LRA Gets Her New Name- LARA (Little Adorable Red Aussie)

Tuesday March 2nd 8-10pm

Yesterday evening Bethany (The DogSmith Panhandle and Southern Alabama) came over and we gave LRA a thorough health check. Beth is also a certified vet tech so LRA was in good hands. Her ear canals are clean, eyes are good, lungs are clear and her heart rate is good given that it pounds with fear when you handle her. We administered her Heart Worm preventative and set about introducing her to a collar. She also weighed in at around 28 pounds and we are fairly sure, judging by her teeth she is around 12 months old.

She was really good, a little scared. Bethany is so gentle with the animals I am sure they can read her good intentions. Within a few minutes Bethany had her chewing on her Heart Guard and taking slithers of “cheesy hot dogs” from her fingers.

After only a few minutes of laying the collar over her back and slowly moving it up to her neck while giving her treats for staying calm we were able to fasten the collar loosely around her neck. I will gradually over the next few days tighten it to an appropriate fit. In the meantime we will have to remove it when she goes into her kennel as she could “hang up” on it.

LRA was put to bed at 10.30pm. I fastened her kennel which is a 6 x3 professional grade indoor kennel, gave her some water, turned on the radio and turned off the light. As we left the room I explained to Bethany that I would close the internal door. Our policy here at The DogSmith Training Center is to have two closed doors between any dog and the outdoor environment for safety.

March 3rd 6am

As a birthday gift to me this morning Rick slipped quietly from the house to feed all the critters and walk the dogs. He popped in to see LRA and was surprised to find her playing in the feed area. There was an array of chewed up plants, door mats and paper. Rick called on me and asked “why I had left LRA out loose last night”. Of course I had not. When I arrived on the scene I could not believe how she had removed herself from her kennel and opened the door and then had her fun escapades in the feed room area.  I was delighted, for the first time she greeted me from a distance with a tail wag, the famous Aussie smile and a play bounce but shame on me for not being smarter than a little red aussie!

Some of you may at this point be thinking “oh no, she may have hurt herself”. Well, having boarded dogs here for many years I can categorically say that all our dog areas are “doggie proofed”. All chemicals, food and digestible objects are carefully stored away. With that said it would not have surprised me if LRA had not prepared and served herself breakfast. This is one smart Aussie Shepherd.

LRA was taken outside into the large Doggie Day Care area where she played happily while I cleaned up the debris from her antics and rearranged the area for safe keeping. I have never, in ten years of dog training, seen anything quite as smart as this. I even called Bethany when it was a respectable time to brief her and in my own mind confirm that, yes, we had safely secured her the night before.

We are also pleased to announce the official new name for LRA.

A big thank you to my sister in-law, Lea, who appropriately noted on The DogSmith Franchise Facebook page that her name should be LARA – Little Adorable Red Aussie. So Lara it is.

Training Goals for Today

  1. Charge the clicker – so we can use this as a training tool

Clicker training is the least aversive and intrusive training method you can use. It’s very empowering for the animal. Using a clicker the dog learns that their behavior can control their environment. It’s a great method for scared, frightened or socially unconfident dogs. It can be used to shape behaviors such as calm behaviors, greeting behaviors, and approach behaviors.

  1. Introduce The Leash

Today we are going to start working on familiarizing Lara to her leash. We plan to shape this without using any lures or prompts. The leash attached to her collar at this point is so highly aversive to her (she wants to escape or avoid it) we need to be very careful and progress slowly and surely without setting her back.

Relationship Goals for Today

  1. We will continue to hand feed Lara and continue to build trust with her so we are more able to interact with her which will help so much with our training plan.

Management Goals for Today

If we can have successes with the leash then taking her in and out will be so much easier. This will help us manage her environment. We know that within 14 days we can have her housetrained if we implement The DogSmith Housetraining plan, however to do this we need to have her on a leash so we can take her to her designated bathroom area and then reinforce her for using it. The DogSmith E-Book on Housetraining is available at www.DogSmith.com under our resources tab.

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What does Respondent Conditioning Have to Do with Clicker Training?

Why have small cricket boxes found in children’s toy shops been renamed as clickers and infiltrated the dog training arena. What do they do? How do they work? Are they a gimmick or founded in science? Learn about the connection between clicker training and Pavlovian conditioning and how clickers actually work.

 An organism exhibits two types of reflexes, unconditioned reflexes and conditioned reflexes.

