Science-Based Dog Training (with Feeling)
Friday (9:30am–5:30pm): Predict & Prevent Adolescent/Adult Problems
Saturday (9:30am–5:30pm): Science-Based Dog Training With Feeling
Sunday (9:30am–5:30pm): Quick & Easy, Reliable, Off-Leash Verbal Control
The development of off-leash, puppy socialization and training classes caused a paradigm shift in competition/working dog training, whelping the new field of Pet Dog Training. However, after nearly 30 years, pet dog training is in dire need of re-invention. Most owners quickly master puppy socialization, beginning lure/reward training and beginning clicker training but few manage to finish the job and produce a confident and friendly adult dog that is under verbal off-leash control without the continued use of training aids. Instead of phasing out the necessity of lures (within the first session) and rewards, many owners continue using food and toy lures plus clicks and food rewards for ever. Lures quickly become bribes and soon, attention and compliance become dependent on the owner having food or a clicker in their hand or pocket.
Puppy socialization and training are both easy and enjoyable, but pet dog training is all about preparing puppies for adolescence, when everything seems to fall apart. For puppies to successfully navigate adolescence, we must address and resolve a number of crucial issues that continue to inhibit progress. Some elements are cutting-edge and others are so old that they are new again. Pet dog training comprises teaching owners how to raise confident, good-natured, well-behaved, mannerly and biddable dogs, using training techniques that are effective, quick, easy and expedient for pet dog owners, especially including children. This seminar will describe how to avoid (or resolve) the many pitfalls of puppyhood and adolescence and the quickest and easiest way to teach reliable, off-leash verbal control without the continued use of training aids. Moreover, this seminar will revitalize the spirit and soul of dog training in this sterile quantum world of clicks and kibble and jerks and shocks.
Friday: Predict & Prevent Adolescent/Adult Problems
Many dog owners and professionals continue to neglect far too many absolutely basic aspects of husbandry and training. In particular, we are not even close to fully capitalizing on the opportunities of early puppyhood, yet we are still surprised when dogs develop utterly predictable and preventable, behavior, temperament and training problems during adolescence. We have to “predict and prevent” puppy/adolescent problems. Prevention is quick and easy but treatment can be difficult, time-consuming and sometimes dangerous and of course, sheltering and re-homing is extremely expensive and sad.
A long-term and short-term confinement schedule effectively prevents the development of expected and common, puppy housesoiling, destructive chewing, excessive barking, separation anxiety, plus specific obsessive/compulsive/neurotic tendencies. Similarly, socialization and classical conditioning prevent development of the predictable fears and lack of confidence of adolescence that are characteristically expressed as dog-dog and dog-human aggression. However, we are simply not doing one tenth of the training, one hundredth of the socialization, or one thousandth of the classical conditioning required to provide puppies with the manners, confidence and social savvy and to successfully navigate adolescence.
Few people even think of classically conditioning a sociable and confident puppy, even though behavior and temperament are in continual are predictable flux and adolescent/adult fears and aggression are just a couple of months away. Socialization is a four-step process and the puppy must be maximally socialized at each stage before entering subsequent stages: 1. Birth – 8 weeks in original home, 2. 8 – 12 weeks in new home, 3. 12 – 18 weeks in puppy class and 4. During adolescence in the world at large.
Puppies need to be raised indoors according to Open Paw’s Minimal Mental Health Guidelines for Puppies with plentiful human contact, so that prospective owners may at least start their journey with a housetrained, chewtoy-trained, socialized puppy that at the very least has been taught to come, sit, lie down and roll over on cue. By eight-weeks of age, the Critical Period of Socialization is nearly two thirds over and puppies should have been handled and trained by at least one hundred people, especially children and men. Socialization is quite safe provided that the puppies are indoors and family and visitors leave outdoor shoes outside. Puppies must be well-socialized before they go to their new home. Similarly, puppies need to meet another hundred people during their first month at home so that they are super-socialized before attending puppy classes. Puppy classes are not intended for socializing asocial or antisocial puppies, rather they are intended as a safe forum for socialized puppies to continue socialization.
