Why doesn’t he do what I tell him? – Part 2

Why doesn’t he do what I tell him? – Part 2

In part 1 of the series “Why doesn’t he do what I tell him?” We dealt with the signal that precedes behavior. We have found that if a signal has not been properly trained, this can be a good reason why Fiffi and Bello are not doing what we want them to do. As a reminder, here is the summary:

One of the crucial reasons why your dog may not be doing what you are telling it can be the signal given. The signal may have been introduced at the wrong time or in the wrong order. An auditory signal can be overshadowed by your body language and it can lose relevance if it is repeated repeatedly without any consequence. Improper training may have resulted in the dog not being able to execute the signal in every context, or that the dog cannot clearly differentiate the signal from other signals, or that the signal has never been linked to behavior or even to a completely different (undesired) ) Behavior.
In the second part, we now want to deal with what follows behavior, namely the consequence and why it has a very, very large influence on whether Fiffi executes behavior on signal or not. For this article, we look at two of the four possible consequences: positive reinforcement and positive punishment.

The consequence is the stimulus that immediately follows behavior. This can be something comfortable for the dog that we add; for example food, a toy, pats, etc.

This type of consequence is called “positive reinforcement”. As a result, the likelihood is increased that the behavior will occur more frequently in the future when the signal that preceded it occurs, because in the past the dog received something that was very pleasant for him and the behavior was therefore worthwhile for the dog.

The consequence can also be an added stimulus, which is very uncomfortable for the dog. Then one speaks of “positive punishment” (note, “positive” is not to be assessed emotionally here, but mathematically, i.e. positive stands for “add”). This can be, for example, a strong line jerk or a loudly shouted, verbal “No”. As a result, it is more likely that the behavior will occur less or not at all in the future.

Let’s take a look at the two consequences using an example. Fiffi, Labrador, 6 months, cheerful and without distance? Visitors are gladly jumped on and licked off to greet them.

One option would be to work with a positive penalty. As an aid, we use a spray bottle filled with water. As soon as Fiffi jumps up on the visit, the dog owner gives one or more powerful sprays towards Fiffi’s face. Fiffi is startled and stops visiting. Goal achieved. Or not?? If we take a closer look at the scenario, we might find that Fiffi has not only relinquished the visit, but now also looks very uncertain and does not know what to do now. If this scenario has been played through a few times, it may also happen that Fiffi will not only simply no longer start the visit in the future, but will also no longer dare to come near the visit, as he has a negative association between the visit and the unpleasant spray bottle and is now not only afraid of the spray bottle, but also of the visit itself and possibly also of the dog owner.

In our example, this would mean that by working with a positive punishment, Fiffi may stop jumping at the visitor (behavior was inhibited), but he a) developed a fear of the visitor and b) does not know what to do instead should and c) the fear of renewed positive punishment jeopardizes the relationship with one’s own owner or mistress. So goal achieved? On a superficial look, maybe yes, in the long term and if you take a closer look, definitely no!

Now let’s take a closer look at the training with positive reinforcement. We remember that with the help of positive reinforcement we can reinforce behavior, i.e. the likelihood that the behavior will occur again in the future is increased. Now, of course, in our example we do not want to intensify the starting.

So we ask ourselves what the dog should do instead and reinforce an alternative behavior,

e.g. all four paws on the ground. I.e. we plan the training in such a way that the undesirable behavior cannot occur at all and reward the dog for standing on the floor with all four paws. With the reward (something pleasant for the dog) we also achieve a positive association with the visit and fun training.

This would mean that by working with positive reinforcement the dog stops jumping and a) is still happy about the visit due to the positive association and b) he knows what to do instead: namely with all four paws on Stay on the ground, because this behavior pays off for him; and c) he enjoys training with his dog owner, which in turn has a positive effect on the relationship.

So what can we do with this information in relation to our initial question “Why doesn’t he do what I tell him?”

a) That the dog shows behavior, which we have strengthened positively, more often and that the dog (and owner!) have fun during training -> accordingly, he will be able to perform a learned behavior on signal more reliably and also want to (!)

b) that the dog shows behavior that is followed by a positive punishment less or not at all and that the dog experiences fear and insecurity and that the relationship with the owner is in danger -> accordingly behavior is no longer shown, this can but also stupidly be actually desired behavior; such as. Running up on callback; which was unintentionally punished positively.

So let’s summarize:

Fiffi’s not doing what you tell him may also be because Fiffi’s behavior was either wrong or not reinforced; that the desired behavior was punished (ie inhibited) by mistake or that Fiffi no longer dares to show behavior, because he was often inhibited by the dog owner with a positive punishment for other behavior and thus spread uncertainty, fear and excessive demands .

In part 3 of the series we visually combine the two reasons discussed so far (signals and consequences) and will examine another reason, the motivation, more closely.

  • Example: Bello runs free when walking. Suddenly another dog appears in the distance and Bello’s owner wants to call his dog to him immediately. Master gives the signal for the call back, Bello looks briefly in his direction, but does not come running over. Master (very excited because he knows that as soon as the other dog is there, Bello will run wildly towards them) gets angry, gives the signal again, this time louder and with a strong, angry voice. Bello begins to walk slowly towards the owner, while the owner runs to Bello, giving the callback signal over and over again and finally arriving at Bello, he is grabbed by the collar and dragged away. Bello finds this extremely uncomfortable and will probably show the behavior shown last (in the direction of the owner in response to the recall signal) less often or not at all, because the owner has accidentally punished this behavior positively (i.e. inhibited).

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