Tag Archives: Force-free Training

Dog Training – Learning & Credentials

Louise Stapleton-Frappell B.A. Hons. PCT-A. CAP3. CTDI. DN-FSG1. DN-CPCT2 Wow that’s a lot of letters and I recently added some more: PCBC-A! (Professional Canine Behavior Consultant – Accredited).

So why do I feel the need to continuously further my education in the field of force-free, rewards based, science based dog training?

I am sure that many of you are already aware that the field of dog training is as yet an unregulated industry. Whether you live in the USA, the UK or elsewhere, you will probably be surrounded by people calling themselves dog trainers and offering pet dog classes.  Some of these individuals will have worked hard to continuously improve their skills and expand their knowledge in the field of rewards based, science based, force-free dog training. Unfortunately, there will be many more who have set up shop and are using techniques that are not only outdated but also potentially emotionally and physically harmful to the pets in their care.

I grew up surrounded by beautiful countryside and lots of animals. Border Collies, German Shepherd Dogs and Chow Chows were part of the family home.  After studying for my Bachelor of Arts Honours Degree at the University of Leeds, I took my first teaching post at a school in Cartagena. This was soon followed by a move to Southern Spain where I added a beautiful German Shepherd x Doberman, Bess, to my family and thus began my passion for teaching dogs as well as people!

Samson and Bess in 1999

When I first started training Bess, ‘going to school’ wasn’t something dog trainers did.  Most dog trainers were self-taught or carried out apprenticeships with those already working in the field.  At that point in time, I had no intention of training professionally but I did want to train effectively and with my dog’s best interests at heart.

Tessa and Samson

I was very fortunate as a local veterinarian put me in touch with a respected police dog trainer who passed on his knowledge and shared his love of the beautiful canines he worked with. The dogs were taught with enthusiasm, praise and lots of games. Manolo’s most repeated words to me at that time were “más, más!…  She worked hard, reward her more, play more!”  Bess loved to jump and so that is exactly what we encouraged her to do.  She would happily fly up into the air to the sound of my jubilant ‘yay’!  I didn’t know it then, but what we were doing was positively reinforcing the behaviour she had just carried out.

Jambo & Tessa with an Edition of BARKS from the Guild Magazine (April 2016`0

A gorgeous Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Samson, was soon added to my family and he was followed by my present family members, Tessa and Jambo. I continued to follow my love of teaching dogs and furthered my education in the world of dog training.  I discovered the world of dog tricks and shared my passion with Jambo, who, at the age of just 16 months, became the first Staffordshire Bull Terrier to become a Trick Dog Champion. Jambo has since been aired on Talent Hounds TV in Canada and was also featured as a Victoria Stilwell Positively Story.

Manolo sadly passed away at a young age but I am sure that if he were with us today, he would have helped lead the way in promoting force-free training. I have been very fortunate as, unlike when Manolo was training, there are now many great educational courses and resources available that have allowed me to continue to build on my knowledge and further my education.

I believe that if you wish to do your best by those in your care, it is your obligation to make sure that the knowledge and skills you are sharing are based on the most up-to-date information available.  We know so much more now about the way animals learn. We know so much more about how our interactions with them affect both their mental and physical wellbeing.   There is no longer anything standing in our paths. We can find and attend courses; read up on the latest scientific findings; learn about operant and respondent conditioning; watch amazing instructional videos and webinars from some of the top people in our field who willingly spend their time creating informative, fun-filled educational presentations; we can attend workshops and seminars; we can follow the amazing studies into canine cognition; read books written by the ‘rock stars’ of our industry: Jean Donaldson, Pat Miller, James O’Hare, Ken Ramirez, Kay Laurence, Karen Pryor, Niki Tudge, Patricia McConnell. Victoria Stilwell, Denise Fenzi, Bob Bailey and many more.

I’m not saying that every dog trainer or pet industry professional needs to earn every credential there is, but I don’t believe there is any excuse for using out-dated punitive methods based on myths and old-wives tales about being the pack leader.  Furthering your education does not just give you a scientific grounding to your work, it also helps to elevate you to a professional level in a field that is unfortunately still awash with amateurs.

I started by saying ‘Wow, that’s a lot of letters’, so I will now explain what some of them mean.  I’m a Certified Trick Dog Instructor and a DogNostics Fun Scent Games Instructor; I gained my CAP3 with Distinction – That’s the clicker training Competency Assessment Programme from Learning About Dogs; I’m a DogNostics Level 2 Pet Care Technician and I have verified certification in Animal Behaviour and Welfare (Edinburgh University) and Dog Emotion and Cognition (Duke University). I was one of the first twenty people worldwide to become a Professional Canine Trainer – Accredited, through the Pet Professional Accreditation Board and, as I previously mentioned, I am now a Professional Canine Behavior Consultant.

The Pet Professional Accreditation Board – PPAB – offers the only Accredited Training Technician and Professional Canine Trainer certification for professionals who believe there is no place for shock, choke, prong, fear or intimidation in canine training and behavior practices.  PPAB also offers the only psychometrically developed examination for Training & Behavior Consultants who also support these humane and scientific practices.

Professional Canine Behavior Consultant –  A definition:

Dictionaries define the word Consultant in several ways.  PPAB defines a Consultant as a professional who undertakes consultations and focuses primarily on modifying behavior problems that are elicited by emotions. Consultants are also professional dog trainers that can competently teach obedience classes, day training, private training sessions, board and train programs that focus on pet dog skills and manners.  Consultants are behavior and training professionals skilled in the application of science and artistic endeavor who delivers results through the development of mutually respectful, caring relationships – Pet Professional Acceditation Board

I for one will continue to study as I know that there is still so much to learn! You can learn more about PPAB here

 
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The Hierarchy of Rewards is Not Static

In 2014, I published a blog post entitled Jambo’s Hierarchy of Rewards in which I discussed the different reinforcers I use when training and the ‘value’ they have for my learner.  In my article entitled Rewards and Positive Reinforcement – Are they the same?  I discussed the meaning of rewards versus reinforcement. In this article I would like to take a look at “hierarchies”.

