Sunday, September 28, 2008

Bringing clarity to clickers and positive reinforcement:

You hear the words "Clicker training", "Clickers", "Positive Reinforcement" etc... but what's it all mean? Let me try to help clarify some points:
  1. Using a "Clicker" doesn't mean a person doesn't use "punishment" (hopefully not at the same time)... 
  2. Positive Reinforcement doesn't mean a person doesn't use punishment.
  3. Positive reinforcement doesn't mean a person doesn't use physical force to get what they want! 
  4. Using "punishment" doesn't mean a person uses physical force or inhumane methods to teach. 
  5. There are two types of "punishment":
  • "Negative Punishment": Taking the good thing away
  • "Positive Punishment": adding something the animal wants to avoid - a smack, shock, choke, prong in the neck, citronella spray, loud noise, being pinned, etc...
Why do I bring this up? A couple of reasons. There are some trainers out there that say they're somewhere between "A clicker trainer" and a famous trainer who uses physical force, flooding, fear tactics, and downright "old fashioned" training methods. (Sorry, name withheld to protect privacy and CMA)...

I wanted to say to this person: "What does being a 'clicker trainer' mean to you?" It certainly isn't exclusive to causing no harm to an animal - it's just another tool in your trainers toolbox, as it is mine. It "marks" the behavior you wanted your dog (or any animal) to perform...not much more. 

I use a clicker as one of my training tools. I also use "punishment". As a matter of fact I spoke about it today in my Manners Class at the Inquisitive Canine studio. However, the type of 'punishment' I use and teach has to do with "reward removal" -  not hitting, beating, shocking, spraying, coercing, forcing, or bullying! 

No animal learns that way without resulting in some nasty (usually "emotional") side-effects. Do animals learn through beating and force techniques? Sure they do - or should I say, "we" do... But what else are they "learning" besides what the owner/parent wants? - which is usually not the first or main thing they learn... 

My final example: I was coming home from a run, heading in the opposite direction of a man and his dog. I'm sure I looked "weird" to the dog...hat, sunglasses, water bottle belt, running right towards it. This can be perceived by dogs as "threatening", right? Something weird running at it... So the dog did the most logical thing it could do in it's little canine brain - it started barking at me - I didn't blame it at all. Unfortunately the owner did - and proceeded to smack it repeatedly on the head! The dog looked at me, barked, got smacked and yelled at. I cringed! I think I yelped myself! Then screamed at him to please not hit the dog!!! Why is he hitting him! it doesn't teach him what you want! 

I know, that can be pretty punishing to someone - being yelled at it public. As for "positive punishment" towards humans - of course I'm against it (unless it's self defense) - However, I did have a secret desire to smack the owner and take the dog... Hopefully they will end up in one of my classes - either at the studio or Ventura College, so I can supply an education in positive reinforcement, learning by both association and consequence, proper ways to get rid of unwanted behaviors, and clickers (or not). 

Thursday, September 25, 2008

My vet approves this message!

Attention all puppy owners! And to those who know people with puppies and friends and family of puppies: Dr. Shelly Wilson (one rockin' vet and owner of The Animal Doctor here in Ventura) has written to me that she agrees with the position statement the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior has released on early puppy socialization, and how such steps can really help with the development of a healthy and happy dog, a happy household, and prevention of behavioral issues that dogs often develop without the proper steps. 

You can always contact Dr. Wilson, DVM, one of the other doctors, or her staff if you'd like additional information, or to have your dog seen for a check-up! You can also access the story by clicking here.

Just like us humans, the earlier we begin learning, enrichment, developing coping skills, and proper social skills, the better adjusted we are as adults. There is no reason why we shouldn't be doing this with our domestic puppies - as long as it's done in a safe way that refrains from causing any physical or emotional harm... Check out some of the services I offer at my studio that fills this need. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Did I learn anything at Hollywood High?

OMG! Thank goodness I've chosen dog training and canine-human relationship coaching as a profession! After all, this is my true passion - something I love doing every day! Something I find so rewarding - in so many ways... Why do I bring this up? Well, it's kinda embarrassing - but lets just say I'm glad I didn't choose acting as a career...

I just got home from our local TV station CAPS - They were filming a piece on our local Ventura College Community Education program where I teach my Canine College manners class. Each instructor for the Kaleidoscope Program was given the opportunity to be filmed doing an intro to their class, plus having students there, or doing some sort of demo. Well, you would think that after being born and raised in Hollywood, attending Hollywood High, taking drama classes while there, and working in the entertainment industry for 14 years I'd be able to stand in front of a camera and be completely comfortable AND talented! OMG NO WAY! It was a least for me - in my own head...everyone else said I did fine...but oh brother, I'm not sure what was more painful - me going through the whole thing, or those having to watch me? It was like watching a dying animal at the side of the road... 

Thank goodness I have some wonderful students! There were Carol and Rico, Lisa and Ferris, Danika and Sophie, and Emilia and Nellie! Lorrie my wonderful "web marketing therapist" was there too with all of her support and love, plus she helped direct - and supplied me with my designer water like all the real actresses out there! Anyway, the entire group helped hold my hand and made me look good! I say they were the real stars!

I'm thankful I was offered to do it! Karen Gorback the dean of the college program was kind enough to give me the opportunity, and I thank her for that - what doesn't kill us makes us stronger, right? 

The programs that our local Community College offers are so much fun and rewarding... I wish I had more time, maybe I'd take an acting or improv class... Until then I'll stick with helping humans and canines live harmoniously! 

Sunday, September 7, 2008

You CAN teach an old dog (man) new tricks!

Okay, let me first say he's NOT OLD! My "man" that is... But, he can learn new things... Yep, three years after becoming a trainer and establishing The Inquisitive Canine, a year and a half since opening the studio...and my own husband, father of our dog, love of my life, supporter of all I get into, has finally signed up for one of my classes with our dog Poncho! I couldn't believe it... but he said he finally believes that 1) the training does work, and 2) he needs to learn some of these techniques so Poncho will perform the same behaviors with him as he does with me. 

For years I've said that dogs don't generalize (perform same behavior in similar situations) - and that we need to re-teach them in any new situation. A new place, person (different person training), situation etc... you have to re-teach the's as simple as that. I'm not too sure what finally sent my hubby over the edge of not being convinced to actually "believing", but I'm thrilled he's finally there! And that he is excited about coming to class and learning... He even filled out his goal sheet and is reading through his workbook! 

I have to say, this has made my day - and is SO rewarding to me! I love how we positively reinforce one another - makes for a great relationship... Now I'd better go catch him in the act of doing what I love and reward him for it! (husband and the dog)...