or valuable to them, you're gonna see more of that behavior in the future. That fact is true across species. Everything from amoebas to humans to, you know, blue whales–presumably if we could get ahold of their reinforcers.

I was also raising children. I had small children at the time–two boys–and it changed the entire way I raised my children. I had been raised with a very punitive parenting style, which was common when I was young and I didn't want to raise my kids that way, but I was kind of getting stuck in a super permissive kind of parenting style which starts leading to problems because you really do need them to do certain things and not do other certain things. And starting to learn about how,

you know, just the basic science of behavior works, I was able to completely overhaul how I was raising my children and it was a lifesaver. It meant that I didn't have to use punitive methods with my kids, but I could still have well behaved kids and it really just changed my life.

Yeah. And theirs. I would presume one of them here, I can ask him later.

Melissa Breau: That sounds like an amusing Thanksgiving dinner conversation for sure.

Kellie Snider: Yeah, I was like, honey, how did dog training impact your life?

Melissa Breau: Oh man…

Kellie Snider: Or parent training, I guess, at that time.

Melissa Breau: Yeah right. So if folks know your name… we kinda mentioned CAT a little bit, but it's also possible they know you from your book, Turning Fierce Dogs Friendly: Using Constructional Aggression Treatment to Rehabilitate Aggressive and Reactive Dogs. So if I understand correctly, you kind of debuted that approach in your thesis. So why the choice in your thesis to focus on aggression and reactivity?

Kellie Snider: Actually when I decided to get my master's degree, my plan was to work with parents and, and issues related to parrots. But one day we had a behavior analysis lab and it was an animal lab, we called it ORCA, which stood for the organization of reinforcement contingencies with animals. So I started in being involved in that from the time I went back to school as an undergrad.

And we met once a week and Dr. Jesus would come in and we would talk about what research we were doing or what projects we had going on with animals. We worked at some zoos and so forth. And I worked primarily with animals in their homes. But one day he came in and he said is there anybody who would be interested in doing a project with aggressive dogs? And by this time I had gotten to know a ton of dog trainers because that's your main animal behavior category in the world–especially online. I didn't say anything at first. Nobody else said anything. Keep in mind I was in my mid-forties at this point and everybody else in the room was in their twenties.

And I'm like, man, that sounds really cool. And I raised my hand and I was like, I'll do it. And I think Jesus was taken aback a little bit, but it ended up being a really cool ride. That was it; we just had a blast. So that's how I got started. It was Jesus's idea based on some other research that he had done.

My first research project I participated in involved fearful llamas at a little zoo we worked with them and they needed to be haltered sometimes and moved around and you know, that people needed to be able to hook 'em up and they were afraid of people. So what that project involved was kind of like CAT, but it was basically letting them be far away from us.

And then if they made any brave move, like looking at us, taking a step forward–anything like that–we would drop a piece of food of their choice. It was usually, most of them liked yams, just raw yams. So we'd drop some yams on the ground and walk away and we were able to train them to come toward us and then once they would come toward us, we would click or train them to get the harness on. And so that was a very similar project. There had also been some work done with some goats and some sheep doing the same. Oh, and some cattle from a herd. So these were all very similar but they all involved the use of food. So one of the things that we were looking at was: is the food really relevant to the training of the new behavior? Is it just the distancing? Is it the fact that we go away when the animal does something preferred or is the food part of the reinforcer? So we separated that out and found out that the food really had nothing to do with it. It was all that opportunity to get some space from us. We were the aversive stimuli and so when we walked away that was the reward that they were looking for.

Melissa Breau: Interesting. So for those not familiar with Constructional Treatment, can you talk about how that is similar or different to what you were just describing?

Kellie Snider: Well all of that really is constructional, but the constructional approach is a way of looking at behavior where you are focusing on building replacement behaviors as opposed to getting rid of problem behaviors.

So we really just change the focus. So typically, or historically, people working with an animal with aggression or fear or whatever–let's just use aggression as the example. If you're working with an animal with aggression, there's a tendency to go straight for punishment. Dog does something aggressive, we either slap a shock collar on him and shock him or we hit him or yell at him or you know, yank him away by the neck. But it's always in an attempt to stop the problem behavior to break it down to get rid of it. Or we give them medication to try to make them less likely to perform aggressive behaviors.

