by Gabriel Riesco | Apr 26, 2023 | Dog Training, For Dog Trainers, Fun Doggy Wisdom
Differential reinforcement is a technique used in dog training that involves rewarding a desired behavior while ignoring or redirecting an undesirable behavior. This approach is based on the principles of operant conditioning, which suggests that behavior is shaped by its consequences.
In differential reinforcement, the trainer provides positive reinforcement for the behaviors they want to encourage, while withholding reinforcement or redirecting the dog’s attention away from behaviors they want to discourage. This can be a powerful training technique, as it can help to establish good habits and prevent bad ones from taking hold.
Types of Differential Reinforcement:
There are several types of differential reinforcement that can be used in dog training, depending on the specific goals of the training program. These include:
1. Differential reinforcement of alternative behavior (DRA): In DRA, the trainer reinforces a behavior that is an acceptable alternative to the unwanted behavior. For example, if a dog is jumping up on people, the trainer may reinforce the dog for sitting politely instead.
2. Differential reinforcement of incompatible behavior (DRI): In DRI, the trainer reinforces a behavior that is physically incompatible with the unwanted behavior. For example, if a dog is chewing on furniture, the trainer may reinforce the dog for playing with a chew toy instead.
3. Differential reinforcement of lower rates of behavior (DRL): In DRL, the trainer reinforces the dog for performing the unwanted behavior at a lower frequency. For example, if a dog is barking excessively, the trainer may reinforce the dog for barking less often.
4. Differential reinforcement of zero rates of behavior (DRO): In DRO, the trainer reinforces the dog for not performing the unwanted behavior at all. For example, if a dog is jumping up on people, the trainer may reinforce the dog for keeping all four paws on the ground.
Note that differential reinforcement is used in conjunction with other positive reinforcement techniques, such as praise, treats, and play. The goal of differential reinforcement is to shape the dog’s behavior in a positive way, not to punish or intimidate them.
Does it always work?
Differential reinforcement in intense cases might not work well if you don’t take care of certain details. To effectively use differential reinforcement in dog behavior training, it’s important to identify the state of mind of your dog and the level of arousal. Redirecting and luring away your dog with a treat or “play toy” is not an effective way of shaping any behavior.
Your dog should be presented to the situation where the unwanted behavior is likely to happen, but always below threshold. Any type of differential reinforcement technique should be performed while your dog is not on a very high arousal or over threshold. For example if your dog is reactive to other dogs, you want to keep your dog calm while reinforcing an acceptable alternate behavior. If you wait until your dog reacts and gets over threshold (red zone) differential reinforcement will not work and will likely make it worse.
Mistakes to avoid
A common mistake when modifying a behavior with differential reinforcement is to praise or reward with a lot of excitement by default. Excitement in most situations is going to send your dog back over threshold or “red zone” if you are not careful. People tend to confuse excitement with good. Excitement is not good or bad. Excitement is in your favor or against you depending on what you are trying to achieve. For example: if your dog is barking excessively or jumping on guests, excitement is against you. In these examples you want your dog to calm down. It’s imperative that you learn how to praise and reward with calmness.
Trainers should also be consistent in their use of reinforcement and provide clear feedback to the dog when they exhibit the desired behavior as well as keeping the dog under threshold or bringing them back under threshold if they start getting out of control.
Differential reinforcement is a powerful technique for shaping a dog’s behavior in a kind way. By rewarding the desired behavior and not letting the unwanted behavior happen, trainers can establish good habits and prevent bad ones from taking hold. This technique can have certain nuances where professional help might be needed. With consistent training dogs can learn to behave in a way that is both desirable and rewarding for everyone involved.
© Gabriel Riesco, Pawmos Dog Training LLC | All Rights Reserved April 2023
by Gabriel Riesco | Mar 22, 2023 | Dog Training, For Dog Trainers, Mindfulness & Psychology with Dogs
Respect is commonly miss-understood with showing who is boss. It has nothing to do with this. Fear is not respect. You don´t ask, demand or gain respect. Respect is not something you necessarily achieve. Respect is something that you give and you get back in return. You can not force or convince someone to respect you. You have no direct control over this. It has to come from them. If you are respectful to people, people will be respectful to you. The same is with dogs. Understand that when dogs get out of control they are not mis respecting you. They are simply out of control and our job is to help them.
The better question is, how do I give respect to my dog?
