Punishing Your self with Constructive Reinforcement

Cookies! Reward! Stomach Rubs! Utilizing optimistic reinforcement feels really easy, and is such an effective way to have a wholesome and pleased relationship together with your canine. The analysis is overwhelming that coaching with R+ builds belief, reduces stress, and is efficient at instructing new and desired behaviors.

And. But. There are many pitfalls to utilizing R+ efficiently, which was my subject at a speech I just lately gave to the Madison Rotary Membership. I’ll hyperlink to the speech on the finish, however right here’s a abstract of the discuss’s major factors:

NOPE! NOT REINFORCEMENT! Yesterday I noticed somebody lean down and reward a canine for a very good efficiency, stroking the canine’s head whereas talking enthusiastically. The canine responded by yawning, turning away and sniffing the bottom. Whoops. Regardless of a loving proprietor, the canine’s actions made it clear that the “reinforcement” was aversive. In different phrases, the canine accidently bought punished for doing effectively. Ouch. And but, so frequent, and really easy. I virtually did it myself yesterday—a canine I didn’t know came to visit and put his paws up on my chair. I stroked his head and cooed a bit, which brought about the canine to right away get down and go sniff. Okay, lesson discovered. Subsequent time he came to visit to me, I restrained myself, and sat down on the bottom beside him. Completely completely different response—he snuggled up for a second, however then went again to his human—his “safe attachment base,” earlier than coming again over. Candy, candy canine, loves individuals, however a bit anxious about strangers.

I throw out that instance as a result of it’s not at all times apparent what a canine finds reinforcing. Even giving hen to a canine nervous about strangers may not be the R+ you suppose it’s, if the canine snatches the meals and goes all whale eye on you. This all leads again to the mantra of each behaviorist and nice coach I do know—Job One for all of us? Be taught to learn canines like a local speaker.

ACCIDENTAL R+ There’s no higher instance of this than elevating your voice to get a canine to cease barking. BARK BARK! Be quiet! BARK BARK! BE QUIET! BARK BARK BARK BARK! CHESTER SHUT THE F UP!!!

Or, translated: HEY HEY! Hey Hey! HEY HEY! HEY HEY! HEY HEY HEY HEY! HEY HEY HEY HEY! Barking is a social occasion in home canines, and, too typically, all we do is bark again. Whoops, once more.

NO STAMINA There’s one other, and quite common method we are able to all get into bother with unintended reinforcement, and it’s about staying the course. We’re cuddled on the sofa, petting our canines and determine that twenty minutes of devoted stomach rubbing are sufficient. (I’m speaking to you, Maggie.) We pull our fingers away, and our canines paw at us for extra. We ignore it. Extra pawing. Extra ignoring. After which–it’s not such as you don’t know what’s coming right here—we attain out our fingers and start petting once more. (I’m speaking to you, Trisha.)

Congratulations. We have now simply taught our canines that stamina is the secret. Maggie has discovered that I do lastly, certainly, imply I’m performed once I cease petting and say “sufficient,” though she’s sensible sufficient to maintain attempting now and again. (Okay, fantastic, rattling it, she stops once I cease petting, say “sufficient,” and pet her head twice.)

This hardly turns into an issue when cuddling on the sofa, however it may be when you REALLY don’t need your canine to beg on the desk, or bark to get out of the crate. It’s easy to deal with, as a result of it’s all on us, and we’ve got complete management of our personal habits, proper? Uh, proper?

WHAT IS THE REINFORCEMENT? In fact, we normally DO know that. It’s the hen, or the stomach rub, or the clicker adopted by a major reinforcement. However wait. What in regards to the work of neurobiologist Jaak Panskeep, who discovered that dopamine, the neurotransmitter related to pleasure (and which performs an enormous function in addictions, tragically), is launched at highest ranges not when the R+ is given, however when it’s anticipated. Whoa! Like once we get the leash out for a stroll, quite than the stroll? Like once you’re anticipating strolling right into a live performance, however it hasn’t began but? (An expensive pal of mine has at all times wished to put in writing a e-book on how anticipating a trip is usually extra enjoyable than taking them!)

Hmmm. Might we use that? Get out the leash as a reinforcer each infrequently? One thing to consider, sure?

THE VALUE OF THE PREMACK PRINCIPLE  This isn’t a pitfall by any means, however not realizing it may be. The Premack Precept is easy: extra possible behaviors will reinforce much less possible behaviors. In different phrases, eat your greens, after which you possibly can have desert. Right here’s how I used it on the farm: If I let Skip out of the home, he’ll run to the barn, as a result of that’s typically the place the sheep are, and he lives to work sheep. It’s his most possible habits in that context. It may have been an issue once I first bought him, as a result of he’d bolt out of the home so quick he’d run me over. It solely took two days to show him to “Wait” once I opened the door, as a result of the reinforcement was an “Okay,” and a splash to the barn. The Wait was completely value it as a result of it led to what he REALLY wished. (Which was SO NOT a deal with.) Later I used it to show him to stroll beside me. (I gained’t dignify it by saying “heel,” it’s fairly sloppy.)