Now, I am not opposed to medication for when it's appropriate for a lot of situations. It can help the animal get, it can help you through the training process in some cases. Some animals seem to benefit, just like humans do, just from being on certain medications in cooperation, ideally, with a behaviorist.

So that's the big difference. The difference between breaking down a behavior and building up replacement behaviors. It's like, you know, back in the nineties when I was learning about clicker training, one of the big central, and it's–I think this was from Don't Shoot the Dog–but one of the big things that we always said was, what do you want the animal to do instead? So you've really got two categories of training. One is when you're trying to deal with a problem behavior, so aggression, fear, you know, whatever the problem behavior is.

And then you have training up new behaviors from scratch like sports behaviors like you know, weave poles or lure coursing or whatever it is. These, well I wouldn't say lure cursing is something that they've never done before, but you're not gonna find that many dogs who are automatically doing weave poles on their own without having been trained. So yeah, there'll be very few I would say.

So it's a different way of looking at it. How can we help the animal learn new stuff to do in this situation where they currently behave aggressively.

Melissa Breau: That makes sense. So you started to explain in there of why the word "constructional" or what it's use means in this case. Can you just elaborate a little bit on that?

Kellie Snider: Sure. "Constructional" basically means building a new repertoire. It was specifically taken out of constructional work by Dr. Israel Gold Diamond back in the 1970s. And it was basically: we don't want to break down behavior, we want to build new behavioral repertoires. We want the animal to have a lot of really good safe options to aggression. Ideally, options that are easier for the dog to perform than aggression. They choose to do this other thing because not only does it work for them, but it's easier. That's kind of how all of our behavior works. If we see that something's getting a result and it's easier than other alternatives, we're gonna do the easy thing. That's just the way behavior works. And so that's what we're trying to harness: the natural tendencies of any behaving organism. And instead of making it like some magical thing that we do, we're just like, oh, I know that you want that thing to go away so we can make that thing go away if you do something else.

I think kind of as an aside, I think we get caught up sometimes in worrying about it not being the dog's choice to engage in this training and I'll, the reason I'm saying that is because it comes up a lot when I talk about this, but the thing is we brought these dogs into a human world and if they're gonna get along in the human world in a way that's beneficial for them and a way that is beneficial for us, we have to help them get along in the world that we're into. We have to help them over that. We have to help them do something difficult in order for them to be successful in the human world that we are forcing them to live in.

Melissa Breau: Right, right. That makes a lot of sense. I know this wasn't in my list of questions, but you mentioned in there that you kind of build up an easier behavior. Did you have an example what that might look like? Just to put that picture in my head.

Kellie Snider: Sure. So when we start training, we've got some problem behavior like aggression that's already happening and it's happening in a situation like a stranger shows up and the dog is like, holy crap, I don't wanna deal with that stranger so I'm gonna try to drive them away with my aggressive behavior. So when we start, that's what they're already doing and it's working really well for them because nobody, very few people stick around when a dog is lunging and barking at them, they at least give them a little space if not a lot of space.

So the aggression that they're showing is working great except that everybody's miserable mom, dad, dog, stranger–nobody's happy. So what we do when we're doing the work is we have these decoy people, these helpers or people with dogs and they show up pretending to be the stranger that the dog is worried about it but they stay below threshold, they stay far enough away that they're not getting a big emotional response from the dog.

And the dog is gonna be aware of them and see them over there, but not be so worried that they have to behave aggressively. And in this space where they aren't worried but they are aware, there are going to be some other behaviors that occur. So you're gonna see, they may exhale, you know that thing that they may do, the "boof" and they may turn their head or they may look at their owner like, why is, what is this person doing here? Anything that they choose to do that is not aggressive, not fearful and not self-damaging, the helper will now walk away when they do that alternative thing. In the new version of CAT, we have a lot less instances where dogs go over threshold, but on the occasion when they might go over threshold instead of immediately walking away like a normal stranger would do, we'll have them wait for just a minute until some alternative shows up. And a lot of times that will look like a little head tilt or like look at mom or just like you're not acting like most people do, the dog is like, "I don't get you." So they do something else and that's when you walk away. So you're looking for any alternative to aggression that would be okay for that animal to have in their regular life.