The answer is simple: acknowledge and treat your dog as a dog.
Let me explain. If I treat you as a dog, you´ll agree with me that I´m miss-respecting you. Well, if you treat your dog as a human you’re mis-respecting your dog. Your dog is not a human, your dog is a dog. Dog’s are beautiful creatures and they deserve to be respected for who they are.
I could write an entire book about how to acknowledge dogs as dogs, but to keep things simple here are 6 skills for you to be aware of how to give respect and get respect back from your dog:
1- Instead of talking to your dog, listen to your dog. 95% of dog´s communication is through body language and energy. Meaning in silence. Yet 90% of my clients do not know how to communicate with their dogs in silence. Dog´s don’t understand English or Spanish or Chinese. They understand body language. Be curious and learn It!!
2- Understand your relationship with your dog. Who is the parent? Who is the guardian? If your dog doesn’t feel your are making the calls don’t expect him or her to listen to you. Humans and and animals don’t listen to people who stay in the sidelines. They listen to people who take responsabilties and to people that make decisions. Respect the relationship and accept your responsabilities. Being a parent or a guardian comes with teaching boundaries and educating your dog. It’s work! It can be a lot of fun, but you have to know where your place is. Being a parent or a guardian is a privilege and your choice, not your right or entitlement.
3- Be aware of your state of mind and work on self control. If you are not in control of yourself don’t expect your dog to listen to you in a willing or cooperative way. What I mean by this is to be in control of your body language and your state of mind. This is a skill that you might need to relearn.
4- Be aware of your your dog´s sate of mind. Meet your dog where she/he is at and work from there. You have to be sensitive and react accordingly to your dogs state of mind instead of trying to impose your dog training program. Dogs are not computers or machines that simply obey to commands.
5- Clarity. Teach your dog with clarity. Be clear with what your dog can do and with what your dog can’t do. Always do so for your dog’s best interest.
6- Be present. Dog´s can’t live in the past or in the future. They can only live in the present. So don’t allow your mind to take over and navigate around time. Be present!!
All these skills and tips are ways to give respect to your dog and a sure way to get respect back in return.
© Gabriel Riesco, Pawmos Dog Training LLC | All Rights Reserved March 2023
by Gabriel Riesco | Mar 16, 2023 | Dog Problems. Behavior Modification, Dog Training, Dog Training & Conditioning, For Dog Trainers, Mindfulness & Psychology with Dogs, Puppy Training
Should I ever say No to my dog?
There’s an advice very often given to never say No to your dog under the mantra : “Never tell your dog don’t do that, instead teach them what to do”
The problem with this is that your dog never has a clear understanding of what not to do. And that’s not fair.
Another problem is that in order to stop your dog from doing unwanted behaviors, you have to micromanage by constantly reinforcing alternative behaviors in a helicopter parenting style.
Let me give you an example: If I go to a bank and you teach me 5 different things to do in a bank, but you never tell me that I should not rob it. Well, you can probably keep teaching me 10 other alternate behaviors and skills, but I still don’t really know that I shouldn’t rob a bank. Why wouldn’t you tell me that in first place instead of trying to micromanage every move I do with alternative behaviors?
Teaching boundaries is the art of teaching your dog not to do things or doing things in a controlled manner out of independent thinking not out of micromanagement.
Can I teach boundaries without punishing or harsh corrections?
You can teach boundaries and say no to your dog in a kind way without hurting your dog or without getting mad at your dog, but the focus should be on providing clarity on the boundary not on the alternative behaviors.
Teaching boundaries does not mean punishing your dog for doing the wrong things. I don’t use or advocate for those methods. There are ways through cognitive learning and by using basic body language techniques through which you can communícate boundaries to your dog effectively and in a kind manner.
We need to have a clear understanding that boundaries are not part of learning methodologies based on Reinforcement. Boundaries are part of social behavior skills based on self control and a clear understanding of what is and what is not acceptable.
What are learnt boundaries?
A learnt boundary is you going to a bank and not robbing it; or you going to a store and not stealing; or you waiting in a line and not pushing everyone around to get in first.
You don’t get rewarded for not doing those things and you should not need to be offered an alternative behavior. You should have a clear understanding to not to do those things. You should also have the self control skills for not doing them.
Here’s an example with my dog: A boundary is when I put my food on my coffee table and I teach my dog not to eat it even if he is laying down right next to me.
