The Opposite of Force

Clara's pool provides enrichment she can choose when she wants

Clara playing by herself in her pool

I think I’ve figured something out.

I continue to see the concept of choice bandied about the positive reinforcement-based training world. It can be a code word for a setup that includes negative reinforcement. “I’m going to do something physically unfamiliar or unpleasant to you and you have the choice of staying here and getting a piece of food or leaving and being relieved from whatever it is I’m doing.” I’ve suggested that this is not a laudable kind of choice; as trainers we can use our skills and take our time so that the dog doesn’t want to leave in the first place.

It can also refer to human-centric preference tests, many of which are subject to extreme bias.

But here’s my new realization. Continue reading

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Posted in Choice, Enrichment, Training philosophy | Tagged | 14 Comments

Are You SURE Your Dog Prefers That Food Toy?

It just occurred to me that it is super easy to make assumptions about how much our dogs prefer a particular food toy, or even whether they really enjoy them that much.

Don’t yell at me. To be clear: I use food toys for my dogs every single day. I think they can be enriching and that they are ethical things to use.

But food toys present us with a funny little problem. Continue reading

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Posted in Classical conditioning, Enrichment, Food toys, Reinforcement | Tagged , , | 19 Comments

Tossing Cookies: Delivering Treats and Toys in Dog Training

One thing I notice about experienced trainers is how well they can deliver food to dogs. Usually their hand motions are both fast and quiet, and the food goes just where they intend. This may sound like a minor issue, but it’s not. The mechanics of training are the key to successful, efficient training and a non-frustrated dog.

The way we deliver food in training needs to further our goals. There are times when Continue reading

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  • You can practice throwing reinforcers without your dog & improve your accuracy. #dogtraining
Posted in Dog training hints, Food reinforcers, Treats | Tagged | 13 Comments

I Failed to Falsify—Twice! (Falsifiability Part 2)

Graffiti on a brick building that says, "False"

Photo credit carnagenyc: see bottom of page

I want to share just how tricky this falsification stuff can be. In the last few weeks I’ve received two comments from readers that pushed me to rethink some things I’ve written. They were both presented very constructively, offering some ideas in the spirit of good dialogue and the search for truth. They included fascinating questions that Continue reading

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Posted in Choice, Critical Thinking, Research, Terminology | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

So Tell Me What You Want, What You Really Really Want: 9 Ways Preference Testing Can Go Wrong

Two hands offering different treats to a dog in an attempt at a preference test

What’s your favorite color?
Do you prefer pie or ice cream?
Which shirt do you like better: the striped one or the solid green one?

Most of us have been asked our preferences since we were children. Sometimes we are being asked to make a choice: if we choose the striped shirt we won’t be wearing the green one also. If we are asked to choose enough times, our preferences often become clear.

With the best intentions, many of us are attempting to determine our dogs’ preferences by Continue reading

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Posted in Behavior analysis, Choice, Research | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

How I Helped My Dog Love the Sound of Velcro

small black dog Zani gazes at a Lotus Ball toy with Velcro enclosures

Velcro, a type of fastener with two different fabric surfaces that adhere to each other, typically makes a loud ripping noise when pulled apart. Some dog harnesses, coats, medical supplies, and other gear use Velcro closures.

This ripping sound can be aversive. Some sound phobic dogs are triggered the first time they hear it. And some dogs who are OK with most sounds may find it unpleasant when Velcro is unfastened close to their ears.

I recently “inoculated” my dog Zani against fear of the Velcro ripping sound. Zani has a Continue reading

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  • Using a Lotus Ball toy to condition a #dog to the sound of Velcro. #dogtraining
Posted in Desensitization and Counterconditioning, Review, Sound phobias, Training plan | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Peanut Butter Dog Treats With No Sticking! Another Silicone Pan Recipe

Pyramid style silicone pan with baked peanut butter dog treats

Sorry I’m not filling my pans as neatly as I did before! That part got old.

I posted in January about making hundreds of small treats at a time in a silicone pan. I had no idea how lucky I was that I hit on a recipe that worked so well the first time. You can check out that chicken-based recipe and some details about the pan in this post. It seems that you need to have enough binding ingredients in these recipes or things get…sticky.

Ever since then I have been trying on and off to develop a recipe for peanut butter dog treats for the silicone pan. So far Continue reading

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Posted in Dog training hints, Food reinforcers, Treats | Tagged , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Falsifiability or Falsehood in Dog Training? (Part 1)

What if we had to know our animal training theory and practice so well that we could easily tell someone what would disprove the hypotheses that inform our methods? That’s what scientists do. If we are going to claim to base our training methods on science, I think we should get with the program. 

There’s a concept in science that is not much discussed in the world of dog training. The concept is falsifiability. Learning about it can save us a world of hurt in assessing statements about training methods. Focusing on how we would disprove our own methods may seem counterintuitive at first, but bear with me. Continue reading

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  • Can your trainer explain what would disprove her methods? Is she willing to try?
Posted in Critical Thinking, Research, Terminology | Tagged , | 15 Comments

Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Book Wins Maxwell Award

 

My book won!

I’m proud to announce that Remember Me? Loving and Caring for a Dog with Canine Cognitive Dysfunction has won a Maxwell Award for 2016. The Maxwells are awarded yearly by the Dog Writers Association of America.  My book won best book in 2016 in the category of Behavior, Health or General Care.

The winners in all categories were announced at a banquet in New York City on February 12. I didn’t get to go, but a friend texted me as soon as it happened. I’ve been on Cloud Nine!

I thank the Dog Writers Association of America for the recognition and honor of the Maxwell Award.

Discounts

I’m running a celebration discount on the PDF version. The PDF is available on my Dog Dementia website, and I’ve marked it down from $12.95 to $9.99.

Click here or the “Add To Cart” button to buy the PDF.

Add to Cart

The PDF is designed for both pleasant online viewing and a nice print copy, so it’s like getting two versions in one. The print is large, at 14 points, and the photos are in color.  Here’s a sample page. The discount will run through midnight on March 21, 2017.

In addition, Amazon and Barnes and Noble seem to be having a price war. They have marked the paper book down from $15.99 to $11.48 and $11.36 respectively.

Book: Remember Me: Loving and Caring for a Dog with Canine Cognitive DysfunctionMy book is also available in Kindle, Apple iBook, Nook, and Google digital formats. You can buy all the formats here.

Please feel free to share this announcement with anyone who has a senior dog. My book can help!

Copyright Eileen Anderson 2017

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  • Eileen Anderson's book on dog dementia wins Maxwell Award.
  • Award-winning book on canine cognitive dysfunction can help owners of senior dogs.
Posted in Awards, Canine Cognitive Disfunction | Tagged , , | 28 Comments

Do You Dogs REALLY Want To Come In?

(In answer to a couple of comments: The title of the post is correct. I am addressing my dogs and asking if they want to come in. Sorry if it comes off as clunky,)

What do my dogs understand when I ask them a question?

A while back I read a suggestion that we should stop giving our dogs one-word verbal cues and start asking them questions instead. In full sentences.

Talking to our dogs is no biggie–most of us talk to our dogs all day, right? Continue reading

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Posted in Behavior analysis, Cues | Tagged , | 21 Comments