And we're also not looking for one particular thing, we're not looking for just a head turn and we're not looking for just a sit. We're not looking for just look up at mom, we're looking at any of that stuff that the dog chooses to do instead of behaving aggressively.

Melissa Breau: Okay. That really helps, it helps kind of put that picture in my head.

I know you've gotten, you know, some pushback because you're talking a little bit about negative reinforcement. Can you…

Kellie Snider: Tons of pushback, let's just say that.

Melissa Breau: Okay, well I wanna give you a chance to address some of that, right? So can you just share a little bit about how that fits into this picture and maybe why?

Kellie Snider: I'll try and I am gonna talk about it in the webinar. So that will be something that listeners may want to tune into. When yo're learning behavior analysis or positive dog training, you learn about learning theory and so you've got the little quadrants of positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, positive punishment, negative punishment. And a long time ago, back when I was starting it was already a thing. We have kind of made these into almost religious quadrants. So we have positive reinforcement, it's always perfect. Nothing can ever go wrong when you use positive reinforcement, that's what the angels use, that's what you know. So we kind of have that attitude and there's a good reason we have that attitude and it's because positive reinforcement is fabulous and there's a ton you can do with positive reinforcement that is healthful and appropriate.

And we tend to think of negative punishment as, oh that's not that bad. And we tend to think of extinction as, oh that's not bad. The problem with negative reinforcement–I mean negative punishment–is typically we use it in the form of timeout and timeout doesn't work very well in terms of changing behavior. I go into that in a lot more in the webinar, but I prefer to use a very casual timeout. It's like when the owner has just about had it up to their ears and they need a break or when the dog is being a total toddler and they can't calm themselves down and they need a break. That's not a real behavior analytic timeout, but it's an appropriate use of timeout in my humble opinion. But timeout as a training tool is really difficult to use effectively.

And then of course we have positive punishment which is hurting your dog or causing them unpleasantness in some way. And we really try to avoid that for good reason because if you're going to take an animal that's already concerned about its environment and then shock it, hit it, yell at it during a time when they're already concerned about their environment. You're just gonna cause them more harm and it's not going to necessarily improve the behavior. What it's gonna do is help your dog learn to shut down in certain times and it's not good.

So then we get to negative reinforcement which has made my life a living hell, it's a bad no-no. Also in terms of thinking about the behavioral quadrants. And the reason for that is in order to perform negative reinforcement, some sort of aversive has to be introduced. This aversive helper is introduced as part of the training. Now when I was doing the research, I let the dogs go over-threshold way too much. There were a few reasons for that largely related to the research itself and being able to get certain kinds of data.

But also just because this was a new procedure, I was not highly experienced as a dog handler and I did let the dogs go over-threshold. I admit it. I apologize. I repent and things are different now. So people have come along since me and done more work in this area and what they're doing now is really keeping that threshold cleaner and a lot of that has to do well they're not even calling it a threshold anymore.

What they're working with a threshold implies a physical specific distance. And I actually used to use markers on the ground to remind me not to go any closer than this. But what is happening now is we look at the dogs that point at which the dog is aware of the aversive stimulus, the person, the helper, and between that point and the point at which they might become aggressive, we're staying in that little window. And the goal is to never go so far that they start their aggressive sequence of behaviors and as a result, well the training is super boring looking, it's still, it's still quite effective. I will say back in the day when I was doing it all rough and not perfect, we learned so much but it was also incredibly effective.

I mean, from the very first dog I worked with, we had a dog-aggressive dog that had always been dog-aggressive and by the end of the first day of working with her we had her loose in a room of five other dogs. Now, I don't think I would have the huevos…I don't think I would have the nerve to do that again today.