My dog has a clear understanding of what not to do and he’s perfectly fine with it. He is not stressed because there is no confusion. Not only I’m very clear with boundaries, but I also taught my dog the self control skills needed to let things go.
A boundary is not telling my dog to go to his place and stay there because I reinforced that behavior one million times. That’s obedience training. These are two very different concepts. Obedience training is about teaching new behaviors not about teaching behavioral skills.
Why are boundaries so important?
The lack of behavioral training is a huge problem because there is no clarity, there is no self control skills and involves helicopter parenting. Helicopter parenting kills independent thinking and autonomy on your dog. It’s also exhausting and very time consuming on the humans.
Self control is very different than impulse control.
When you impose obedience training and helicopter parenting over behavior training with the mantra: “Never tell your dog don’t do that, instead teach them what to do” think what you are really doing.
You are basically going through a byzantine labyrinth of alternate behaviors in order to stop your dog from doing unwanted behaviors. This is based on impulse control not on self control. Impulse control is micromanaged . Self control is autonomous thinking.
Let’s be clear that when you condition your dog to do an alternative behavior with 1 million repetitions, you’re not giving him/her a “choice”, which is the magic word used to convince people of these methods. There is no choice here. Is either you do what i want or I’m gonna repeat this 1 million times and manipulate the environment until you do so. Then I’m going to convince my self that it was your choice.
It’s perfectly fine to use this method if your purpose is to teach your dog new skills, tricks or behaviors. I use it all the time and positive reinforcement is the best way to go. The focus here is on learning and reinforcing new behaviors.
But this method and this mantra is a very inefficient way to teach boundaries. This is because your dog never learns what he or she is not supposed to do. Boundaries and rules are very necessary and needed information in order to adapt to any environment. They are also the best way to have independent thinking and autonomy without having to be micromanaged.
© Gabriel Riesco, Pawmos Dog Training LLC | All Rights Reserved March 2023
by Gabriel Riesco | Mar 14, 2023 | Dog Problems. Behavior Modification, For Dog Trainers, Mindfulness & Psychology with Dogs
Dominance and aggression are two concepts that are often associated with each other, but their relationship is more complex than many people realize. While dominance can sometimes lead to aggressive behavior, it is not always the case, and there are many factors that can influence how these two concepts are related.
First, it’s important to understand what we mean by dominance. In animal behavior, dominance refers to a hierarchical relationship in which one individual (the dominant) has priority access to resources such as food, water, or mates. Dominance is often established through displays of aggression or other assertive behaviors, such as standing tall, baring teeth, or making loud vocalizations.
Aggression, on the other hand, is a behavior that is aimed at causing harm or intimidation to another individual. A lot of aggressive behaviors are the outcome of fear where the dog goes into fight/flight mode. It can range from simple displays of warning or threat, such as growling or snarling, to more serious forms of physical violence such as biting or attacking.
What’s the relationship between dominance and aggression?
While dominance and aggression are often associated with each other, it’s important to recognize that the relationship between the two is not always straightforward. In some cases, dominant individuals may use aggression as a means of establishing and maintaining their dominance. For example, a dominant individual may use physical force to prevent others from accessing resources, or to punish subordinates who disobey them.
However, it’s also important to recognize that aggression in many occasions is not a product of dominance. Some individuals may be naturally more aggressive than others, regardless of their position in the social hierarchy. Additionally, there are many situations in which aggression may be provoked by factors other than dominance, such as fear, frustration, anxiety or specific triggers.
To sum up, dominance and aggression have a complex relationship. Dominance can sometimes lead to aggressive behavior, but aggression can also be provoked by a variety of factors unrelated to dominance. Understanding the relationship between these two concepts requires a nuanced understanding of the social and ecological
by Gabriel Riesco | Mar 3, 2023 | Dog Body Language, Dog Problems. Behavior Modification, For Dog Trainers, Mindfulness & Psychology with Dogs
Dominance in animals is a concept that describes a relationship between two individuals or groups, where one individual or group is able to exert control or influence over the other. This control can manifest in a number of ways, such as access to resources, mating opportunities, or social status.
The scientific consensus on dominance in animals is that it is a complex phenomenon that can be influenced by a variety of factors, including physical size, age, sex, and social experience. Dominance relationships can also vary depending on the specific species and social structure of the animal group in question.