When needs are not being met, animals will be motivated to try and fulfil those needs.  Psychologist Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a motivational theory in psychology comprising a five-tier model of human needs, often depicted as hierarchical levels within a pyramid. Maslow stated that people are motivated to achieve certain needs and that some needs take precedence over others. Our most basic need is for physical survival, and this will be the first thing that motivates our behavior. Once that level is fulfilled the next level up is what motivates us. The original hierarchy of needs five-stage model includes:

  1. Biological and physiological needs – air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, sex, sleep. The things that we need to survive. All animals are motivated by these needs. If we are hungry we will want to eat, if we are thirsty, we will want to drink.
  2. Safety needs – protection from elements, security, order, law, stability, freedom from fear. Not having these needs met can lead to stress and anxiety and even to aggressive responses in an effort to protect ourselves
  3. Love and belongingness needs – friendship, intimacy, trust and acceptance, receiving and giving affection and love. Affiliating, being part of a group (family, friends, work). The need for us to communicate with others and interact with others. If this need isn’t met we can become depressed and anxious. The same is true of animals.
  4. Esteem needs – which Maslow classified into two categories: (i) esteem for oneself (dignity, achievement, mastery, independence) and (ii) the desire for reputation or respect from others (e.g. status, prestige).
  5. Self-actualization needs – realizing personal potential, self-fulfillment, seeking personal growth and peak experiences.

It is important to note that Maslow’s (1943, 1954) five stage model has been expanded to include cognitive and aesthetic needs (Maslow, 1970a) and later transcendence needs (Maslow, 1970b) as follows:

  1. Biological and physiological needs
  2. Safety needs
  3. Love and belongingness needs
  4. Esteem needs
  5. Cognitive needs – knowledge and understanding, curiosity, exploration, need for meaning and predictability. The need to understand and a desire to know things.
  6. Aesthetic needs – appreciation and search for beauty, balance, form, etc.
  7. Self-actualization needs
  8. Transcendence needs – A person is motivated by values which transcend beyond the personal self. e.g. mystical experiences and certain experiences with nature, aesthetic experiences, sexual experiences, service to others, the pursuit of science, a religious faith etc. (McLeod, 2017)

Why is Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory important?  It has made a big impact on how we teach and manage our students in school. We know that behavior is a response to the environment but Maslow’s hierarchy also looks at the physical, emotional, social and intellectual needs and how they impact learning. The hierarchy also clearly shows us that before an individual’s cognitive needs can be met, we must fulfil the basic physiological needs. I often tell my clients that although we want to use food as reinforcement that does not mean that I want anyone to not feed their dog.  A hungry learner will find it very difficult to focus on learning!  I also believe we should show our learners, both human and canine, that they are valued and respected and ensure we work with them in a safe and supportive environment.  We need to meet the esteem needs of all our students so that they can quickly progress with their learning!

The Hierarchy of Dog Needs adapted from Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs by Pet Professional Guild member, Linda Michaels, is a hierarchical model of wellness and behavior modification in which first we meet our dogs’ biological, emotional and social needs and, once these foundational needs have been met, we use management, antecedent modification, positive and differential reinforcement, counter-conditioning and desensitization to modify behavior.

Although not a hierarchy, before I get back to my Hierarchy of Rewards, I would like to mention Brambell’s Five Freedoms, which put responsibility on the animal care taker to make sure they provide animals with a good welfare environment.  I learned about the Five Freedoms and other animal welfare frameworks as part of my Animal Behaviour and Welfare course, University of Edinburgh.

In 1965, the UK government commissioned an investigation, led by Professor Roger Brambell, into the welfare of intensively farmed animals. The Brambell Report stated that:  “An animal should at least have sufficient freedom of movement to be able without difficulty, to turn round, groom Itself, get up, lie down and stretch its limbs”. This short recommendation became known as Brambell’s Five Freedoms. Because of the report, the Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Committee was created to monitor the livestock production sector. In July 1979, this was replaced by the Farm Animal Welfare Council, and by the end of that year, the five freedoms had been codified into the recognizable list format. Although developed for farm animals, Brambell’s Five Freedoms can be adapted to pets. The Five Freedoms are:

  • Freedom from Hunger and Thirst
    By ready access to fresh water and diet to maintain health and vigor.
  • Freedom from Discomfort
    By providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area.
  • Freedom from Pain, Injury or Disease
    By prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment.
  • Freedom to Display Natural Behavior
    By providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal’s own kind.
  • Freedom from Fear and Distress
    By ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering.

In addition to Brambell’s Five Freedoms other animal welfare frameworks such as the Duty of Care Concept need to be foremost in our minds when caring for and working with any animal. The Duty of Care Concept focuses on providing animals with a safe happy environment which they can enjoy and encourages legal responsibility for those animals.

Now back to Jambo’s Hierarchy of Rewards (Stapleton-Frappell, 2013)  If you have read everything above, you will understand that before beginning any training, the trainer should make sure that the learner’s basic needs are met. The trainer can then make use of both primary and secondary reinforcers but must bear in mind that the ‘value’ will be ascertained by the recipient and not the provider as, although I use the name Hierarchy of Rewards, I am referring to a hierarchy of positive reinforcement consequences.

The ‘value’ will be ascertained by the recipient and not the provider

Whether teaching Jambo or any other learner a new behavior, or reinforcing behaviors that have previously been taught, I use that learner’s own personal ‘hierarchy of rewards’.  Each individual’s hierarchy includes lower ‘value’ reinforcers which are consequence stimuli that will serve to reinforce simple known behaviors in that individual’s home environment or other non-distracting environments; medium ‘value’ reinforcers which will serve to reinforce slightly more difficult behaviors or behaviors in slightly more demanding environments, and finally, high ‘value’ reinforcers – those reinforcers that are at the ‘top of the tree’, the real ‘top guns’  that we use to reinforce more demanding behaviors and behaviors in environments where there are a lot of competing stimuli.