I would probably be more careful. I was pretty courageous when I didn't know any better. But it was amazing how much that opportunity for that dog to be off leash around other dogs gave her, because she, the other dogs of course will do things if they're dog savvy dogs. Like my Greyhound was part of that group. We had done all the work with my Greyhound and she was in the group of five dogs and we didn't just let them all out like a herd of dogs. We just let one out, then we let another out, we let them, you know, get used to the situation. We were looking with a little terrier and she was starting to get a little stiff and iffy with my dog. My dog just stopped what she was doing and looked over her shoulder and waited. And when the little dog realized she wasn't getting a rise out of her, my dog walked away. It was like whoa, she already knew what to do, I should have just been asking her the whole time. So, so again, I would not recommend that that is a way to do it on your first ever day of working this procedure.

However, it amazed us both, the way grad school usually goes you go out and do some stuff and then you go back and show it to your professor and you both watch you on video and you discuss what you did wrong, what you could change. I was getting so many people that wanted me to work with their aggressive dogs. So I was getting tons of opportunities to try it and it was like week after week I'm having success after success with these dogs. So to me it became really important that we started sharing it and we, you know, we did our first seminar in 2006. I hadn't even graduated yet. And anyway it went on from there.

But you know, I think my big frustration that I had was that everybody was so hung up on the term "negative reinforcement" because it was in the square that was labeled bad instead of here's a situation where a dog's behavior is already under the control of negative reinforcement in the environment. Nobody trained the dog to be that way, it's already that way. So we know one really important thing and that is this dog needs distance from the things that it's concerned about and the aggression is how it has figured out to get distance. And so there's a problem there and what do we need to do to help the dog look at the environment in a different way and help them find out that yeah there can be something scary there but there's a lot of other ways you can deal with it.

This doesn't relieve the owner from their responsibility to be their dog's advocate obviously. But we start putting some of the control and choice back into the paws of the learner so that they can say, oh you know, that time the other day there was that scary guy who came up and all I had to do was like turn and walk the other way and everything was okay,let me try that. That was way easier than lunging and growling and trying to bite and getting choked on my my leash cuz I'm lunging. And so that's kind of what we're looking for. We're looking for an opportunity to let the dog choose alternative behaviors in a safe environment.

Melissa Breau: Yeah. So you mentioned it can be super effective, super fast. Are there dogs that you wouldn't use this approach with? Are there criteria that you consider when you're evaluating whether or not to use CAT with a particular animal?

Kellie Snider: Yeah, so when we're using CAT, one little bit of information that may be helpful here is that CAT isn't just about negative reinforcement, it can also be used with positive reinforcement. The goal of CAT is to use the functional reinforcer. So if you've got a dog that's lunging and growling and the result is that other people go away, then you know that you want to use a training procedure that makes other people go away. And that going away is a negative contingent going away on certain behaviors that's negative reinforcement. But the situation in which you want to stop a dog from counter surfing, there's obvious management things you can do with that. But if you don't want the dog to jump on the counter, you look at what is a dog getting out of jumping on the counter? Well 99% of the time it's food. So you are going to use food as your reinforcer for the training. And it's like, it's something that people do all the time, they just don't think of it as constructional, but it is so it's like okay I want my dog instead of getting up on the counter when I'm trying to prepare dinner and I have all the food out, I want him to go lay on his bed and I'll give him treats for going to his bed and staying there. So he's gonna get something that he really wants or she or they really want and I'm going to be able to cook food. And that is a constructional training setup. Most people that do training already do constructional work in some categories. It's just when we get into the emotional behavior categories that people get worried that we're going over what the animal can tolerate. And I mean I totally get that, I get that so much we, we don't want, I wouldn't want to go back to where I started the procedure in 2006. But we don't have to because it's streamlined and new and improved now and and again, you know these are principles of behavior when I started all those years ago with my parrot. Doug Cook and Linda Morrow told me about way back in the day when he would get a new parrot that wasn't tame, that's what he did. But he did it kind of instinctively. It was like the dog, I mean the parrot would act calm and he would move away from it. And cuz he knew that the parrot needed some to feel safe in those days. New parrots were being wild caught, which is awful and we don't like to think about that. But it was the reality and so he figured out that by walking away he could help them trust him.