In many animal groups, dominance is established through aggressive interactions, such as fighting or displays of strength. However, in some cases, dominance can also be established through more subtle behaviors, such as posturing, vocalizations, or even changes in body posture or facial expressions.
Is Dominance important and relevant in dogs?
The more you can understand dog’s true animal nature, the better decisions and care you will be able to provide to your dog or dogs. Dominance and dominance hierarchies is something to consider when dealing with dog’s behavior. A good diagnosis is always a must in order to achieve a good outcome.
The problem is that dominance can be easily misinterpreted and misapplied by dog owners and trainers. There are two different tendencies or trends that can lead to bad outcomes:
- 1. The Alpha Theories. This theory has the tendency to think that most behavioral problems are caused because of dominance issues and solved by reestablising dominance hierarchies. This is specially true with aggressive dogs. Most aggression issues that I’ve worked on are not because of dominance status. Some of them are, but there are a wide variety of reasons for aggression. Ex: fear, specific triggers, frustration, restrainers such as a leash or a fence, negative associations , etc. Assuming that all or most issues are related to dominance is misleading and potentially dangerous.
- 2. The Deniers. This new trend has the tendency to deny that dominance issues do exist. They tend to avoid addressing dominance hierarchies as part of dog’s social interactions with both dogs and humans. Denying this and not addressing it when it is an issue it’s not helpful and can get you stuck in a never-ending loop of behavioral problems.
Why is it so controversial with dogs and appears to be no consensus?
There’s been a crusade to prevent animals from being abused in the name of dominance. While this crusade is based on a noble cause which I applaud and support, on it’s way had somehow distorted the concept of dominance and in some cases even tried to ban the use of the word “Dominance”.
This dogmatic approach is not science, although some supporters claim to be science-based. Let’s be clear, denying the existence of dominance and hierarchies in the animal kingdom it’s simply wrong.
Scientific consensus says that most organisms organize themselves into hierarchies. It is also known that the fundamental biological mechanism for the regulation of hierarchy is serotonin. This is not disputable. Hierarchies are not a construct, they are observed in nature and they are 350 million years old.
How dominance affect dog’s interactions?
It is important to note that dominance in animals does not necessarily imply cruelty or oppression. Rather, it is a natural part of many animal social structures, and can help to maintain stability and order within the group. Additionally, dominance relationships can often be fluid and change over time, as individuals gain or lose social status or as the group dynamic evolves.
Disagreements still occur among dogs that have formed healthy relationships with each other. Some dogs can display socially inappropriate behavior and will challenge the stability and order within the group.
While dominance hierarchies in dogs can be a natural part of their social behavior, it’s important for dog owners to be aware of the potential consequences of these hierarchies. In some cases, dominant dogs may become aggressive towards other dogs or humans, leading to fights and injuries. Additionally, dogs that are constantly subjected to dominance behaviors may become anxious or stressed, which can have negative effects on their overall health and well-being.
Should I assert dominance to my dog with alfa rolls?
The short answer is NO. During my first year of training dogs over a decade ago, I practiced successfully alfa rolls a few times. I soon stopped doing it. There are several problems with this:
- 1. Alfa rolls do not solve the underlying behaviors and emotional responses of your dog in the long term in most cases.
- 2. It’s not easy to do. WHY? Because submission doesn’t come from asserting physical force. Submission is an offered behavior from the surrendering individual, not one that’s purely enforced. I did 14 years of Judo and Jujitsu so I know very well how to apply this techniques. I’ve experienced both ends. Most people don’t know how to do this. If you’re using pure force, you are doing it wrong and you will never achieve submission. Most probably you’ll get bitten or you will shut down your dog into a fear loop.
- 3. There are many other ways where you can set rules and boundaries through Body language, controlled games and routines without confrontation, physical force or intimidation.
- 4. By doing alfa rolls you’re risking doing it wrong, doing it for the wrong reasons, doing it to the wrong dog and getting bitten or installing fear in your dog in many cases. Not only you will have not solve anything, but you would have make it worse
- 5. It is not a pleasant experience for neither the human or the dog.
There are many different ways to set up rules and boundaries to your dog without asserting dominance or being confrontational. Having said that rules and boundaries are absolutely necessary.
