A new client asked me the following question this weekend. “Isn’t clicker training just using food bribes?”.
What a beautiful insight into not only one of my favorite places on the planet, but into the dogs I love so much. Thank you, Debbie, for sharing.
Back in the early 1980’s I was intent on finding ways to get university credits without actually sitting in a classroom. I discovered study programs which were taught ‘in the field’ and awarded credits toward graduation. I spent months hiking in the Sierra Nevada in California, weeks canoeing rivers in Montana and sweating in Death Valley. My biggest regret to date is that I didn’t participate in a wolf study program because someone told me all you ended up seeing was wolf scat.
On a reading list for one course was Barry Lopez‘s Of Wolves and Men which followed the histories of people’s relationship to and mythology about wolves, and made a case for the conversation of the species. It seemed long overdue that I would visit a place like Wolf Park where I could actually meet, and interact with wolves. A 3-day seminar contrasting the behaviors of wolves…
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According to The American Heritage Dictionary “aversive” is an adjective for something “causing avoidance of a thing, situation, or behavior by using an unpleasant or punishing stimulus, as in techniques of behavior modification.”
In other words, when we punish, we have to use something that is aversive to the subject of our punishment. It has to be something they find “unpleasant or punishing”.
So what or who determines what is aversive? The person or animal on the receiving end makes this determination. This is an important point often misunderstood not only by people in general, but even some trainers. Why is this important? Because when you are training any animal everything has a consequence, good or bad. Too often punishment is misunderstood to the detriment of the animal.
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We all make associations. Go to a restaurant and find a hair on your plate. What comes to mind the next time you think of that restaurant or even that particular food?
What about the associations we make with a particular smell or food from our past? White Shoulders perfume makes me think of one of my grandmothers. Buckwheat pancakes and Collies make me think of my other grandmother. These are wonderful, feel good associations.
Just as we make associations so do our dogs. Dogs are constantly making associations. It is part of the learning process. Unlike us, where some of our associations can be complicated, dogs tend to make very direct simple associations. Read the rest of this entry »