difference between people and dogs
When my children were still very small, my way of bringing them up resembled the one discussed below - operant conditioning. Desired behaviour was rewarded, inappropriate behaviour was not. 'Being consistent' was the magic phrase.
Later, when the children had mentally developed sufficiently so that they were able to make a distinction between my different moods, understand that I'm far from objective and (just as any man) am sensitive to outside and inner influences - so corrupt, as it were! - I gradually switched over to the principles of humanistic psychology,, with many features of existential philosophy. Concepts such as property and "the freedom that you appropriate is often at the expense of the freedom of other people" were essential.
Would I, when the children became reasoning and argumentative little people, have continued my operant conditioning with them? They would no doubt - and rightfullly so - have seen me as a particular rigid parent.
Children and dogs are not the same! An average dog is significantly less intelligent than an average six year old child. A six year old child understands what a birthday is and knows that not every day can be his birthday. That birthday is a special day, which he can look forward to. This discriminatory thinking goes beyond the intelligence of the dog, and, therefore, we have to raise a dog with methods other than we would raise a child.
The dog thinks and communicates differently from humans. When he suddenly, because it's his birthday or because you are in a special good mood, may eat from the table, he will at first be hesitant and then gratefully take advantage of these newly obtained rights. But if he's not allowed to do the same thing the next day, he will absolutely not be able to understand this, and become confused and uncertain. Unruly behaviour is usually the result of inconsistency.
The dog needs an educational structure that we would call 'rigid' if it concerned children. "Yes" is always "yes", "no" is always "no". Under such a regime dogs thrive best, because they know exactly what their limits are and that strengthens their self-confidence.
Behavioural characteristics of the dog
Many people believe that the wolf is an ancestor of the dog. Some doubt this. However, we can safely say that the wolf and the dog have a common ancestor and that the behavior of wolves in our pack can teach us much about the behaviour and motivation of our domesticated dogs.
The psyche of the dog is the sum of a number of instincts and reflexes. In some breeds certain instincts (natural needs) are more developed than in other breeds, according to the function of the dog - fo example hound, defense dog or lap dog. Obviously the breeding selection plays an important role in developing or suppressing certain instincts.
A number of important instincts and reflexes at a glance:
The primitive drive of newborn pups is to suck and swallow. Not to be confused with food drive, because the puppy still has no idea that he needs to eat to stay alive.
A reflex present at birth (it is provoked when the mother licks the puppy's perineum) and becomes spontaneous around 2-3 weeks. From 3 weeks on, the elimination reflex disappears and the puppy tends to leave its bedding to eliminate. At 6 to 8½ weeks it defecates in specific spots, usually at a distance from its eating and sleeping area.
Target Awareness Reflex
This is the reflex of the dog with which he links cause and effect. If I do this, that happens. Important motivational factor.
The drive to get food. This drive is somewhat strengthened by the Labrador dog when he is hungry. (Or is it true that a Labrador is always hungry?) Anyway, an important motivational factor.
This is the drive to have sex, which usually has the effect of reproduction. It is inappropriate to call it 'Reproduction Drive', because the dog can not see the effects of sex (to obtain offspring).
The innate drive to search for a prey by sight or by scent and to chase, kill and eat it.
This is the drive that makes a dog follow game or a human trail. The willingness to do this varies from breed to breed and from dog to dog.
This drive is a reflex to collect, and is strongly reflected in the chasing, grabbing and 'shaking to death' of objects, and also in dragging objects to the den.
The Drive to Retrieve
The drive to retrieve, also a reflex to collect, is reflected in the willingness of the dog to pick up loot and bring it to the den where the pups are, or in our domesticated dogs, in the willingness to retrieve a ball, a dummy, etc.
This is the drive to stay alive and it shows itself in the willingness to be submissive towards higher-level creatures in the social hierarchy.
If a dog is insufficient of this drive, or has no drive at all, he will not become very old, because his behavior causes the aggression of creatures that are higher in the hierarchy.
The drive of the dog is to escape from (life) threatening situations.
All of the above instincts are closely linked with the needs of the dog. The drive to escape, for example, is in fact the natural need of the dog to move away from (life) threatening situations. The operation of these needs is explained with two concepts from the Gestalt approach: gestalt formation and gestalt destruction.
