When I talk about behavior chains, I talk about the importance of completing the chain. Because in a chain each cue serves as a reinforcer for a previous behavior, dropping cues is actually failing to reinforce — and we know that’s a bad thing. Unreliable reinforcement leads to unreliable behavior. Variable reinforcement leads to variable behavior. (That’s great when we’re shaping, not so great when we’re maintaining.)
Today I broke a chain.
I was getting ready to leave the house, so I opened the door and called the dogs in, sending them to their kennels in my bedroom at the far end of the house. They ran past me, and as they hit the hall I remembered that Undómiel’s crate wasn’t in my bedroom, but was outside for cleaning.
Oops. Continue reading
“As I mentioned before, I work in behavior, and my specialty is managing fear and aggression, so all my professionalism is coming to bear right now.”
I have newly returned from a dream trip I’d been planning for fully ten years, a visit to New Zealand and then a cruise back across the Pacific. Yes, it was awesome.
I wanted to take the fantastic opportunity to do things I cannot do at home. Indiana has plenty of caves (our limestone supplied Washington D.C.’s and most other major cities’ buildings and monuments, and limestone country is cave country), but we have a distinct shortage of glowworms, so I wanted to go down under to see them. And rather than take a boat, I wanted to do something a bit more adventurous. So I booked a spelunking tour.
I knew the tour would involve abseiling (also called rappelling) and swimming/floating through 50-degree water. I didn’t realize that the abseil would be 35 meters through a narrow neck into the cave itself, and thus would be the very first task.
Heights, dark, tight spaces, all the classic fears in one go. Whee! Continue reading
Do dogs and other animals have imagination?
While scientists now agree that animals are conscious (duh!) and many or most agree they are sentient, it’s harder to say how much creative and meta-thinking animals might do. We can listen to a human child tell us a silly story he’s invented, but the language barrier makes it harder for a young animal to do the same. Take away a common language, and would we think an other-speaking child incapable of inventing the story, just because we can’t hear him tell it?
We know animals can think creatively for problem-solving; it’s one of the aspects we treasure about clicker training in particular, this encouragement of creative and analytic thinking in our learners. But I hadn’t thought much on if or how animals use imagination on their own. I’m a storyteller, but only for my own species. I mean, a game of keepaway can be just as fun if it’s a piece of wood or some faux treasure, because the game is in the chase, right? When we play tug, it’s a fun game whether we’re pulling on a rope or a freshly killed caribou. Imagination isn’t a clear component. Continue reading
I have been a terrible pet parent, and I have not been spamming the blog with puppy photos and puppy stories. I apologize, I’ve been crazy busy, and in the end it’s more important to spend those extra minutes with the puppy rather than writing about her.
But today I’m going to officially spam about the puppy.
Meet Undómiel, who is 12 weeks old now and already gi-normous. Her paws are dinner plates. She’s going to be bigger than Laev.
I went to Denmark to pick her up, so she could fly home in the cabin with me. Continue reading
You might not have noticed, but there’s been a bit of a reaction in the animal training community to the blockbuster release of Jurassic World. And not just the recreations of actor Chris Pratt’s pose — which I absolutely love, by the way. (No way I’m picking a favorite pic. Go scroll through them.) Continue reading
Many clicker trainers are familiar with what is almost universally known by the ridiculously simple name of The Training Game. It’s a shaping game played among humans, and most often a learner is sent from the room while the group determines a (physically and socially safe) behavior to shape, and then a trainer shapes the learner with the clicker to perform the chosen behavior.
There are a number of variations on this game, many useful. The trainer (and observers) can learn a great deal by doing this! and it’s a great way to test various training concepts and approaches. There is a variation I have not used in nearly a decade, however, with good reason: It broke the learner.
Did you ever wonder exactly what the heck could be going on inside your dog’s head at the vet? Maybe why your toddler is freaking out, or why your cat tries to make your insides into your outsides when it’s time for a medical exam or treatment?
We don’t have mind-reading equipment yet, but we’ve got the next best thing — a human who can explain from inside a clinic where she’s uncomfortable. Continue reading
photo by clickthing.blogspot.com/2008/10/tennish-anyone.html
So right now a lot of writing friends and I are stocking up on coffee, candy, and Prozac, building our bunkers for National Novel Writing Month (fondly known as NaNoWriMo). Only I don’t like coffee, so I make up for it with chocolate. To each her own.
NaNoWriMo is a blitz to write at least 50,000 words in 30 days. (Of course, no, one isn’t writing a publishable book in 30 days, nor is 50,000 words a complete novel in nearly any genre. But that’s not exactly the point, either, so work with us here.)
Considering that at my sugar-and-caffeine-induced perfect zone, I peak at about 1000 words per hour, and that’s not really sustainable — I know a lot of professionals who are quite pleased with 250 words per hour — and considering that normal life doesn’t actually suspend for most of us, you can see the challenge here. So motivation and discipline are big concepts for the NaNo community.
There are lots of ways NaNo writers motivate themselves, but it boils down to several commonly-used terms — small incentives, big incentives, anti-incentives, and rituals.
Let’s look at them from a professional behavior perspective, and maybe you’ll find them useful for any big projects you’re facing. Continue reading
Nara deer beg for handouts outside a shop on Sanjo Street (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Yesterday my friend Mark sent me a page about polite and, hmm, less polite deer in Japan. And of course (as he suspected would happen) my little behavior brain took over, and we have here not only a great example of deer learning to work a system of tourists, but how we unintentionally create behaviors both cute and dangerous in our pets. Continue reading
Do you know a dog who licks surfaces, people, or himself? A lot? Dr. Magnusson and I talk about why over at the Leo’s Pet Care blog. Check it out!