And that's how I look at the CAT procedure as well. It's like I want you to understand that I get you, I'm, you know, I'm, you think of me as a bad guy right now, but I want you to learn that most people are pretty cool and there are things that you can do that won't, that where you can stay safe. I want them to not only physically be safe, I want them to feel safe in the presence of aversive stimuli. That makes a lot of sense.

Melissa Breau: You mentioned in there a couple times the new and improved cat. So I wanna just give you a second to like, do you wanna just talk a little bit about, about some of the ways that it's changed?

Kellie Snider: The big way that it's changed is focusing on the alert instead of waiting for the animal to go over threshold and then waiting it out, which is what we used to do. The dog would go over-threshold and I or whoever was being the helper would just wait and when they did anything else we would walk away.

But now we don't get that close. It might happen occasionally that we get that, that for some reason even if we didn't get that close, the dog may go over threshold because there's so much in the environment that we are not aware of that it's significant for them. But now we're looking for that alert. Is the dog aware of us but below the point where they're gonna start in their aggression sequence and that's where that's like that little sweet spot.

So we're gonna go away then cuz we've got a lot of good things going on right there. We've got, the dog is aware of us a lot of training at, I think people are better about this now, but historically a lot of training involved, getting the dog not to pay attention to the bad thing. It was like, look at your owner or you know,
anything besides looking over there. But you know, like with Leslie McDevitt's, Look at That protocol and we're basically, we get the dog, we want the dog to be aware that the bad guy is there and then to learn what to do about it. Like instead of holy crap, they're coming closer, I have to attack them. We're saying okay, all you have to do is be aware they're tuned in but they're not pushed so far. Now that's going to be, that comes with its own challenges, which is how do we stay in that little window. It's easier said than done and for some dogs the window's gonna be bigger than for other dogs. There's gonna be, you know, you think of those hair-trigger shepherds that they're so aware of every little thing in the environment, it's like nothing gets past them. And so that little window can be teeny tiny. But that's what we're shooting for is staying between noticing and not so far as aggressing. Typically I think, you know, people kind of think about treatments or approaches for handling aggression like desensitization, counter conditioning as the goal is to have the animal be less stressed, right? Or maybe we're looking for a neutral response is that, you know, kinda the same as what your goal is with CAT.

Melissa Breau: Can you just share a little bit about what you consider as success when working with CAT?

Kellie Snider: We, yeah that was, that was kind of a big deal when we started doing this work was we found that if we kept going long enough, the animal would shift their demeanor. So they would start being more curious. Their bodies would get looser as we were working. Like we might get very close to them in the approach and retreat part, but we're not gonna handle them right away.

But we would get, we would get to the point where we're seeing, well this dog that was super stiff with a rigid tail and you know, just like on the verge of snarling and that's the most relaxed. We saw him, that's where we started. And as we worked as we went along, we would find the body getting loose, the ears getting loose, we'd see the head tilt in curiosity, we'd see them start to sniff the air towards the helper. And ultimately all the dogs in the research except for one, got to the point where I could handle them or they could play with my dog. If there was one dog for whatever reason we couldn't really get anywhere with him. He had a really bad…I'm not a vet so I'm saying I think he had a really bad thyroid problem. His eyes just bugged out, literally bugged out. And the owners couldn't get him to the vet cuz he was so aggressive, they were afraid to put a harness on him. I liked to work dogs with harnesses instead of collars so that we wouldn't end up choking anybody.

But he was just a, I don't know why I, we just couldn't get too far with him. But with the other dogs in the study, we were able to go, if, if it wasn't me as the helper, somebody, whoever was the helper was able to interact with the dog by the end of the, by the end of the procedure we called that the switchover effect.

Because what apparently happens is you go from being a, a negative reinforcer or something that they want to go away to becoming a positive reinforcer or something that they want to interact with. And of course if you, when you get up to that point, you've gotta be really careful you're gonna see some video at the, at the webinar that is one of my very early dogs where I, I wasn't very careful, everything went great but you will go, no that's not how that should be done. And that's okay cuz I learned time, time went on. People are not the same as they were 15 years ago or however long that is. So anyway, that's what it, it's a switchover where we do ideally want to go to the point that the dog understands that the helper is not dangerous.