So typically we’re afraid of our canine’s “misbehaviors,” however they are often our greatest pals if we all know find out how to use them safely.

Please take part with your personal experiences of the above pitfalls, and add in others I’ve uncared for to say. I can’t wait to learn your feedback.

Right here’s the total discuss at Rotary Membership:


MEANWHILE, again on the farm: Ah, effectively. Within the final publish I used the phrase “put the oxygen masks on first” as a metaphor for caring for myself whereas grieving my sister. A number of individuals, right here and on Fb and Instagram, responding—so kindly—by saying they hadn’t identified I used to be sick and to handle myself. No, no! I responded, I simply meant it as a metaphor.

That’s how I meant it. However. If I don’t fess up now and clarify that I really am sick, I’ll really feel like I’m mendacity to you. All of us have our private values, and being genuine is one in all mine. So, briefly, because the finish of December I’ve been in quite a lot of ache, have been clinically exhausted, and been weak and dizzy. Actually, actually dizzy. The ache is from blacking out, falling arduous, and hurting my again, which pissed off quite a lot of nerves. The exhaustion is most likely from Epstein Barr Virus/Continual Fatigue Syndrome, and/or Lengthy Covid, and the weak/dizzy is most likely from one thing referred to as POTS, or Postural Orthostatic Tacchycaria Syndrome, and or Lengthy Covid and/or . . .  one thing else. A number of exams performed, extra to do. I spend a lot of my days both in PT, at a doc’s workplace, or flattened on the sofa like some Victorian dowager.

I will likely be alright. It’ll get found out. I’m surrounded by a faithful husband, expensive pals, tons of medical doctors and holistic practioners. Some issues don’t assist, others do. Some days are higher than others. I’m higher than I used to be in January and February. I’m most likely going to must make some everlasting modifications in my life, a tad of a problem for a girl who lives on a hilly farm, has sheep and dealing canines, and uh, has ADHD moreover.  I’m not going to enter any extra particulars, as a result of that’s simply not what this village is about. This isn’t the place to speak about illness, drugs, and coverings. It IS the place for me to honor so many others, together with those that will learn this publish, who’re worse off than I’m. It IS the place to savor how essential our canines and our pals are.

For sure, I’m doing much less. However I nonetheless love doing this–a few of you I embrace within the “expensive pals” class talked about above–and I can’t give it up.  You’ll word fewer hyperlinks although, and fewer images. A minimum of, for now. I nonetheless can work on the novel, albeit not as a lot. I can nonetheless work the canines, though not as a lot. (I’ll confess that Skip mendacity by the door, ready to work sheep on the times that I can’t, nonetheless breaks my coronary heart.) I prepare dinner much less, even whereas attempting to eat further wholesome. I can’t have my Friday night time one or two Cosmos, which, if you wish to really feel sorry for me, remorseful about that. Rattling.

There’s at all times excellent news. We bought to a close-by sheepdog trial this final weekend. Solely two hours away, a a lot smaller course (it was a AHBA trial). Very low key, and a few good pals to speak to. After being residence a lot it was like when the acute Covid isolation was dropped. Wheee! Skip was sensible his first run, actually unbelievable, and simply AWFUL his second. That appears to be his sample, Mr. Unpredictable, and I do not know why. Possibly sometime I’ll determine it out. However I’m so pleased we went, what a deal with.

Listed below are some good pictures Jim bought when Skip was at his greatest:

Within the shot above, Skip is in good contact with the sheep, maintaining regular strain on however not scaring them. Somebody mentioned, “he’s so type to his sheep,” a stunning factor to listen to. Too type s0metimes, however this time, excellent. Our job was to get the sheep straight by way of the center of the panels. Nailed it.

Neither Skip or I can take any credit score for this pen. The sheep are “college” sheep, used to coach canines, and are pleased to enter the pen.

It was heat and exquisite that day. It had been within the 80’s the previous couple of days, undecided it was that sizzling Saturday, however it was heat and toasty. I took off my overshirt and was all the way down to quick sleeves within the afternoon.

After which.

I’ve over 400 daffodils, most likely nearer to 500. All of them bloomed inside a couple of days due to the atypical warmth and solar. That is what all of them appear like this morning, not less than, those you possibly can see. Don’t you like the yellow mirrored onto the snow? It’s nonetheless snowing now. Daffs are hardy issues, a lot of them will bounce again, however many gained’t.

Some fairly apparent metaphors right here, no want for me to even level them out. Might your week be filled with tiny pleasures, the place ever you’ll find them.











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