key concepts in understanding how dogs are trained and the concequences (good and bad) of how dogs are trained. Suppression
suppression is exactly what it sounds like. You are suppressing a behavior, keeping it at a low level or making it "go away" as long as you keep the pressure on.
Ever see som'one tugging on a dogs leash to keep it from barking? The dog still tries to bark and then will give up after several (or one good) yank...so you think that dog NEVER barked ever again? Its very probable that the next time the dog saw som'thing, even moments later the dog barked AGAIN and the owner once again yanked until the dog stopped.
What that owner is doing is called "nagging". They are correcting at a level that only suppresses
behavior, just long enough to make the owner feel they acomplished som'thing, and then it reapears and the owner nags the dog again...and again...nagging is considered a poor way to train if you use corrections, som' people even liken it to abuse.
another thing about suppression is it can contextual. Meaning the dog learns that the punishment only comes in a certain room or from a certain person or a certain time of day. Potty training is a GREAT example of this. The old school way to potty train is to rub the dogs nose in its mess. There are many flaws in this method, but I'll concentrate only on one for now.
So the dog pees and gets punished by a nose rub, a shout, or som'times even a smack. That'll teach em! Peeing in the house is BAD!
So what has the dog REALLY learned here?
hes learned that its very scary and bad to pee in front of you. Most dogs will very quickly learn that if they pee in another room, or when you aren't looking, that its OK to pee. Peeing in the house has not been fixed...the behavior was simply suppressed to appear as "fallout" elsewhere (I will cover fallout)
Heres a human example. You are a kid. There is candy on the top of the fridge you REALLY want. You get in trouble for taking any by mom...so you learn that when mom is distracted, you can sneak in and get candy and there is no concequences....now lets say mom catches you once or twice and punishes you....would you stop stealing candy? Som' might...others would just learn to be even sneakier....because mom punishing you has not changed your desire to aquire the candy. She has changed you desire to get caught. SHe has suppressed the candy stealing behavior only in certain contexts....meaning, if given the oportunity...you still will repeat the behavior. Modification
This is what all good trainers aim for, correction based or reward based. Modification means the behavior has changed....if you dog was a computer, think of it as installing new software, your dog is running on a new operating system.
Lets go back to our example...the dog barking on leash at other dogs. The dog could be barking for many reasons...frustration, fear, etc...but lets look at the ROOT reason the dog barks. The dog WANTS to do it. All organisms, if uninhibited simply do what feels right, good etc. The dog wants to bark...thus he barks.
Now lets say give the dog a correction, as in a sharp leash pop. If you can extinguish (make the behavior stop forever
) the behavior in two pops or less. You have modified the behavior sucessfully. If the dog barks again, you have nagged. Now barking is VERY unrewarding to the dog to do, so unrewarding he decides to not do it again. There many are concerns with this method that I will cover later also.
Another simple method would be to reward the dog for NOT barking. Since the dog cannot bark and NOT bark at the same time you begin to learn which rewarding thing the dog likes more...your reward (attention, toys, treats) or the barking. If you have som'thing the dog like MORE than barking and use that to reward NOT barking. The dog will stop barking. Once the dog is consistantly not barking and looking to you for his reward..you have modified the behavior. Shutdown
also refered to as "learned helplessness"
Shutdown is a dog that was stopped trying because he has learned he is never right in a certain context. Imagine if the majority of the time you raise your hand in class to answer a question your teacher screams "NO WRONG YOUR WRONG" and everyone laughs at you. Now lets say the teacher calls on you for som'thing as simple as "whats your name
?"...you know the answer, but you can't seem to reply, you may even avert your eyes and try and be invisible, even if that results in getting yelled at and answering wouldn't have. Its a complicated concept.
Here is a skinnerian example.
A dog is in a room with an electirifed floor. There is a switch on the wall that turns the painful floor OFF. The floor turns ON. The dog may run, vocalize, hit things, etc etc, basically trying to figure out if there is a way to turn the pain OFF. If he by chance bumps the off switch, he learns very fast that the switch stops the pain. So the dog then learns to go to the switch faster and faster...
dog 2 is in the same room...only there is NO switch...the dog may try all the same behaviors to turn off the pain...running, spinning, vocalizing etc etc...but there is NO way to turn off the pain. After a certain amount of time the dog will stop trying to turn off the pain...in fact the dog will just lay on the floor and TAKE the pain.
Whats interesting about dog 2 is once the dog is learning to take the pain laying down so to speak, you can add all the switches and open doors to the room you want to. Give the dog 100s of options to excape and the dog will NOT TRY. He will lay there and take the pain because he has learned to STOP TRYING. This is shutdown.
dogs that flip over and refuse to move...dogs that cower and refuse to move, som' dogs will "forget" known commands, lip lick, disengage...basically they throw stress signals. Shutdown can be confused with "submission" quite often.
so why am I talking about shutdown? Seems like a harsh thing right?
Well heres the thing...everytime you punish your dog blindly you risk creating this. There are dogs that are "hard", the type you could yell at and hit with bricks and beg for more...these dogs are very resistant to shutdown...they are very confident....
all the way to the softest "soft" dogs that a simple "eh eh!" can shut them down and ruin their day. There also are dogs that are "hard" to verbal corrections and "soft" to physical ones and vise versa.
There is a magic spot were you aren't nagging, and you aren't shuting a dog down. Problem is, if you can hit this spot (modification with aversives) you probably don't need or wouldn't be reading this sticky. This ability is a SKILL that is very very hard to impart onto new people. Thats why you see alot of novices nagging their dogs or their dogs are shutdown, and I'd say 90%+ are unaware they are doing anything incorrectly.
Som' dogs that have learned to shutdown are permanently handicaped in free shaping exercises, or learning new behaviors that require the dogs to offer behaviors. They have learned that offering new behaviors is a bad thing to do, so they only offer the *safe* behaviors. These dogs will often look very robotic when you see them working. Fallout
Fallout is a term used to describe the bad "side effects" of training. There is a wonderful concept called classical conditioning and its all about associations.
ever hear a song and it reminds you of high school, or a certain person
smell a certain food and think of grandma or another relative that used to cook that food?
see an object and have a vivid memory surface?
Those are all examples of CC (classical conditioning) but it is much simpler than that....you remember which stores have nice employees, better prices. Which restaurants have poor services, which people at work annoy you or piss you off.
there are emotions attached to all these associations. Trigger, memory, emotion. There are all connected.
One of the main pieces of fallout when you train your dog with force, pain or fear is that the dog is going to associate those unpleasant emotions/memories with YOU. YOU hurt them YOU scared them YOU forced them. If you are present when the punishment occurs, they learn that you can be scary. Ever see a child that favors one parent? OR perhaps you favored one parent? That was likely the parent you felt safer with, or the parent that was more predictable correct? Animals are the same way. They would rather be with safe people than scary people.
Another piece of fallout can be phobias. You see this alot with dog that are trained not to do things with the use of pennies in a can, spray bottles etc, etc, but it can stem from any punishment. Lets say the dog barks at the door...the owner throws a can of pennies at the dog...scaring the bejeebus (lol) out of the dog...heres the thing tho...many dogs stop barking because they were interupted, NOT because they learned barking made the noise happen...they also can learn to be VERY scared of the door. After all the were by the door when the scary thing happend...had they been looking at a visitor when that can made noise they can become fearful of that vistor...the thing is you can never 100% know what associations the dog will make with the punishment.