My go-to reinforcer when teaching a new behavior or when I need lots of repetitions is always food – small pieces of tasty, easy to chew and easy to swallow food – as I can deliver it quickly and maintain a high rate of reinforcement. It is also more effective to use smaller reinforcements more frequently rather than large reinforcements less often. However, I also make good use of ‘non-food’ items, which include everything from balls to tug toys to life rewards –  access to things my learner wants, such as going outside, sniffing a patch of grass, greeting someone…  Whether using food or non-food reinforcers, primary or secondary reinforcers, one thing is certain – reinforcers are not all equal and the ‘value’ of an individual reinforcer is not static. The ‘value’ to the learner will change depending on such factors as:

  • The behavior itself – The behaviors, as determined by the animal’s ability to do them and its biological pre-disposition to behave in certain ways, are easier or more difficult to reinforce. Behavior that depends on smooth muscles and glands is harder to reinforce than is behavior that depends on skeletal muscles. (Chance, Learning and Behavior, 2013)
  • The individual’s preferences
  • Previous learning history
  • The Setting Events and Motivating Operations

There are variables affecting reinforcement and affecting the value of each reinforcer at any given time, in different environments and with different individuals.  We also need to bear in mind that If we use the higher ‘value’ reinforcers too frequently for easy behaviors in non-distracting environments, we could find that not only will our learner no longer be motivated to ‘work’ for lower value reinforcers, but also that we dilute the value of those reinforcers that were previously at the top of the Hierarchy, making them less effective in more demanding situations or with more demanding behaviors.  We should make sure that we have a variety of reinforcers on all levels of our learner’s Hierarchy so that we have something to call upon of appropriate value in all situations. Varying the reinforcement consequence that is offered, will also help to overcome satiation – at some point, we have all eaten enough of that delicious cake but that doesn’t mean that we would say no to an ice-cold bottle of beer!

Although each individual will have their own Hierarchy of Rewards, neither Jambo nor any other learner’s Hierarchy of Rewards is static.  What works as a reinforcer one day may be of little interest to the same learner the next day.

The Hierarchy of Rewards

If Jambo were reasonably hungry and we were working in a non-distracting environment, he would probably find kibble (dry dog food) to be of sufficient ‘value’ and it would serve as an adequate reinforcement consequence.  If, however, we were to try and do that same behavior in a more distracting environment, at a greater distance or perhaps when Jambo had just eaten, then the kibble would have very little, if any ‘value’ and would not serve to positively reinforce a behavior.  If Jambo were in a playful mood then his tug toy would have a much higher value than if he were tired and ready for bed. An opportunity to sniff a nice patch of grass might serve to reinforce the behavior of coming close to me on a nice summer’s evening but on a dark and wet winter’s night, the opposite would be true –  If I wanted Jambo to leave my side and go to the grass, then it might be returning to my side and the protection of my umbrella that would serve as a reinforcer but maybe even that would not be of high enough ‘value’ and he would simply decide not to carry out the behavior. Perhaps performing ‘send-aways’ in the rain, calls for roast chicken?

This is the second in a series of three posts from my article: “The Hierarchy of Rewards – Delving into the World of Positive Reinforcers” for BARKS from the Guild magazine.  Part one can be found here:  Rewards and Positive Reinforcement – Are they the same?  In part three we will take a closer look at motivating operations; Jambo’s personal Hierarchy of Rewards, and some of the primary and secondary reinforcers we can all make use of in our training

This article has also been published as a DogSmith blog and through DogNostics Career Center with the title: A Dog’s Hierarchy of Rewards

Estepona Dog Training Expert Brings the World’s Most Progressive Training & Pet Care Methods to our Local Community

To better serve animal lovers of the Costa del Sol, Louise Stapleton-Frappell PCT-A has become a DogSmith Licensed Professional Partner.

ESTEPONA, SpainApril 5, 2017PRLog — DogSmith Services Inc., an international dog training and pet care company, is proud to announce its latest licensed professional partner, The DogSmith of Estepona, serving the Western Costa del Sol. The DogSmith of Estepona is a full-service pet care and dog training business committed to training methods and pet care that are humane and meet explicit ‘force-free’ guidelines.

Louise Stapleton-Frappell, owner and certified dog trainer states, “Being awarded the DogSmith license for the Western Costa del Sol tells our customers that we are members of the upper echelon of highly qualified pet professionals. I believe all training and pet care should be both fun and stress-free and I’m passionate about making sure that guardians and their pets receive the absolute best training and care, along with exceptional customer service, an ethos shared by The DogSmith, an unrivalled Dog Training, Dog Walking & Pet Care Licensing company.”

According to Niki Tudge, DogSmith President, “The DogSmith license is exclusively granted to individuals in the pet industry who possess not just the best in dog training and pet care skills but also possess a high level of customer service and a commitment to ethical business and professional standards. As our latest professional partner, we are very excited to have Louise Stapleton-Frappell working with us. She is an accomplished trainer, educator and pet care provider, who is completely committed to the welfare of her customers’ pets and operates her business as an extension of her personal ‘force-free’ philosophy.”

Read the full press release here: https://www.prlog.org/12631342-estepona-dog-training-expert-brings-the-worlds-most-progressive-training-pet-care-methods-to-our.html

Toads, Snakes, Spiders and Chocolate!

Toads, Snakes, Spiders and Chocolate!  Written for The Pet Professional Guild blog on November 5, 2016 by Louise Stapleton-Frappell

Did you know that an encounter with a toad could have devastating consequences? During a recent class I was teaching, one of the students said that her training buddy and his friends had found a large toad in their yard. They were very fortunate as none of them made actual contact with the toad. Two years ago, I posted a blog, How Force-Free Training Helped Save My Dog’s Life! in which I told the story of my Staffordshire bull terrier, Jambo’s encounter with a toad in the middle of the night and how a combination of previous training, first aid and an immediate visit to the emergency veterinarian all contributed to saving his life. I’m not going to re-visit the story here but I would definitely recommend reading the blog post.
Jambo was fortunate. His training and my first-aid knowledge both contributed to a happy outcome.

Jambo was fortunate. His training and my first-aid knowledge both contributed to a happy outcome

What I would like to do is share some information about toads and a few other creatures, food items, products and objects that could prove deadly to your companion. Let’s start with a few facts about the Common Toad (Bufo Bufo). Toads range in size from 2 – 25 cm (1 – 10 inches). Toads are poisonous when eaten but even mouthing one can prove extremely dangerous. The poison is located in the raised area behind the eyes, known as the parotid gland. Poison is also present in the warts found on the toad’s skin. The toad secretes poison when it feels threatened. Toads are nocturnal creatures, that live on land but breed in water. The toad will often burrow itself underground and remain there for long periods of time, particularly during droughts or very cold weather. They are more likely to be seen at night and in wet weather conditions. There are many different species of toad and, depending on where you live, varied outcomes of coming into close contact with them. The native British toad, Bufus vulgarisis is, for example, much less toxic than some exotic species, such as Bufus blombergi, Bufus alvarius, Bufus marinus.