In conclusion, dominance is a common trait observed in many animal species and refers to the hierarchical ranking of individuals within a social group. While dominance hierarchies are often associated with aggression and conflict, they can also have positive effects on social cohesion within a group. Dominance is a complex concept that It is important to understand and should not be treated lightly when conflict arises. If you think your dog or dogs are struggling with dominance issues I would highly suggest to ask for help from an experienced specialized trainer in this issues. A basic obedience class is not going to get you very far and an inexperienced handler or trainer can make things worse.
© Gabriel Riesco, Pawmos Dog Training LLC | All Rights Reserved December 2022
by Gabriel Riesco | Feb 24, 2023 | Dog Problems. Behavior Modification, For Dog Trainers, Mindfulness & Psychology with Dogs
Dogs growling and snarling can be both alarming and confusing for pet owners. Understanding what causes dogs to make these noises, as well as how to respond to them, is crucial in maintaining a safe and harmonious relationship between pet and owner.
Growling is usually a form of aggressive vocalizations that dogs use to communicate their feelings and intentions. It’s important to note that sometimes dogs growl while playing with other dogs or with humans. It’s very common for dogs to growl while they are playing tug of war for example. These kind of growling is not aggressive and it’s ok.
What’s the difference between growling and snarling?
Growling is a low, guttural noise that a dog makes when it feels threatened or defensive, while snarling is a more intense and threatening noise that is often accompanied by bared teeth and a wrinkled snout.
Is growling or snarling always aggressive?
It is important to understand that growling and snarling are not inherently aggressive behaviors. Rather, they are ways that dogs communicate their discomfort, fear or dominance in a situation. For example, if a dog is growling at a stranger who has approached it too quickly, it may be trying to signal that it is scared and wants the person to back off. On the other hand, if a dog is snarling at another dog that is trying to take its food, it may be trying to assert its dominance and protect its resources.
Should I ignore growling and snarling?
NO. It is important to take growling and snarling seriously, as they can be indicators of deeper issues such as fear, anxiety, or aggression. These issues can escalate over time if not addressed, potentially putting the dog and its owner in harm’s way.
If you notice your dog growling or snarling, it is important to assess the situation and try to determine what is causing the behavior. This may involve seeking the help of a professional dog trainer or behaviorist to identify any underlying issues and develop a training plan to address them.
What should I do when my dog growls?
If your dog is growling or snarling in a dangerous or aggressive situation, it is important to remove the dog from the situation and create a safe, low-stress environment for it. This may involve confining the dog to a crate or a separate room until he or she has calm down.
It is important to address a dog for growling or snarling and guide him or her into calmness as soon as possible in a safe manner. Reinforcing calm and relaxed behavior although it’s advisable ultimately won’t change the behavior itself. In order to modify aggressive behavior you need to change the emotional response of your dog to the trigger or environment that causes it at the moment it’s happening. This may need some high level skill of Behavior Training with a good plan and strategy. Your relationship with your dog is also a crucial factor to a successful outcome. Without a relationship where your dog fully trusts you and respects you, overcoming any behavioral issue is going to be close to impossible.
What should I not do when my dog growls?
Do not scream or yell to your dog. This could potentially make it worse since it can trigger more predatory behavior and higher arousal on your dog. Do not make fast movements or rush into action. If you are in danger freeze and wait until the dog calms down.
What other things can I do to prevent growling?
In addition to addressing any underlying behavioral issues, it is important to provide your dog with plenty of exercise, socialization, and self control skills to help keep your dog happy and relaxed. Incorporating behavioral training in your dog’s life paired with obedience training is a must in order to overcome aggression.
What’s the most dangerous sign of aggression?
Growling or snarling are easy to read signs that can predict behavior. But the most dangerous sign of aggression is the one that is in silence. The dog usually makes eye contact with the target, tenses up and gets ready to strike. The next move is the bite and it happens fast. Never make eye contact with a tense or aggressive dog. If you do break the eye contact as fast as possible without moving your body. You only need to move your eyes. If you make fast movements with your body you’ll trigger the bite.
In conclusion, growling and snarling are important forms of communication that dogs use to signal their feelings and intentions. While these behaviors can be alarming, it is important to understand their underlying causes and take steps to address them in a positive and effective way. With the right training and care, you can help your dog overcome any behavioral issues and build a happy, harmonious relationship.
© Gabriel Riesco, Pawmos Dog Training LLC | All Rights Reserved December 2022