breakthrough™ brings you a series of interesting facts about pets that you may not know about
Does How You Train Matter?
A recent study explored the effects of positive reinforcement (R+) compared with negative reinforcement (R–) on how dogs in a training class relate to their owners and also signs of stress (cowering, avoiding eye contact with owner, lip licking, yawning etc.).
Two sequences of behaviour in particular were examined:
walking on a leash and being asked to sit.
What is really interesting here is that, during the walking on leash exercise, that did not involve the owner speaking to the dogs, the levels of stress shown did not differ significantly between the 2 groups. However, during the sit exercise, where the owners were giving their dogs a vocal command, the R– group scored significantly higher stress levels.
There are three ‘take-home’ points here –
- All these dogs are much loved pet dogs living at home with their owners; the R– group of dogs have not made an aversive association with the mere presence of their owner, as shown in the walking on leash test.
- A significantly higher proportion of the R– group had formed an aversive association with the ‘sit’ command itself – it has become a secondary R–.
- How a dog gazes at his owner is a good indicator of his relationship with the owner (there is lots of data on this); a good relationship is essential if a trainer is to use Do-As-I-Do training with their dogs because social learning involves visual interaction and trust.
Dr Robert Falconer-Taylor BVetMed, DipCABT, MRCVS
Centre of Applied Pet Ethology (COAPE)
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