What are some of the signs that indicate an encounter with a toad? They might vary from less severe local oral effects to inflammation of the mouth and pharynx with excessive salivation and retching, abdominal pain, vomiting, neurological and cardiovascular effects. Contact with exotic toads is more likely to cause the more severe systemic effects and these may be fatal. A dog may show some or all of the following symptoms: Drooling, head shaking, pawing at the mouth and/or whining. There may be a change in the color of the membranes of the mouth. Your dog may attempt to vomit, actively vomit or have diarrhoea. They may experience loss of coordination, an irregular heartbeat and/or difficulty in breathing. They may have convulsions, foam at mouth and/or tightly clamped jaws. The venom can cause rapid heart failure.

Patients that have been treated before enough of the toxin has had a chance to reach the system, within about thirty minutes, usually have a good chance of recovery. However, the overall prognosis is often not good and death is very common in dogs that have been exposed to toad venom. It is vital to get prompt treatment for your dog. Try to be at your veterinary surgery within fifteen minutes as this can make a life-saving difference. Treatment is symptomatic and may vary, dependent on your vet and the severity of the symptoms.

What should you do if you suspect toad poisoning? Contact your emergency vet immediately and follow their advice. While you are doing so, apply immediate first-aid. My advice, reiterated by my own veterinarian, is to rinse out the dog’s mouth with copious amounts of water for at least five minutes. You do NOT want them to swallow it so I suggest the following protocol: Fill a bowl with water; with one hand, hold your dog’s mouth open with head facing downwards; scoop up water from the water bowl with your other hand and rinse out his/her mouth, letting the water come back out onto the floor (not into the bowl). If your dog is having a seizure, please handle with caution as he/she may not recognize you and could unknowingly bite. Keep your pet cool as they can overheat when convulsing. My advice is not intended to replace your veterinarian’s advice, so please act according to their instructions but I do believe that having a knowledge of first-aid procedures can make a huge difference in the way you are likely to react to a potentially fatal situation.

Everyone should have basic first-aid skills. PresenterMedia 1641
Everyone should have basic first-aid skills. PresenterMedia 1641

Please be aware that toad toxin exposure can cause severe irritation to your eyes, nose and throat. If you need to handle the toad, I recommend the use of rubber gloves.

A few more creatures and other items that may be toxic to your dog:
Venomous snakes. Three factors affect the seriousness of a snake bite: 1. The size of the animal bitten. 2. The location of the bite. 3. The type of snake. If your pet is bitten by a snake please seek immediate veterinary attention as they may require antiserum. Try to remember the shape, size and colour of the snake and keep the part of your pet’s body that has been bitten as still as possible to prevent the venom spreading.
Spiders.
Jelly fish.
Scorpions.
Processionary caterpillars.
Chocolate. (The darker, the more toxic)
Onions.
Raisins, grapes, currants and sultanas.
Flowers and plants. Including but not limited to: daffodils, bluebells, crocuses, tulips, ivy, holly, mistletoe and poinsettia. It’s always worth investigating any plants you may have in your garden or plan to purchase.
Oak/acorns and conkers.
Xylitol – an artificial sweetener commonly found in sugar-free chewing gum, sweets, some peanut butter spreads and often used as a sugar substitute in baking.
Ant powders, baits and gels; slug and snail pellets; anticoagulant rodenticides.
Luminous necklaces.
Batteries.
Antifreeze.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as paracetamol, ibuprofen, diclofenac, naproxen or aspirin.

This list is by no means exhaustive. If you are in any way concerned that your dog may have been poisoned, had an encounter with anything toxic or venomous, please contact your emergency veterinarian immediately.

What precautions can you take to help protect your canine companion?

1. Use force-free training techniques to teach your dog the following cues:
“Leave it”. Teaching your dog to leave something when you ask him to could save his life. When using food to teach this cue, do not reward with the food you have asked him to leave. Pick the food up off the floor and reward with a higher value food. You do not want your dog to start anticipating that you are going to release him to the very thing you just asked him to leave!
“Come”. Teach your dog a great recall! Never use your recall cue if you don’t think your dog will respond – go and get him instead. Never punish your dog for not coming back to you, as he will be less likely to come back in future.
“Watch Me”. Teaching your dog to focus on you could be all you need to get him to re-orient towards you, rather than the snake, toad or anything else you want him to avoid making contact with.
“Stop!”. Teach your dog an emergency stop. Once you have taught your dog to stop on cue, increase the level of urgency in your voice. Remember, if you use the cue in an emergency you may shout or even scream it. You don’t want your dog to be so frightened of you shouting “stop” that they freeze or run away (perhaps straight into what you are trying to get them to avoid) so a positive conditioned emotional response is crucial.
A rapid response to any of these cues could prevent an encounter that might be extremely dangerous for your dog! If you would like to improve your training knowledge and skills, I highly recommend the DogNostics Training Meister Program. You can register for the first level here.

Training Meister – Increasing your team knowledge and skills
Training Meister – Increasing your team knowledge and skills

2. It can be useful to carry an anti-histamine such as zyrtec or piriton.

3. Enroll on a pet first-aid course. The upcoming Pet Care Technician Certification Program from DogNostics Career College includes a comprehensive pet first-aid section.

4. Always have your veterinarian’s telephone number with you.

5. Try not to panic.

Please note: This advice is not a substitute for a proper consultation with a vet and is only intended as a guide. Please contact your local veterinary practice for advice or treatment immediately if you are worried about your pet’s health – even if they are closed, they will always have an out of hours service available.

Learning the TrickMeister Way!

How important is it to teach your canine companion what you would like them to do?

Would you like to go for a walk?
Would you like to go for a walk?

I believe it is extremely important but what is even more essential is that you teach in a way that doesn’t cause any stress; that you teach in a way that is fun for both teacher and student; that you teach in such a way that each ‘lesson’ is easy to understand; that you teach in a way that not only encourages learning but enhances it and that you teach in a way that makes all learning feel like a game!