Puppy classes should include pups of all shapes and sizes and be taught entirely off-leash to maximize dog-human and dog-dog socialization and the acquisition of bite inhibition and owners’ off-leash verbal control. Any signs of bullying or fearfulness must be resolved during the first session, since behavior and temperament will become more resistant to change as each week goes by. Puppies must be ultra-mega-super-socialized before encountering the world at large as adolescents. Even though the pup may appear to be Mr. Sociable, classical conditioning is the name of the game to enable the pup to successfully navigate adolescence and become a confident adult dog. Without heavy-duty socialization and classical conditioning, the socialized pup may lose confidence and become fearful and aggressive surprisingly quickly.
Saturday: Science-Based Dog Training with Feeling
Dog training is in danger of losing its soul. So many trainers are forgetting to talk to their dogs and provide continued verbal instruction and feedback. With the exception of lure/reward training (and much less effective physical prompting), effective instruction is minimal and feedback primarily consists of quantum rewards (clicks and treats) and/or (but much too often, or), quantum punishments (leash-jerks and shocks). Additionally, theoretical discussion (and argument) often takes precedence over actually training dogs to criterion.
Please don’t panic, I am not being heretical. Our little book of learning theory is valid; several hundreds of thousands of laboratory experiments cannot be wrong. Existing learning theory is absolutely valid for when computers use non-instructive, quantum feedback (kibble and shocks) to train rats and pigeons in laboratories. However, I think we should question whether people should even try to emulate computer-generated learning theory and methods when training dogs. First, we cannot, and second, surely we can do better. Much better, in fact. Yup! Our creedal learning theory is in dire need of evaluation, deconstruction and reconstruction for practical application in pet dog training.
People are not computers. People have neither the computing power nor the consistency to calculate and administer reinforcement schedules, or to punish immediately on each and every occurrence following undesired behavior. Hence, many laboratory schedules of reinforcement and punishment simply do not work that well when applied to train animals (and people). Both speed of training and response-reliability suffer. But it doesn’t have to. We are cognitively smarter than computers, (didn’t we built computers?) and so, we can devise practical reinforcement schedules that are even more efficient and effective and we can make occasional (non-aversive) punishment work extremely effectively.
But why did we come to rely so much on non-instructive quantum feedback (clicks, treats, jerks and shocks)? Of course, computers had to because they couldn’t talk to, cuddle, or stroke their trainees. But just because computers had to use kibble and shocks does not mean we have to follow suit. There is such a thing as advancement in science. I mean, we now go to the moon via rocket; we don’t walk, bicycle, or go on horseback. Whereas computers are brilliant at objective quantification and consistent immediate feedback, computers still lack the heart, mind and soul for complex qualitative assessment and instructive analogue feedback. We, though, have an eye for quality, panache and pizzazz. And we have language. We may teach dogs the meaning of words to instruct them what to do and instructively reprimand them when they err. Moreover, we have emotions and feeling and so our verbal feedback is analogue. Not only can we inform a dog whether he gets it right or wrong but also, we can effectively communicate how well he did or the relative danger of his failure to comply. By using our voice in training, we may transcend the training ability of any computer.
Technical training is precise and wonderful (in a laboratory) … but it is sterile. “Give them a scalpel and they would dissect a kiss.” For me, training a dog is all about establishing a relationship based on clear communication, representative feedback and feeling — The Tango of Training — enjoying learning doing something together.
From the trainee’s viewpoint, feedback is binary; consequences of actions cause things to get better, or worse. Even so, far too many trainers have become sectarian fundamentalists, only accepting, believing and practicing one half of our little book of learning theory — either quantum rewards only, or quantum punishments only. Many owners and trainers believe that punishment is always aversive and because understandably, they don’t want to frighten or hurt dogs, opt to use only reward-based techniques — positive reinforcement and negative punishment. Other trainers believe that punishment has to be aversive in order to be effective and so, only use aversive stimuli for positive punishment and for negative reinforcement. In actual fact, punishment by people need not be aversive to be effective. Therefore, in pet dog training, punishment should not be aversive.
