How good are you at assessing your animal’s emotional state?

I recently did a little experiment on Facebook.

First, my friends and followers helped me name the company’s new mascot, and they also told me what species he was.

Apparently, he’s a racado (rat-cat-dog), and his name is Willis.

The experiment that many people helpfully participated in consisted of assessing his emotional state in different images on my Facebook page.

Meet Willis. What emotional states is he in?

I must admit, not all my friends and followers saw the point in this exercise – I intentionally didn’t explain where I wanted to go with the little experiment. Someone said she thought it was plain silly and expressed her disappointment in no uncertain terms. Continue reading “How good are you at assessing your animal’s emotional state?”

Separation anxiety – an interview with Eva Bertilsson

Separation anxiety, or to be more precise, separation-related problem behaviour (not necessarily caused by anxiety), is common in dogs.

About 50% of family dogs will show problem behaviour, related to separations, at some point in their lives.
  • What do we know about this phenomenon? Which dogs show it, and when?
  • What can we do to prevent, reduce or eliminate it?

Continue reading “Separation anxiety – an interview with Eva Bertilsson”

Have you done everything in your power to help your animal?

While delivering one of my free mini-courses recently, I answered a lot of questions about specific problem behaviour in the comments’ section of the course site, in private messages and in emails.

And in one of those conversations, the issue of getting professional help came up.

One person said: “I’ve spent a lot of money on two trainers, and still have the problem”.

After asking what the two trainers had attempted to do, I realized that they had probably made matters worse, due to incompetence. One of them had used aversive techniques that frightened the animal, and the other had advised against using treats in a situation that demanded it – screamed for it.

And so, I had a really uncomfortable insight. Continue reading “Have you done everything in your power to help your animal?”

Poisoning – or counter conditioning?

Yes or no, true or false?

“If you combine negative reinforcement with positive reinforcement, you poison the learning process.”

Do you agree?

Do you poison the cue? The environment? Yourself? – if you after a negatively reinforced response add a positive reinforcer (aka combined reinforcement)?

Some of the readers of this blog may say “yes”.

Some may say “no”.

Some may say “huh?”

After all, that question doesn’t make sense if you’re unfamiliar with those terms. Stay tuned, I’ll explain them in a minute.

I think the right answer is “it depends”.

Is combined reinforcement poisonous?

Before we start untangling the potential pitfalls of combined reinforcement – why is this an important question? Continue reading “Poisoning – or counter conditioning?”

Do we need to redefine “training” – or “behaviour”? Or both?

One of my online courses is called Getting Behaviour – The Foundations of Animal Training.

My students are really excited about it.

I’m very proud of it, and I had this idea to share part of the course for free, here on the blog. The course is about 13 hours long and contains 108 short videos, so I wanted to pick one of those videos and share with you. The best one.

That was difficult. Which video to choose? Continue reading “Do we need to redefine “training” – or “behaviour”? Or both?”