I also maintain that in order to successfully teach any companion animal, you need to understand animal learning theory – you need a good foundation of the knowledge and skills that underpin science based, rewards based, force-free training!

Whether you are looking to reduce unwanted behaviors or would love your pet to know some cool tricks, the learning process is the same. Whether you are looking for effective management strategies or want to know how to teach your buddy to walk on a loose leash, the philosophy behind all of your interactions with your pet should be the same: A philosophy based on your belief that we do not need to punish our companions in order for them to learn – a philosophy based on the latest scientific research!

I am not implying that you need to be a scientist in order to teach your pet and I’m not implying that you need to study all the latest literature.  I’m not even implying that you need to ‘master’ every single ‘positive’ training strategy that is available for you to use.  I do, however, believe that you should have a foundation of knowledge and skills.

Misinformation abounds about the ‘best’ ways to ‘train’ your dog.  The access to information has never been easier.  Unfortunately, much of the information available isn’t based in fact and worst still, a lot of it could prove extremely detrimental to your pet’s physical and mental well-being and the relationship you share with each other.  You only have to read some of the posts on Facebook, Instagram or any other social media to be inundated with ‘advice’ on how to deal with a specific problem or how to teach a specific behaviour.  Do a search on the internet and you will, without doubt, find the answer you are looking for or will you?  You may think that you have the answer but, if you don’t have at least a basic understanding of learning theory, how will you know that the answer is the right one?

There are many ways to teach a behaviour but not all of them are going to promote a healthy, happy bond for you and your buddy.  Not all of them are going to be in your pet’s best interest.  What appears to be a ‘quick fix’ may be anything but when the consequences of your ‘teaching’ methods resurge at a later date.

Sit?
Would you like to sit?

Let’s take a look at a behaviour that most people are going to teach their pet dog:  a sit.

‘Easy’ you say.  Yes, it’s not difficult to teach but how are you going to teach it?  Are you going to push your companion’s bum to the floor and command them to sit?  Are you going to push their bum to the floor, tell them to sit and then tell them good girl or good boy?  Are you going to pull up on their collar, tell them to sit and then  give them a treat?  Are you going to wait until you see them sitting and then say ‘Yay, good sit!’  Are you going to tell them to sit and then lure them into position with a piece of yummy food?  All of these methods will ‘work’ so which option would you choose?  My choice?  None of the above!  Some are much better methods than the others and I hope you can spot which ones I am referring to, but none of them would be the path I would take.

I would choose the path of modern, science based, rewards based, force-free training.  ‘Mmm’ I hear you say, ‘ a few of the above options  use rewards’.  Yes they do, but none of them are the most effective way to teach your companion how to sit!

So, I hear you ask: ‘How would you teach a sit?’  I would teach it carefully, I would teach it thoughtfully. I would teach it clearly.  I would teach it ‘precisely’.  I would teach it with all future learning in mind.  I would teach it in such a way as to promote accelerated learning.  I wouldn’t just use a ‘reward’, I would use a ‘reinforcer’.  I wouldn’t use a ‘command’ and I wouldn’t even, initially, use a cue!  I would teach it the TrickMeister way!  I would teach it as a trick!  “What?” I hear you say, “Why would you teach it as a trick?  My answer?  I teach all behaviours as tricks and I teach all tricks in a way that fulfills all the above mentioned criteria: Carefully, thoughfully, clearly, precisely…  and much more!

By teaching behaviours as ‘tricks’ I teach in a playful way and in a fun way but this doesn’t mean that I didn’t need to learn the mechanics; it doesn’t mean that I didn’t need to understand ‘learning theory’; it doesn’t mean that I didn’t need to know the difference between a ‘command’ and a ‘cue’ or the difference between a ‘reward’ and a ‘reinforcer’.  I had to work on my skill-set and I had to build on my knowledge.  I needed to learn how to ‘cleanly’ lure a behaviour.  I needed to learn about fading the lure.  I needed to learn about ‘marking’ a desired behaviour.  I needed to learn how to break my ‘lessons’ down into easily achievable steps.  I needed to learn about training in ‘sets’.  I needed to learn when I should add the cue…

I’ll let you into a secret – I’m still learning!  I love to learn and my dogs love to learn!  My students love to learn and their dogs love to learn!  Why?  Because learning is fun!  Learning is a game!  Every interaction we have is a chance to learn!   I will never stop learning!

If you are a pet dog owner who is interested in learning how to teach your pet or you are a trainer who would like to improve your skills and knowledge and perhaps introduce a ‘trick’ or even a new ‘manners’ programme to your training curriculum then please take a look at the TrickMeister programme.  The money you spend now will put you on the right path for all your future learning and could even increase your business’s future revenue.

For more information, please go to:  DogNostics eLearning.

 

Louise Stapleton-Frappell B.A. HONS. PCT-A. CAP3. CTDI. Dn-FSG.
Louise Stapleton-Frappell B.A. HONS. PCT-A. CAP3. CTDI. Dn-FSG.

Louise Stapleton-Frappell B.A. Hons. (Univ. of Leeds). Professional Canine Trainer – Accredited through The Pet Professional Accreditation Board. Certified Trick Dog Instructor. Fun Scent Games Instructor. Clicker Competency Assessment Program Level 3 Distinction. Force-Free Instructor’s Award and K9 First Aid Certification. Animal Behavior and Welfare Verified Certification. Super Trainer Clicker Trainer. Dog Emotion and Cognition Verified Certification. Performed as the Dog Trick Instructor at In The Doghouse DTC.

Louise is a passionate advocate of Force-Free Training, promoting a positive image of the “Bully” Breeds and advocating against Breed Specific Legislation in favor of breed neutral laws and education about dog bite safety and prevention. Proud “Mum” to Jambo – Staffy Bull Terrier Trick Dog:  The first Staffordshire Bull Terrier to achieve the Title of Trick Dog Champion. Louise has her own YouTube Channel where she shares “How to Teach” videos and fun trick videos. Jambo has been aired on “Talent Hounds” TV in Canada. Jambo was also featured as a Victoria Stilwell “Positively Success Story”.