So many people have blithely dictated, “punishment is an aversive stimulus” that we have come to believe that it is true. Punishment has become synonymous with pain and retribution. However, nowhere in the annals of learning-theory does it state that punishment must be aversive, it’s just that computer-generated punishments were always shocking. Surely though, we are not going to adopt schedules of computer-generated shock as our model for education? Learning theory defines punishment as: A stimulus that decreases the frequency of the immediately preceding behavior such that it is less likely to occur in the future.
Don’t think about beating a dog, a horse, or a child. Instead, think about softly spoken instruction to correct mistakes when teaching a child to read, or when learning how to cook, play tennis, golf, ski, or dance. Think about educating children and employees. You don’t just zap them for not doing it your way. Instead you clearly instruct them what to do, motivate them to want to do what you want them to do and then instruct them as to how they did (via calm binary, verbal feedback).
Now, there are some people that might want to argue forever that softly-spoken, instructive reprimands are not punishment and that they are interrupters, DROs, DRIs, repeated commands, or mindless nagging. As they argue, I just get along with successfully using a binary feedback of praise and instructive reprimands to teach off-leash reliability and so, my dogs are obedient indoors and get to enjoy off-leash romps on trails and in parks.
Sunday: Quick & Easy, Reliable, Off-leash Verbal Control
The ultimate goal of teaching basic manners and obedience is verbal, off-leash reliability, including times when dogs are at a distance or distracted and especially, without the continued need of any training aid. Additionally the training techniques should be quick and easy and entirely suitable for pet dog owners. Time and trials to criterion is always of the essence in pet dog training. Many owners embrace beginning lure/reward and clicker training but few achieve the criterion of off-leash verbal control without the need of a food pouch. Instead, they continue to use lures (which soon become bribes) and so, response reliability becomes contingent on the owner having food in their hand. Eventually and predictably though, the dog blows off all lures in adolescence. Thinking that behavior is antecedent-driven, owners pursue a futile Sisyphean quest of upping-the-level of the lure and eventually, everyone smells of dried-fish. Other owners learn how to successfully drive behavior using training rewards but few succeed in weaning their dogs off food. Response-reliability becomes contingent on the owner having food on their person and compliance wanes when the dog is off-leash at home and in the park. Owners become discouraged and frustrated and often resort to punishment that increases in frequency and severity.
Owners desperately need to learn:
· How to successfully achieve realistic, progressive criteria to establish off-leash verbal control without the continued need for training aids.
· How to teach dogs the meaning of our instructions — human words for doggy behaviors and actions, so that the dog understands what we want him to do. The 1-2-3-4 of lure/reward training is by far the quickest way to teach dogs ESL (English as a Second Language): 1. Request, 2. Lure, 3. Response and 4. Reward.
· How to train both puppies and adult dogs off-leash from the outset, in order to prevent physical prompts and physical restraint from becoming difficult-to-phase-out crutches. Physical prompts and restraints are much more difficult to phase out than non-contact lures and rewards.
· How to introduce training aids, including food and toy lures and rewards, collars of all types, leashes, halters and harnesses, so that they are easy to phase out.
· How to phase out food and toy lures and replace them with hand-signals (motion lures) within the very first training session.
· How to phase out hand-signals and other motion lures and replace them with verbal commands, so the dog will respond if his back is turned.
· How to teach dogs to want to do what we want him to do by phasing out all training rewards (especially kibble, toys, clicks and treats) and replace them with positively huge, Premackian Life Rewards and thus, create a dog that is internally-motivated and self-reinforced, so that for the dog, “just doing it” is more than sufficient reward.
· How to objectively quantify response-reliability via a Test-Train-Test sequence to provide continued proof of success and speed of training in order to motivate otherwise frustrated and overwhelmed owners.
· How to enforce absolute compliance (when occasionally required) without physical force, fear or pain. Verbal control must be independent of tone and volume, otherwise the dog will likely baulk the very first time an emergency command is shouted.