An example: you're watching an exciting movie on TV. the need arises to watch this film to the end. (This is gestalt formation.) Halfway through the film, however, you get an enormous appetite for a beer. You'll have to get that beer from the fridge, which means that you will miss something of the film. At one point the movie becomes less important than the beer. At that moment the following happens: there arises a gestalt destruction towards the need to watch the movie and a gestalt formation regarding the need for the beer. Once you are drinking the beer and watching the rest of the film there arises a reverse process: gestalt destruction regarding the beer and gestalt formation regarding the film. The need to drink the beer has been satisfied and the need to watch the movie hasn't yet.
That's how it works even in the dog. A need that is not satisfied will continue to exist. There is no gestalt destruction of that need, which sometimes hampers or even prevents the gestalt formation of another need.
When a need is not satisfied, it creates frustration. A dog that always gets its way is not used to frustration and can not handle it. He has a low frustration tolerance, and that can be very problematic. A dog that regularly doens't get its way knows what frustration is and can deal with it. Therefore it is very important not to give the dog its way on a regular basis, because it will frustrate him, and his frustration tolerance will become higher. When you frustate the dog you show the dog who is in charge.This also prevents the dog wanting to dominate you.
Natural behaviour and learned behaviour
The behaviour of the dog can roughly be divided into learned behaviour and natural behaviour. Learned behaviour is not only what we have taught the dog, but also all the conditioned behaviour that arises in the interaction with other animals and external factors (traffic, environment , technology etc). Natural behaviour is all the behaviour that the dog exhibits on the basis of the present genetic material, including the instincts. Of course, natural behaviour and learned behaviour influence each other.
In fact, there is a kind of schizophrenia. A dog in the pack will display very different behaviour than he would in dealing with individual humans. Anyone who thinks he knows his dog like he knows the back of his hand, should let this dog be part of a natural or semi-natural pack. Hector, who wouldn't hurt a fly at home and shares his den with Flappie the rabbit, suddenly becomes a ferocious wild animal that, during the pack hunting of a bunch of wild rabbits literally devours them - skin , hair, bones and all within a minute, when it was not even a good half-hour ago when he had his dinner! He arrives home and lies down peacefully next to unsuspecting Flappie. If only Flappie knew...
So every dog has a Jekyll and Hyde personality. Being part of the pack, triggers the dog's natural behaviour, while the 'man learned' behaviour is temporarily forgotten.
The more the natural behaviour of a dog is suppressed, the less he will exhibit this behaviour. He will be inclined to suppress the 'Jeckyll' natural behaviour because the of his intelligence and reluctance to be punished. This does not mean that the tendency to exhibit natural behaviour has disappeared. In the pack all these latent tendencies will surface.
Two dogs that grow up in a house with each other and are raised by humans will exhibit less natural behaviour than dogs who grew up in the pack, depending on the impact of humans on this natural behaviour. In his training of the dog man builds in a number of unnatural 'brakes' in the conduct of the dog. This is allowed, that is not. One example: if a bitch eats dog faeces, the dog owner will discourage this behaviour with all possible means, because it is - in our eyes - a filthy habit,; you're embarrased when the neighbour sees it. But that same bitch will probably experience huge psychological difficulties when she throws a litter, because the natural behaviour of the bitch is to eat the stools of the puppies which is exactly the behaviour she had to unlearn. Frustration and frustration again.
Another example: an experienced bitch, grown up in the pack, biting a two-day old puppy (from another bitch) to death. People's reaction: disbelief, frustration, even aggression. That monster! Then the autopsy shows that the puppy had an open palate and only one lung. The bitch ,therefore ,applied a natural selection, to a little puppy that was viable. She would probably not have done this if man had taught her to always 'love' small dogs,; when man had unlearned her how to behave with dogs in a natural way.
So the bitch in this example is still fairly close to nature.
Need of Inclusion
The dog is a social animal. He lives in a group (pack). In most domesticated dogs the human family IS the pack. The domesticated dog is also bred for its adherence towards humans. In addition to the aforementioned instincts (reflexes) the need of inclusion ( that is the need for the dog to belong to a pack or a human family), plays an important role in the upbringing of the dog. The natural need of inclusion of the dog however applies in the first place to his peers; he would like to be part of a dog community. Failing that he will abide to his fate and will gladly be part of the alternative pack: the human family.
In puppies, who in the imprinting phase, had little or no social contact with humans, the need of inclusion towards humans is absent or very poorly developed. We then speak of kennel syndrome.