Louise blogs for The Pet Professional Guild and is a regular contributor to BARKS from the Guild magazine.  She is a Steering Committee Member of PPG; Steering Committee Member and the Membership Manager of the Pet Professional Guild British Isles; Co-presenter of PPG World Services radio; Faculty Member of DogNostics Career College; Steering Committee Member of Doggone Safe and Regional Coordinator of Doggone Safe in Spain. Louise is a passionate advocate of Force-Free Training. She believes that everyone should know how to teach their dog using science based, rewards based, force-free training methods and that all learning should be fun!  Louise is also the creator of TrickMeister, a  unique program aimed at increasing the knowledge and training skills of both dog guardians and pet professionals.

Training Thoughtfully

I have just returned to Spain after three days of ‘Training Thoughtfully’ with Kay Laurence, Alexandra Kurland and Dr. Jesús Rosales-Ruiz.
Animal Behaviourist, pet dog trainer and blogger extraordinaire, Mary Hunter asked me what the best part of the seminar was.  Now that is a difficult question as there were so many highlights!
First of all I would have to comment on the ‘cruise’ style of presenting. Although there was an ‘agenda’, the three days felt more like a conversation between friends than a seminar.  That doesn’t mean to say that learning didn’t take place, as every piece of information was either absorbed or written down to be pondered at a later date!
I thoroughly enjoyed the way in which the material was presented.  Everything was explained with a story and wow, Kay, Alex and Jesús sure have a lot of interesting stories! Scientific topics are frequently presented in a dull and often difficult to understand format but every story increased the understanding of every topic. All conversations continued into break time. There were small pockets of people either working on balance with Alexandra, talking about cues and reinforcement with Kay or happily chatting about behavioural analysis with Jesús.  There was a great selection of attendees, some from the dog world and many from the horse world. I myself travelled back from Spain and others had travelled from as far afield as Israel, Germany, Portugal…
We played lots of PORTL, which I’m sure had a great impact on everybody there. It was fascinating to learn a little about the character of our learner just through watching how they responded to the game.  Much time was spent on planning each behaviour taught and many breaks taken to revise the criteria in order to set our learners up for success.
Many of you will know that I think all training should be fun but science based.  I teach all behaviours as ‘tricks’ as I believe that, in doing so, we set both trainer and learner up for success.  Whether teaching a ‘stay’, a ‘recall’, a ‘spin’ or a fun routine, teaching behaviours as ‘tricks’ sets the theme – learning should be playful!  I therefore loved the fact that much emphasis was placed on play.   RAGE, FEAR, GRIEF/PANIC (punishing) and SEEKING, LUST, CARE and PLAY (rewarding/reinforcing) – Jaak Panksepp’s primary-process affective emotional systems of the brain were referred to several times with emphasis on play being essential for healthy brain development and for learning – when playful one can find solutions that are not available when afraid!
In the TrickMeister – Mastering fun and increasing your team knowledge and skills Course curriculum I not only place an emphasis on play but also on making sure that we break each behaviour down into easily achievable criteria to set our learner up for success and achieve minimal or ‘micro’ error learning.  Kay Laurence calls this ‘micro-slicing’ and I myself, use Kay’s terminology and practice of micro-shaping behaviours.  I also love to teach learners a wide repertoire of behaviours, all successfully learnt without incurring lots of errors.  Jesús‘s talk on extinction and resurgence highlighted how important this is.
Micro-shaping behaviours means that only micro-extinction occurs as we build in each new approximation to the final behaviour.  Micro-errors do not destroy confidence.  Our learners need ‘puzzle moments’ (Kay Laurence) and the ability to explore their options.  These ‘micro-errors’ are actually just information.  Teaching with too large an increase in criteria leads to an extinction process that can be stressful, frustrating and punitive for the learner – “The failure of response to get reinforced leads not only to operant extinction but also to a reaction commonly spoken of as frustration or rage” Jesús Rosales-Ruiz.  We also need to bare in mind that when resurgence occurs we fall back on previously learnt behaviours.  We should always strive to build from a clear base position. This foundation behaviour will be the behaviour our learner returns to when unsure of how to proceed.  If our base behaviours are taught without errors, well practised, building confidence and trust in the learning process, we really are setting our learners up for success!    The more fun-filled, ‘thoughtfully’ taught, positively reinforced behaviours our learners know, the less space there will be for our learners to fall back on behaviours we would rather not see!
I have previously spoken out about training behaviours just because they might look good (impressive) to the spectator.  I, for example,  was once questioned as to why I haven’t taught Jambo to do a free-standing handstand.  My answer was that it isn’t a suitable ‘trick’ for him.  Yes, I teach some behaviours just for fun but I will always endeavour to never teach anything that could be detrimental to the physical or mental well-being of my learner.  I have also been criticised for advising people not to do anything that would place undue stress on a learner’s joints (for example ‘jumping tricks’).  Alexandra pointed out that the training methods we choose evolve from our underlying beliefs and principles.  Kay added to this by saying:  “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should”.  We are using very powerful training technology and just because we are using positive reinforcement – “It isn’t okay”.

I will end with a quotation from each presenter.

Alexandra Kurland:  “For every step you include in your training, there is always a smaller step you can break the behaviour down into.  Don’t get louder.  Get quieter – Take smaller steps!”

Kay Laurence quoting Chris Bond:  “It’s not about training impressive behaviours, it’s about impressive training of behaviours.”

Dr. Jesús Rosales-Ruiz:  “Build the behaviour with what you want, so when you use extinction, or it occurs, you fall back on wanted behaviours.

The seminar description said: ‘A boost to the deepest Winter dreariness. Presentations to inspire, explain, explore and discover PORTL Activities to deepen understanding, reflect and absorb.’  It certainly didn’t dissappoint!  A big thank you to Kay , Alex, and Jésus – It was a privilege to be part of this amazingly informative yet fun-filled ‘land cruise’

profile pic in black and white
Louise Stapleton-Frappell B.A. HONS. PCT-A. CAP3. CTDI. Dn-FSG.

Just An Ordinary Dog!

Jambo is a Trick Dog Champion. In fact he was the first Staffordshire Bull Terrier to be awarded the Title. Jambo is an adorable, loving pet dog. Jambo is not an exceptional dog. He isn’t particularly athletic. He isn’t unusually intelligent. He is a dog who has been set up for success because of the way he has been taught. Jambo is not trained for hours every day. In fact, Jambo’s “training” sessions are always very short. If you asked Jambo, I am sure he would say that he doesn’t do any “training”. So what is the key to Jambo’s success?