  1. An unconditioned reflex (UR) is unlearned and occurs unconditionally,
  2. A conditioned reflex (CR) is acquired and considered impermanent.

 An unconditioned reflex consists of an unconditioned stimulus (US) and an unconditioned response (UR).  An unconditioned stimulus is something that, when presented, evokes a natural unconditioned response  such as blinking when air is pushed towards the eyelid or sweating when stressed or scared. Unconditioned reflexes are important for an animal’s survival.  Freeze dried liver offered to a dog is an example of a US and the dog drooling is an example of the resulting UR.  

 A conditioned reflex occurs when a conditioned stimulus (CS) creates a conditioned response (CR).  This is a learned response to a given set of conditions occurring in the environment.  Pavlov recognized that any stimulus could become a conditioned stimulus when paired repeatedly with an unconditioned stimulus.

 Respondent conditioning takes place when an unconditioned stimulus that elicits an unconditioned response is repeatedly paired with a neutral stimulus. As a result of conditioning, the neutral stimulus becomes a conditioned stimulus that reliably elicits a conditioned response.  When we first present a clicker to a dog the clicker is a neutral stimulus.  The first thing we do with the clicker is “charge it” by pairing the clicker sound with an unconditioned stimulus, i.e. food. The clicker then becomes an indicator to the dog that a treat is following and thus becomes a conditioned stimulus. The same principle is applied using a whistle with marine animal training.

 

 With each single pairing of the neutral stimulus, the clicker and the unconditioned stimulus, the food is considered a trial. Using respondent conditioning we can create some very powerful training tools. Once the clicker has been “charged” we can then use it to shape and train some great dog behaviors. However we need to be very precise in our application with this new training tool.

 There are four ways of pairing the unconditioned stimulus (food) and the conditioned stimulus (clicker). The rate of respondent conditioning will vary with the degree of CS – US contingency.  The interval and contiguity between the conditioned stimulus and unconditioned stimulus also affects how quickly conditioning occurs.

 There are four ways of pairing the US and the CS.

1) Trace and 2) delayed conditioning –  Present the conditioned stimulus prior to the unconditioned stimulus. In trace conditioning the conditioned stimulus begins and ends before the unconditioned stimulus is presented.  With delayed conditioning there is an overlap of the conditioned stimulus and unconditioned stimulus.  Delayed conditioning is also affected by the length of delay between the presentation of the conditioned stimulus and the unconditioned stimulus.  With delayed conditioning, initially both short and long-term delays elicit similar results. However with long delay conditioning the interval between the conditioned stimulus and conditioned responses, known as conditioned response latency, gradually increases. The conditioned stimulus becomes not just the presented stimulus but the appearance of the stimulus for a given length of time.  With both trace and delayed conditioning a conditional response begins to appear after the conditioned stimulus is presented as there is a high degree of CS-US contingency and there is an inter-stimulus interval.

 

In 3) simultaneous conditioning and 4) backward conditioning the conditioned stimulus is not presented before the unconditioned stimulus but either simultaneously or after the unconditioned stimulus is presented. With simultaneous conditioning the conditioned stimulus and unconditioned stimulus are presented at exactly the same time.  Since there is no interval between the conditioned stimulus and unconditioned stimulus it makes conditioning very ineffective. Backward conditioning presents the unconditioned stimulus before the conditioned stimulus and weakens the contingency between the conditioned stimulus and the unconditioned stimulus.

 

 

One of the most common mistakes people make when training dogs using clickers is the way they present the clicker and the food.  They will often both click and deliver the treat at exactly the same time or they present the food first and then click. This impedes the dog’s learning and frustrates the dog’s owner as they do not see the results they are promised and expect.

 

When introducing clickers into a dog training class the instructor needs to be very precise about how they describe and demonstrate the use of the clicker.  Because the  amount of learning depends on the degree to which the conditioned stimulus predicts the unconditioned stimulus it is important that for the best results when training dogs the conditioned stimulus (the clicker) is presented before the unconditioned stimulus (the food) and the delay between the presentation of the clicker and the food is as short as possible. The dog trainers’ mechanics need to be exact.

 

 Clicker training is very powerful and can be used to shape and train many behaviors, it is also the training method of choice when dealing with anxiety or fear elicited behaviors as shaping is the least intrusive and least aversive training method available. However clicker training is very misunderstood and often misused or incorrectly applied. To get the best results from your clicker training experience consult a certified dog trainer or behavior analyst so you start on the right foot and really understand how to use this simple yet often misrepresented training tool.