Wednesday, October 17, 2012

To Blog or Not To Blog?

Ok, so I was feeling uninspired and disappointed by the underwhelming response to my last blog post.  Let’s face it, despite my love of humor and good times, my writing skills demonstrate a decided lack of such leading me to ruminate on whether I should bother to blog again.  Dare I bore the public with my pontifications on training and behavior in my lackluster, humorless writing style? Maybe I’m just rusty and need to push myself, get in a “groove”, exercise my cerebral cortex and then maybe I will improve.  Then again, maybe not.

I enviously read many blogs and articles and dream of being able to coin a phrase, turn a word and cleverly make my point as do so many others.  I live in a great time when anyone with a two-bit opinion and a computer can have her voice heard.  Ah, but SHOULD that voice be heard?  And would anyone read far enough into this mind-numbing droning of words to get to my point? Alas, I suspect not, so why bother?

Suddenly, INSPIRATION! Amazing that is was in the form of a pint-sized entity whose name sounds like a wound acquired while raiding a beehive for its golden nectar.  Yes, I suspect you know of what I speak and imagine my surprise to learn of the existence of this heretofore unknown entity of which I was blissfully unaware.  Having heard the name this morning and, being as curious as a cat dog, I immediately Googled it and now that which has been seen and heard can, sadly, never be UNseen or UNheard.  (oh the horror, the horror!) The images and sounds are forever burned into my poor, overexposed brain.  BUT, one must give credit where credit is due.  For, I thought if this child can be asked to share her self-proclaimed redneck opinion on the presidential candidates and be given a nationally televised forum to do so, then, certainly, I am entitled to post my thoughts and ramblings on that which I am knowledgeable and educated.  If not for the silliness of this beauty-queen wannabe, I would have remained silent.

While I vehemently resist the idea that I need to "redneck-cognize", I do realize this diminutive blonde and all that goes with her is probably found to be far more entertaining than little big, old me, but I vow to make a better effort in the future.  With that, on to the post (no, the former is NOT the post and, no, I will not be discussing reality tv and its assorted “stars”.  If you thought that’s where I was going, you may want to leave now)

In my last post, “Are You Really a “Positive”Trainer?”, I was discussing the Humane Hierarchy and several times mentioned “more on that later”.  Here is one of those “laters”...

Steps 5 and 6 on the Humane Hierarchy

5.  Negative Punishment, Extinction and Negative Reinforcement
Yes, despite the fact that these three things are different, they are “lumped” together on the Humane Hierarchy…

a. Negative Punishment – Sounds really bad, right?  Well, not as bad as one might think and certainly better than Negative Reinforcement, IMO.  When using NP, the trainer contingently withdraws a positive reinforcer to reduce the probability that the problem behavior will occur. NP creates stress thru disappointment but is more humane than introducing an aversive.  Many “positive” trainers use NP in conjunction with PR.  I’m sure you’ve heard it before with the jumping puppy – turn your back.  That’s an example of NP because, in theory, you are removing the reinforcer (your attention) for jumping by turning your back to the puppy.  Lol – how well does that really work?  Not well at all.

b. Extinction No, we’re not talking about dinosaurs but I’m very happy when some behaviors go the way of the dinosaur.  When using extinction, the trainer permanently removes the maintaining reinforcer to suppress the behavior or reduce it to baseline levels.  This is very stressful for the dog as triggers are still present and the dog is repeatedly subjected to its trigger in the absence of alternative behaviors or distractions or even the information that can be learned from negative punishment, leaving the dog little or no way to “cope” with the trigger.  A good example of this is doorbell desensitization for dogs that “go crazy” when the doorbell rings.  Why? Because the doorbell signals visitors and that’s the reinforcer.  Ring the doorbell all day long and never answer the door and eventually the dog gives up on the behavior because the reinforce is no longer there at all.  Of course, it doesn’t take much for the dog to reacquire the behavior once you again begin to answer the door.

c. Negative Reinforcement When using negative reinforcement, the trainer contingently withdraws an aversive antecedent stimulus to increase the probability that the right behavior will occur.  NR is very stressful/invasive for the dog as it first requires the introduction of an aversive.  A choke chain supposedly operates using NR and, yes, it does but only AFTER the positive punishment.  A pulling dog is punished by the choke chain tightening around his neck.  If the dog stops pulling, his “nice walking” is reinforced by the relief of pressure from the choke chain.

6.   Positive Punishment – the LAST Resort when ALL other Options have Failed
Positive? - sounds better than it is.  Positive within this context does not mean good – it means to add something. 

With PP, the trainer contingently delivers an aversive consequence to reduce the probability that the problem behavior will occur.  Positive punishment is determined by the dog.  What one dog may find punishing, another may find fun.  Introducing an aversive to decrease/suppress a behavior is extremely invasive and stressful to the dog and, very often, downright INhumane.  I don’t believe there is ever any need to use physical pain of any kind.  I don’t believe in nor have I ever found the need for choke, prong or shock collars, physical force or intimidation.  Don’t get me wrong, there may be a time and a place for the proper use of PP.  Yes, I am committed to positive training but I refuse to become one of the many “humaniacs” that rewards-based training seems to have created. Don’t get me started on the whole NRM debate!  Hmmm… now THAT’s a post for another day, for sure!

I believe in respecting and humanely educating my beloved pets. I hope to increase awareness among pet-owners and help them achieve a bond with their pets based on mutual respect, trust and affection.  In so doing, I…

Train withOUT Pain!

Happy Tails!


Unknown said...

To blog! Keep it up! It's def helpful to us. If nothing else, it helps journal your thoughts, concerns and ideas. :)

Lora Robinson said...

Helen... I'm in the ABC Yahoo Group & am just now getting time to read the blogs you posted in a group email on Oct. 23rd...!!!

There are so many things to read, it's hard to keep up with everything in a timely manner.

That being said - I read the first blog about 'Are You Really a Positive Trainer'. I considered leaving a comment there but didn't because I wanted to read the second blog, To Blog or Not to Blog.

I had to chuckle when I read that you were disappointed at not getting any Comments to the first blog (of that month), because it validates my thought that you'd think I didn't read it.

But - I'm SO glad you finished your thoughts from the first article! I've been training for about 3 years now, but all the NP, PP, etc., stuff never ceases to stump me. And your article(s) were AWESOME, not to mention humorous and well-written.

So, thank you very much for deciding to finish your thoughts. I am going to keep these blogs to read over & over, and maybe all the quadrant stuff will finally come to me second-nature-ish as opposed to having to think so hard about it!

Thanks Helen....!
Lora Robinson

SmartyPawsDogTraining said...

Thanx, Lora, for your comments. Stay tuned for more blogs you may find informative and I'll do my best to be humorous. :)