Jambo has been taught using modern, rewards based, science based, force-free training. He has lots of fun learning new tricks (playing enjoyable games), learning new skills (playing enjoyable games) and practising old skills (playing enjoyable games). Everything he is taught is broken down into easy to understand lessons and is reinforced with things he loves. He is “paid” for having fun! When actions bring enjoyable consequences, those actions get stronger and are more likely to be repeated in future.

Food is at the top of Jambo’s list of reinforcers and obviously used in all of his training but Jambo’s “top gun” reinforcer is actually a ball. Unfortunately for me it happens to be rather large: a ten-inch boomer ball!   I actually have photos that show the boomer ball “hidden”, out of sight, down the back of my top! If only we humans could choose the reinforcer – I’d definitely be choosing a tug toy or a tennis ball, something that I could pop into my pocket. Unfortunately, the choice isn’t mine. Jambo does not show much interest in tennis balls. He’ll fetch one a few times.   Unless, of course, I am using the boomer ball as a reinforcer!  If fetching a tennis ball meant access to his highest value reinforcer then he would fetch that tennis ball all day if he could!

Jambo playing with his boomer ball.
Jambo playing with his boomer ball.

Thank goodness for food! We all need to eat and Jambo is no exception! Many people, however, seem to have a problem with the concept of using food in training. I really don’t understand their objections. Food is such a great resource, why wouldn’t we make use of it? It is definitely a lot easier for me to fill my pockets with tiny pieces of hotdog than to walk around with a ten-inch boomer ball stuffed down my top! The majority of Jambo’s “tricks” are taught using food. I can cut it up into tiny pieces; it’s easy to deliver; it’s quick; it’s safe; it enables me to do lots of repetitions… In short, it’s the perfect resource!

After leaving university I took my first teaching post in a school in Cartagena, Spain. I was given many textbooks that I was told I needed to work through with my students. I found the classes quite tedious. The textbooks were, for lack of a better word, boring. They were dull and uninspiring.   There were a lot of books. There were a lot of mundane exercises to complete and a limited amount of time to complete them in. If a student didn’t understand a certain concept they could often get left behind as the timetable meant there was little time to digress, to explain in more detail or to go back a step.  If I, the teacher, was finding it difficult, how must my students have been feeling?

When, a couple of years later, I started working as a private tutor, I realised that I didn’t want to teach in this way. I wanted to teach in a way that I would like to be taught. I wanted the lessons to be fun. I wanted the learner to understand each step and marvel in their success rather than feel miserable in their failure. I didn’t want my students to feel frustrated because they found the lessons too difficult. I did, however, continue to make use of those old textbooks.  If you look closely you may spot them in one of my videos – they make great props: a single textbook is a small platform but stack a few together and I can create more height, which is very useful for teaching hind leg lifts!

Whenever I have something new I would like Jambo, or any other dog (or human) to learn, I always think about one thing: How can I break this behavior down into easily understandable pieces?   Why is this so important? Because if I break the behavior down, I am setting my learner up for success instead of failure! Each new piece of information or new behavior that is successfully learnt, not only builds on the previous knowledge set, it also increases the confidence of the learner. How much better do we feel when we successfully complete a task than when we struggle on and on and yet are still unable to grasp how to do it or to understand the knowledge being shared with us?

I previously stated: “When actions bring enjoyable consequences, those actions get stronger and are more likely to be repeated in future”.  This statement applies to all learners.  So what is the key to Jambo’s success?   A loving relationship, lots of fun, clear communication and motivation through appropriate reinforcement – Jambo is motivated to learn and that very learning creates a cycle of more learning!

Watch a 25 second speedy video of Jambo in action!

Rewards based training leads to enthusiastic, fun-filled, accelerated learning!

You can find Jambo on Facebook at www.facebook.com/StaffyChampion.

Let’s Get Tricking!

Learn how to teach your dog to do a handstand!
Learn how to teach your dog to do a handstand!

Register for the recorded webinar here:  http://petprofessionalguild.com/event-2011715

You will learn how to teach your dog to “go back” and how to teach a handstand. You will also learn about the importance of how and where a reinforcer is delivered; how to break behaviours down into micro steps in order to set your learner up for success; how to use props; how to use a verbal marker and how to use a clicker; when and how to introduce a new cue and much more.

The webinar is a step-by-step powerpoint presentation that includes two videos for you to watch.

The webinar is suitable for those of you who are just starting out, who would like to learn more about clicker training and marker training, and for those of you who love teaching their dog new tricks.  If you are quite new to positive reinforcement training but want to improve your skills, you will be able to use what you learn to teach your dog other behaviours you would like them to know.  If you already know your stuff but want to learn how to teach a handstand, then this presentation is going to show you how straightforward it can be!


Tessa and Jambo are doing all the demonstrations!

Please share with everyone you think would like to learn more about training their dog using positive reinforcement (rewards), with the added bonus of learning an awesome new trick!

PPG Webinar: Learn How to Train Your Dog to do a Handstand with Louise Stapleton-Frappell
Please click on the following link to register:
http://petprofessionalguild.com/event-2011715

 

About The Presenter.

Louise Stapleton-Frappell B.A. HONS. PCT-A. CAP3. CTDI. Dn-FSG.
Louise Stapleton-Frappell B.A. HONS. PCT-A. CAP3. CTDI. Dn-FSG1.

