By the way – today’s the first day of the June term at Fenzi Dog Sports Academy! You can still sign up, and join the fun: https://www.fenzidogsportsacademy.com/schedule-and-syllabus
I had fun with The Brindle Girl series, and decided to do more video-style posts. I’m hoping this will tie me over until I go back to speaking in front of groups of people. I was going to record these while driving across Guatemala and Mexico – but it turned out that the AC blasting and the car were too much background noise. So I’m only recording these post road trip. They are still travel thoughts, so I’m keeping the name!
The first video post below is my musings about dog/dog sociability. After recording this, I remembered that I recently learned something that contradicts my anecdotal experience: dog breeds, it turns out, are much less predictive of an individual’s behavior and personality traits than we conventionally think they are.
How do we know that? As of today (May 27, 2021), the Darwin’s Ark project has analyzed 3,056,323 answers provided by the owners of 29,233 dogs. At the 2021 Lemonade Conference, Elinor Karlsson explained their approach in a captivating talk that was amazingly understandable even for someone like me, with zero training in data analysis or statistics. If you get a chance to catch one of her presentations – make sure you don’t miss it!
Based on what Elinor Karlsson and colleagues have found, you should take my video musings with a grain of salt! So before you watch my video – here’s the scientific caveat:
In relation to predicting sociability, we’ve learned two things from Darwin’s Ark:
- An individual dog’s behavior and personality traits can not accurately be predicted if all we know is their breed.
- Dog breeds have some subtle differences in behavior and personality when compared to all (pet) dogs.
However, these differences are not clear for all factors examined in the Darwin’s Ark project. For example, there are no statistically significant breed differences when it comes to factors like agonistic threshold, and dog sociability – two factors relevant to my musings below.
+ Since the counter-conditioning strategy has stagnated, I’m curious about how Brindle Girl will repsond if I present the collar loop, and try to lure her into it.
+ I talk about why in general, luring is not the best approach when working with dogs and fear.
When we came back from our walk, Brindle Girl (who we had left sleeping in the shade of the door), was gone. Let’s hope she’ll be back tomorrow – our last day at Cerro de Oro, and my last day of hanging out with my Brindle Friend!
- I get a wag hello, and Brindle girl licks my fingers to start us out!
- I make things easier for her to prevent her from moving away from the collar: approach with the collar – no touch – retreat my hand – cookie.
- We’ve got an audience today: look at the top of the stairs in the background. It’s Dude Dude Who Wants to Knock Up My Dog!
- I conclude that I’ll have to rethink my strategy before the next session. Our progress seems to have stagnated – it’s time to change something up! Stay tuned!
- Approach with the collar from above – making things easier than yesterday to not cause her to back up.
- Rainy season thoughts!
- More collar approaches from above.
- I talk about wanting to avoid negatively reinforcing the behavior of backing up.
- Thoughts on classical and operant conditioning always going hand in hand. (I meant to say light can be seen as particles or waves, not particles or rays – oops!)
- Review of my reasons for using a low value treat (kibble).
- A reminder that my work with this dog is all about the journey – I would not take this approach with a client’s dog, where the goal (putting on a collar) was actually important.
Starting to work our way up to holding the collar in the way I’ll need to hold it when putting it on.
- Continue working up to holding the collar in the way it needs to be held when putting it on.
- Musings about fleas.
Has the collar become a cue for backing up?
First session of brindle girl’s third training week (May 3rd, 2021).
Review: touch without collar – bracelet/collar – holding collar like an object.
Holding the collar like an object (rather than a bracelet) is obviously more difficult for her!
- I start easy now that I’m holding the collar like an object: not approaching her all the way.
- I end up with a nice start-button set-up, and while she isn’t yet comfortable with the collar up close, she gives me several quick start-button looks in a row.
- Thoughts about patience, and Saint-Exupéry’s Little Prince.
Belly rubs, and thoughts on habituation.
- I lower criteria when reaching for her with the collar-bracelet.
- This session shows a good set up of treat placement versus direction of her start button look.
Back to actually touching her with the collar (still wearing it like a bracelet/glove).
Brindle girl and I continue discussing how it feels to be touched by my hand versus the collar (hand: okay, collar: weird), and she shows an interest in my treat hand.
+ She starts out lying down in a relaxed position, and I start by just touching her with just a hand before adding the collar back into the picture.
+ Her growing confidence shows in an attempt to mug my treat hand!
+ For the last reps of this week, I transition from wearing the collar like a glove back to holding it in my hand. This is harder than wearing it glove-style – but we’ve made progress!
+ We manage a clear start-button set up (look to her right to request that the collar approach; feed to her left) for parts of this session.
Brindle girl’s Thursday sessions!
I need to lower criteria a little, and not move the collar quite as close to her face as I did in the last rep of Wednesday’s final session.
I also decide to make a change to her start button behavior.
I try to change the start button from glancing up into my face to looking in my general direction.
Since putting the collar on her will require a combination of accepting the collar near her neck and accepting my touch, I mix things up and have a session of just touching her neck/head/shoulder/ears.
This session is a good illustration of the classical association that has been created: anytime I touch her, she expects food.
I try a new approach: wearing the collar like a bracelet or glove. This works really well!
Working up to touching her with the sleeve of my sweater as a precursor to being touched by the collar.
I go back to touching her with the sleeve of my sweater …
I work up to touching her with the collar worn like a bracelet/glove.
Today’s first session (session #13) goes into what I would do if I *had to* put a collar/leash on her right now (option 2). Then, you’ll see me continue along option 1: counterconditioning her to the collar, assuming that I have an infinite amount of time to reach my goal. I also talk about why in a real life scenario, we might NOT want to choose option #1 after the collar response we observed in last week’s sessions.
Session #14: a single-rep session. When working with a learner who is not particularly interested in your reinforcer and free to leave, some sessions may only have a single rep.
Session #15: continued counterconditioning, and I talk about appeasement signals
Session #16: more appeasement signal musings
Session #20 – the last one for Wednesday, and a lovely one to end the day with!