The instincts and needs of the dog are the motivational factors in the upbringing of the dog. Because of the functioning of the psyche of the dog, this learning process usually takes place through operant conditioning.
Operant conditioning (also called 'instrumental conditioning') is a form of trial and error learning, that is to say, the dog exhibits behaviour and that behaviour provides something positive or something negative (effect). As long as the behaviour brings something positive, the behaviour will be repeated, but once the benefits are absent, the negative behaviour will - whether immediately or not - be discontinued. For a dog, the life in a normal family is not very exciting; he will now attempt to get some more action, so he exhibits certain behaviour. On one occasion, he does something wrong and he will be stopped (negative enforcement). At another time he does something right and there are praising words and food. Because of the fact that this is positive enforcement, the 'good-behaviour-response' is continuously strengthened. Ratification (approval or disapproval) is therefore indispensable. In psychology, these methods of operant conditioning are also called'operant reward conditioning' (with reward) and 'aversive operant conditioning' (without reward). When we are absolutely sure that the dog knows a command, but refuses to follow the command and we insist that he does what he's told, then we call the final following of this command 'positive escape reaction' Apparently, the dog finds it uncomfortable to follow the command, but he will find your condemnatory behaviour even less pleasing, so he will 'escape' from this situation by following the command. Never give a command without being sure that the dog can follow the command. Once you have given a command, you must also ensure that the dog actually follows the command, and that you enforce it and make it a pleasant sensation for the dog. Otherwise it's likely that the dog learns the following: "If my master wants something from me, I don't need to do it, because there is no penalty. So why should I?" And that too is an 'escape reaction', but the one that leads to display of the undesired behaviour, thus a negative escape reaction. If playing with Scruffy from next door is more fun than coming to you, then we must ensure that coming to you is more fun then playing with Scruffy. Otherwise, coming to you will become a punishment (for what? What have I done?) and that is detrimental to the education of the dog. Food can play an important role here, even though it's only a morsel. Excessive praising, with a high pitch voice, also works very well. A combination of the two methods works best, but as soons as the conditioning succeeds, you can omit the food. Keep practicing though!
Each time the correct response occurs which is followed by a reward, there is learning.
Because we are unable to interpret the feelings of the dog, we can only look at the behaviour of the dog, including the manner in which tail and ears are carried. This tells us whether the dog is happy, dominant, aggressive or scared, all important for the upbringing of the dog. External behaviour is the instrument here, not our interpretation of the dog's feelings, because that would be anthropomorphism.
A dog is an intelligent animal and learns fast. But there are factors that accelerate the learning process, namely by giving food as a reward. The following is important:
1. The quantity of the food (the more food, the faster the learning process).
2. The quality of the food (the nicer the food, the faster the learning process).
3. The effort that should be made to obtain the food (the lesser the effort, the faster the learning process).
4. Rewarding the desired behaviour leads to better results than punishing the unwanted behaviour.
5. (If punishment is appropriate at all) An effective punishment is short and intense, and it is instantly and consistently administered (caught in the act!) And it is not associated with a positive enforcement.
During the operant conditioning (learning) we will notice the following:
1. A dog that has learned that certain behaviour always brings something positive (continuous enforcement) in a given situation, is expectant and cherishes hope, after exhibiting this behaviour in that situation. This shows ,for instance, by the frequency of wagging the tail and the position of the ears.
2. If the expected reward is not given, the dog shows disappointment. (Then we speak of partial or intermittent enforcement.)
3. A dog that has learned that certain behaviour in a certain situation brings something negative, is anxious or submissive after exhibiting this behaviour in that situation.
4. When the expected punishment fails to occur, the dog shows to be relieved.
5. Continuous enforcement (thus always rewarding desired behaviour and always punishing undesired behaviour) works noticeably better with dogs than partial enforcement.
One of the basic principles of operant conditioning is Thorndike's Law of Effect: responses to a situation which are followed by a rewarding state of affairs will be strengthened and become habitual responses to that situation.
Another basic principle is that when an enforcement is no longer used (this is called extinction), the learned response will eventually disappear. The method of extinction is used to unlearn undesired behaviour. Example: if the dog draws unwanted attention to himself and recieves attention from you, he gets positive enforcement for his behaviour. If this behaviour is ignored (that is, negatively enforcing it) the behaviour will disappear.