Accredited Professional Level Dog Trainer

Louise Stapleton-Frappell B.A.Hons. Professional Canine Trainer – Accredited (Pet Professional Accreditation Board). Certified Trick Dog Instructor (Do More With Your Dog). Fun Scent Games Instructor (Dognostics). Clicker Competency Assessment Programme Level 3 Distinction (Learning About Dogs). Force-free Instructor Certification from In The Doghouse DTC. Louise has attended a Super Trainer Clicker Trainer Course with Kay Laurence and performed as a Dog Trick Instructor at In The Doghouse DTC. Louise is a passionate advocate of Force-free Training, promoting a positive image of the “Bully” Breeds and advocating against Breed Specific Legislation. Proud “Mum” to Jambo – Staffy Bull Terrier Trick Dog: The first Staffordshire Bull Terrier to achieve the Title of Trick Dog Champion with Do More With Your Dog. Louise blogs for the PPG and is a regularly contributer to Barks from the Guild . Louise has had articles published in No More Lies Magazine. Louise also writes force-free training articles for a UK company (Strongdogz). Louise has her own YouTube Channel where she shares “How to teach” videos and fun trick videos. Jambo has been aired on “Talent Hounds” t.v. in Canada. Jambo was also featured as a Victoria Stilwell “Positively Success Story”. Louise keeps up to date with her education and has just completed an online course with Edinburgh University on Animal Behaviour and Welfare”. She is the co-presenter of PPG World Services Radio. She is a Steering Committee Member of PPGBI. She is the Membership Manager for Pet Professional Guild British Isles.
The Pet Professional Guild

You do not have to be a member of The Pet Professional Guild to register for the webinar but why not join PPG today and help us educate and engage more pet professionals and pet owners?  Become a steward of the science based, result based force-free message, philosophy and training practices.

If you philosophically align yourself with PPG but need help learning the tools of the trade then join us as a provisional member and enjoy the benefits of our educational resources. The Pet Professional Guild also offers a FREE membership for Pet Owners. Join us today and support our mission and key charter. Click here

The Pet Professional Guild is a membership organization representing pet industry professionals who are committed to results based, science based force-free training and pet care.

Pet Professional Guild Members Understand Force-Free to mean: No Shock, No Pain, No Choke, No Fear, No Physical Force, No physical Molding, No Compulsion Based Methods are employed to train or care for a pet.

For more information on training your dog the force-free way, join the Pet Professional Guild’s inaugural summit in Tampa, FL on Nov 11-13, 2015. You can find everything you need to know here.

Registar for the webinar here: http://petprofessionalguild.com/event-2011715

Find Jambo on Facebook here:  http://www.facebook.com/StaffyChampion

Subscribe to our YouTube channel:  http;//www.youtube.com/dogtricksonline.

For more information about The Pet Professional Guild, please click here:  http://www.petprofessionalguild.com

To join the Pet Professional Guild British Isles, please click here:  http://www.ppgbi.com

How To Teach Your Dog An Emergency Stop!

An immediate response to the "emergency stop" cue, could save your dog's life!
An immediate response to the “emergency stop” cue, could save your dog’s life!

Jambo and I recently had to use our “emergency stop” cue in a real life situation and I realised just how important this cue could be. It could actually save your dog’s life! I therefore, decided to make an instructional video, explaining how to teach your dog an emergency stop.
Remember:
Whatever behaviour you are teaching your dog, start off in a non-distracting environment.
Use high value rewards! I would always advise starting out with small pieces of food (something soft and smelly). Once your dog understands the behaviour you can start rewarding with anything your dog loves (a ball, a frisbee, a game of tug).
Make sure you don’t start using the verbal cue until your dog reliably understands the behaviour: Teach him/her what to do and, once they know how to do it, add in the cue.
Set your dog up for success: make it really easy to start with and gradually add in more criteria (distance, distractions, speed…)


Main video is 8mins 15secs. There is then a “recap” with some extra demonstrations and tips.
Find Jambo on Facebook: www.facebook.com/StaffyChampion.
Please remember to give the video a “thumbs up”, share it with your friends and subscribe to our YouTube Channel: www.youtube.com/dogtricksonline.com

Jambo’s Hierarchy Of Rewards!

a remember to reinforce

Whether teaching Jambo new behaviours or reinforcing ones he already knows, we implement a “hierarchy of rewards”.

There are “lower level” reinforcers that are fine at home without any distractions or when reinforcing a behaviour that he finds very easy to do and there are those reinforcers that are at the “top of the tree”, the real “big guns” that we use to reinforce something very difficult.

Small pieces of food are the main reinforcer/reward we use as I can deliver it to his mouth quickly and therefore maintain a high rate of reinforcement but we also use certain “non-food” items, which include everything from balls to tug toys, access to things he wants and even people!

Jambo’s “hierarchy of rewards” isn’t static.  What he finds rewarding one day might be of little interest to him the next.  If he were reasonably hungry and in a non distracting environment he would probably find kibble/dry dog food reinforcing for a behaviour.  If, however, we were to try and do that same behaviour in a more distracting environment, at a greater distance or perhaps when he had just eaten, then the kibble would be of very little, if any, value.  If Jambo was in a playful mood then his tug toy would have a much higher value than if he was ready for bed!

air dried beef heartham and cheeseBig-Als-MeatballsIF

The main thing to remember is that just because because you think something is a “reward”, it doesn’t mean that your dog does!  Some dogs will do just about anything if you throw a tennis ball for them to chase, while others would much rather that you go and get it yourself!

How enthusiastically would you work if your boss said that he wasn’t going to pay you anything and that, in future, you would just receive a pat on the back?   Perhaps, worse still, that, as his subordinate, you would just have to do as you were told?   You might still do the work (especially if you thought you might be punished for not doing it)  but would you be happy and would you work with enthusiasm?  Jambo loves to share a “cuddle” with me but that doesn’t mean he would want to “work” for them!  A cuddle from “Nando” though, who he doesn’t see very frequently…

The things that Jambo places at the top of his hierarchy will not be the same for your dog!   His “big sister”, Tessa has no inclination whatsoever to play with a “boomer ball” and it would therefore not even make it onto her “hierarchy of rewards”.   For her, kibble (dried dog food) would hold much greater value!  One of Tessa’s biggest value reinforcers is going out for a ride in the car!  Our last Staffordshire Bull Terrier’s highest value reinforcer/reward was his “tugga” but, as you can see from the following table, it’s actually of quite low value to Jambo.  The table does not include all of the food items that we use as reinforcers as there are so many, but I have attempted to include the main ones.

I think you will all be surprised at what is at the top of Jambo’s hierarchy! 

a hierarchy

Jambo’s highest value reinforcer:  “The Nando Boomer” by Jambo® coming to your high street soon!

Jambo’s Facebook Page:  https://www.facebook.com/StaffyChampion.

Jambo and Tessa’s YouTube Channel:  https://www.youtube.com/dogtricksonline.

Post published with the permission of Nando Brown:  https://www.facebook.com/InTheDoghousedtc  https://www.facebook.com/Incredimal  https://www.youtube.com/user/InTheDoghouseDTC