You can do it sometimes just due to training limitations. You won't go that far like some dogs that were in New York City and you don't know when people are gonna be popping out from here or there and you can't have the dog walk up to strangers. Lot of different reasons that you might not go all the way through. But in an ideal world,

if you can get to the point where you do go through switchover, you can get some really lasting and heartwarming results.

Melissa Breau: Awesome. So you've mentioned a couple times the webinar, so I do wanna talk about that. So we've got a webinar coming up for FDSA December 1st, which is next week. Can you just kinda give us the highlights, what are you gonna focus on for the webinar and maybe who might wanna join us?

Kellie Snider: We're gonna talk about a lot of the stuff that we've talked about today and maybe go into a little more depth about it. I'm gonna talk about the learning theory quadrants, we're gonna talk about functional behavior and you know, the construction approach itself. And I think that this will be most beneficial for people who work with dogs with aggression or who have one and have some training background.

It'll be particularly interesting I think to people who either participated in an earlier seminar from back in the day or who have just heard things and want to know what's really going on. And I think there's a lot of that, there's still a lot of controversy about it, which makes me sad but I totally get it cause I was trained the same way everybody else.

That negative reinforcement is bad, but the fact of the matter is, it's all how you, how you approach the delivery. Like I would never try to teach a sit or a weave pole or whatever using negative reinforcement. And a lot of people do use negative reinforcement for new behaviors, new repertoires. And I think that's perfectly incompatible with good training.

But if you're using negative reinforcement because a behavior is already maintained by negative reinforcement in the dog's world, then you can introduce negative reinforcement with the goal of giving the dog alternatives that they can perform that are safer and making sure that you stay below threshold so that the aversive stimulus is minimally aversive. You wanna keep it way down far enough away and you know, learning does take a little bit of stress. I don't know about you, but every time I learn something there's some stress involved. And so we do, we do introduce some stress but we also introduce opportunities to get relief based on easier and safer behaviors. And that's the big, big thing. The big thing.

Melissa Breau: Yeah, I like that. Anything else you wanna kind of share about the webinar or do you think people should know to maybe help them decide if they wanna join us?

I think we covered a lot of ground. I think we covered a lot of ground today. I'm like, did I have anything left to do at the webinar? I dunno. No, I think we're good.

Melissa Breau: Cool. So to kind round out the chat with one last question, I like to just kind end on this note if you wanted to like leave people with one last thought or if there's like a point you really wanna kind of drive home a piece of information you really want people to kind of understand, what would that be?

Kellie Snider: I would want people to start thinking more about figuring out what the dog gets out of a behavior and less about eliminating the behavior. So instead of elimination, we wanna replace behavior. And I think that is such a powerful tool across your training, you know, repertoire and that it makes a huge difference for our dogs. I like that.

Melissa Breau: Well thank you so much Kelly for coming on the podcast. This has been absolutely fascinating and so interesting. So thank you.

Kellie Snider: Thank you. I really appreciate you inviting me.

Melissa Breau: Yeah. And thank you to all of our listeners for tuning in. We will be back next week with Erin Lyes to talk about keeping your senior dog happy and healthy. If you haven't already subscribed to our podcast in iTunes or the podcast app of your choice of our next episode, automatically downloaded to your phone as soon as it becomes available. Today's show is brought to you by the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy. Special thanks to Denise Fenzi for supporting this podcast, music provided royalty for you by bensound.com. The track feature here is called Audio Editing Provided by Chris Lang. Thanks again for tuning in and happy training.


Today's show is brought to you by the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy. Special thanks to Denise Fenzi for supporting this podcast. Music provided royalty-free by BenSound.com; the track featured here is called "Buddy." Audio editing provided by Chris Lang.

Thanks again for tuning in -- and happy training! 

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E288: Sara Brueske - "Teaching Toy Play with Food"

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