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?”

The shore crab aquarium – a perspective shift.

This summer I revisited a childhood paradise, Hallands Väderö, an island on the west coast of Sweden.

As a child, I used to catch small shore crabs there, and get a terrible sunburn. I’d spend six hours crouching on the shoreline, with my back to the unrelenting Scandinavian sun.

No sunscreen.

No protective tan. Just very pale, sun-sensitive skin that I’ve inherited from my freckled red-headed father. Those were the days, when nobody knew about melanoma, and having a deep tan was the height of fashion.

Side note: Over the years, I’ve learned to avoid sunburn (I no longer harbor any illusions of achieving a nice tan, wear sensible long-sleeve clothes, avoid direct summer sunlight between 11 and 15, and wear sun screen lotion if I can’t avoid it).

But I’ve maintained that passion for catching shore crabs, or green crabs as you might know them by – they go by the latin name of Carcinus maenas. And this summer, I had my kids along, and they’ve inherited my fascination with these little critters.

In case you’re wondering: this blog post is not going to be a nostalgic walk down memory lane. Rather, it’s going to be about discovering that the lane you’re walking on is no longer a place where you want to be. Continue reading “The shore crab aquarium – a perspective shift.”

Meme Week: Animal emotions

I did an experiment. Which was a bit scary, because the outcome depended on you…! Or your fellow readers, that stumbled on this page before you.

So, I was a bit prepared that the whole project it might implode, if nobody joined. Luckily, I had just ordered some new spring bulbs, so I could go outside and do some planting instead, if things didn’t pan out as I imagined.

I had a plan B, as it were.

And now my garden is in rather a sorry state… because this project did get a lot of attention! It was really fun and engaging, not to mention important, and it reached thousands of people – getting the impact I think that this topic deserves..!

I called it Meme Week.

Meme Week took place on my Facebook page. Continue reading “Meme Week: Animal emotions”