Faster and better still is the method of not only ceasing to enforce the undesired behaviour, but also rewarding the alternative, more desired behaviour. This is called differential enforcement.
Consistently dealing with the dog always leads to the best results. The extinction of a continuous enforcement leads to better results than the extinction of a partial enforcement.
Example: Two dogs were fed at the table. One always, the other every now and then. Both dogs showed begging behaviour as a result of the continuous and partial enforcement.
Question: Which dog will still continue with the begging behaviour when we come to extinction?
Answer: The dog that was fed at the table every now and then, becomes an organism that was trained with partial enforcement. He has learned that enforcement may still follow his behaviour even though enforcement is not regular.. This is what we call the extinct effect of partial enforcement.
Shaping is training by successive approaches. This method is used when desired behaviour can not be learned in one go. In shaping we are always one step closer to our goal and the dog is gradually trained. This way we can teach the dog all sorts of tricks.
In this form of learning some physical force is used, for example by teaching the dog how to sit. We push him gently in the sitting position and at the same time we say "sit". When the dog is sitting, the desired behaviour is rewarded. Actually, it's a simple way of shaping.
A good complement to operant conditioning is associative learning. The command 'forward', for example, is difficult to learn by the trial and error method of operant conditioning, because the dog has to move away from you instead of coming to you. But by associative learning this command can be learned quite well. The easiest way is if you bring a dog with you that already knows the command 'forward'. In that case you give both dogs the command 'forward'. The dog who knows the command speeds forward, the other dog follows . Even without another dog the command is relatively easy to teach. In the morning, before you walk the dog, you prepare his food, in his presence. Then you walk the dog. You keep him close to you, but the last hundred meters to your house you let the dog go. He knows that his food is waiting for him, so he is in a hurry and speeds forward. Then you repeat the command 'forward' a number of times and then you reward him by shouting "good boy!" After a few times, the dog will associate the command with going forward.
The dog is an association thinker par excellence. Each command, any punishment will be associated with actual behaviour. So when the dog is actually devouring the cat from nextdoor and you say "Come here", and the dog comes and you verbally punish him then the dog will associate this punishment with coming to you and not with devouring the cat. Outcome: the next time you say "Come here" the dog will expect to be punished, and he will not come so quickly, if at all.
A dog can be punished only for current behaviour, in other words, when you catch him in flagrante delicto. Not only is it useless, but it's also very bad for your relationship with your dog when the dog is being punished for something he did ten minutes, an hour or half a night ago.
This means that you sometimes have to stage undesired behaviour to be able to catch the dog in the act, and punish him.
A golden rule: a dog learns ten times better by rewarding desired behaviour than by punishing the undesired behaviour.
Application of the psychology
An example: of all my dogs Whoopy was the only Labrador who barked when there was no real peril. Early in the morning, when my wife and I were still in bed, she started.
We found this disruptive behavior, because we didn't want our relationship with the neighbors to be spoiled. Now I suspected that the barking came from a certain need: stimulus is hunger or the need to be let out, response is barking because then Jack will come down, I will be let out and I get my food. Until my wife had to rise early two days in a row and Whoopy did not bark. I had to revise my opinion. The problem was slightly less simple. Paddy, our cat, had to have the possibility to go out at any time of the night, or else he became as mad as a hatter. So in the evening we put him outside. In the morning he wanted back in and he started to meow loudly. When my wife had left early she let Paddy in, so there was no meowing and Whoopy did not bark. Stimulus was thus: Paddy's yowl, response was Whoopy's barking (because then Jack opens the door and the annoying yowl will stop).
When I knew that, I knew the solution of the problem: a cat flap! And indeed, the problem was solved.
Before we approach the undesirable behaviour of the dog, we must try to find out which stimulus causes the response of the undesired behaviour. As we have seen, that stimulus is not always the most obvious one.
Then we must ask ourselves which drive underlies the undesired behaviour. Is that a goal awareness reflex? Then the goal should be removed. Once the object is removed and stays away consistently, it will reduce undesired behaviour.
When you are able to recognise a drive, half of the solution of the problem has been produced. But watch out that the behaviour does not become the opposite of that behaviour. You can, with great patience, reduce the subjugation drive of the dog, but that almost automatically means that the dominance of the dog is strengthened. Ask yourself first if that is really what you want.