Puppy Learning Behaviour and Body Language. Current Best Practice Puppy Classes

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1 AVA Regional Conference Ballina March 2011 Puppy Learning Behaviour and Body Language Current Best Practice Puppy Classes Kathy Wilson Delta Accredited Cert IV Canine Good Citizens CGC in Dog Behavioural Training Lecturer and Assessor Delta Instructors Course Principal Dog Behavioural Trainer/Consultant at the Lake Veterinary Hospitals Group - Belmont, Charlestown and Swansea 2011 Kathy Wilson The Lake Veterinary Hospitals Group Page 1

2 Puppy Learning Behaviour and Body Language The following lectures will cover the best means of running puppy classes that will benefit the puppy, the client, the practice and you, the trainers. Firstly we will discuss puppy learning behaviour based on scientifically proven methods plus other important factors affecting a puppy s behaviour breed, age environment. We will also discuss the importance of understanding a puppy s body language. Our aim for these lectures is to assist you and your practice by providing Best Practice Classes that are fun and an appropriate learning experience for your clients and their new puppies. Puppy Learning Behaviour The Laws of Learning appropriate to puppy classes Set of laws explaining how animals learn Apply to all animals Determines why animals behave the way they do Utilised by dog trainers and behaviourists as the basis for training, understanding and assisting in behaviour issues Behaviour will be influenced by: Genetics Learning Environment 2011 Kathy Wilson The Lake Veterinary Hospitals Group Page 2

3 HOW PUPPIES LEARN Habituation Sensitisation Classical conditioning Operant conditioning Habituation: Occurs when a puppy is repeatedly exposed to a stimulus and the puppy s response to that stimulus weakens. e.g. Adaption to wearing a collar- puppy learns that wearing the collar becomes meaningless. Sensitisation: Occurs when a puppy is repeatedly exposed to a stimulus and the puppy s response to that stimulus intensifies. Depends on the intensity of the stimulus and individual differences. This is the opposite to habituation. e.g. a puppy that has had his toe nails cut too short causing pain, may now pull away each time you reach for his foot Kathy Wilson The Lake Veterinary Hospitals Group Page 3

4 A word on FLOODING! Flooding is where the puppy is continuously exposed to a negative stimulus until the puppy stops responding to the stimulus. e.g. Cesar Milan, alpha scruffs, pinning puppies down until they give in, forcing puppies to play or interact. This method is inhumane and is not an appropriate method to use in puppy classes as it will increase anxiety. TERMINOLOGY Please avoid the use of terms such as the following when relating to puppies and dogs! Dominant Stubborn Naughty Bad Top dog Pack leader-alpha Show them who s boss Don t let them get on top of you Tantrums They knew they were wrong - guilt 2011 Kathy Wilson The Lake Veterinary Hospitals Group Page 4

5 LEARNING can also be achieved by: Classical conditioning & Operant conditioning Classical conditioning: Classical conditioning is learning by association and life experiences. This type of learning is not conscious but involuntary and requires NO teaching. Classical conditioning can be used in puppy classes to teach the puppy to have pleasant associations with coming to the surgery. Classical conditioning is important in the critical socialisation and learning period between 6 and 16 weeks of age when we should be exposing puppies to pleasant (positive), non threatening situations and controlling their exposure to avoid unfamiliar and potentially harming (negative) events. Operant Conditioning: Operant conditioning is learning that is based on the consequences of behaviour Kathy Wilson The Lake Veterinary Hospitals Group Page 5

6 This is facilitated by reinforcement or punishment. Operant conditioning consists of four categories: Positive punishment Negative reinforcement Positive reinforcement Negative punishment Positive Punishment: When using positive punishment you are adding something undesirable to decrease a behaviour. e.g. hitting, yelling, squirting a barking dog with water, electric shock collars or anything that is an unpleasant, visual, verbal or tactile experience. The use of Positive punishment is definitely NOT a recommended training method and in the past has unfortunately been the basis for much of the common and more traditional styles of training dogs and puppies. The use of positive punishment may lead to frustration, confusion, fear, anxiety, learned helplessness and possibly aggression. Negative Reinforcement: Negative reinforcement increases the chance of a behaviour being repeated by removing something unpleasant that the dog does not like. e.g. the removal of the pain inflicted by the check chain Kathy Wilson The Lake Veterinary Hospitals Group Page 6

7 The use of negative reinforcement is NOT a recommended training method. Positive reinforcement: Anything pleasant that follows a performed behaviour increases the likelihood that the same behaviour will be repeated. e.g. if a puppy is rewarded for being asked to sit, walk nicely, etc, and given appropriate reinforcement, he will be more likely to repeat that task. Positive reward based training is the method of choice when training puppies. Positive reinforcement increases learning performance so it is the humane method when training puppies. NO HARM can be done by using positive reinforcement. Positive training is kind, gentle and humane. Rewards: Food Patting Praise Games Walks Timing: Immediate- if using food- ½ to 1 second. Payment for a job well done. Learning by positive reinforcement: Provides the puppy with a predictable outcome of his actions Kathy Wilson The Lake Veterinary Hospitals Group Page 7

8 Gives the puppy some control of his environment. Provides consistency in his learning. Does not lead to confusion. Does not lead to frustration. Negative punishment: This is not as bad as it sounds. Negative punishment is the removal of something pleasant in order to decrease an unwanted behaviour. Consistency is crucial in applying this method. Inconsistency may include intermittent rewarding that may very quickly undo your training Behaviour that is rewarded is more likely to be repeated. Behaviour will extinguish (stop) if it is not rewarded. Once a behaviour has been learned, intermittent rewarding strengthens that behaviour- when a pup can reliably perform the exercise, rewards should not be given for every performance. Please note: Reward does not equal Bribe! 2011 Kathy Wilson The Lake Veterinary Hospitals Group Page 8

9 The Influence of Breed on Learning It is very important that a puppy owner is aware of the personality and traits of their puppy s breed as it can influence the puppy s response to training. As a puppy trainer it is vital that you understand the genetic makeup of a variety of breeds and their original purpose so that you can advise owners what can be normal behaviour for their breed. Different breeds may require different rewards and offer different responses when training Kathy Wilson The Lake Veterinary Hospitals Group Page 9

10 Understanding Body Language Dogs do not speak English as their first language. They tell us and other dogs how they are feeling by using their body language. Some of the body language they use is very subtle. A puppy class is a wonderful opportunity to teach our clients how to watch their puppies for signs of stress and fear, as stressed puppies do not learn effectively. The following signs may be missed by puppy owners and trainers: Yawning Barking Lip licking- tongue Excessive panting flicks Frantic tail wagging Turning head away Body freeze- Tail tucked complete stillness Sniffing the ground Dilated pupils Avoidance- hiding Whining Lowered body Blinking stance Shivering Hyperactive scratching unsettled behaviour These behaviours are known as conflict or displacement behaviours Kathy Wilson The Lake Veterinary Hospitals Group Page 10

11 They may be normal. They must be assessed in context. The interpretation of body language is a vital tool in your Veterinary Clinic. Knowledge of body language will help with: Management of stress Ease of handling and treatment Safety for clients and staff Welfare of the puppy Help owners understand puppy behaviour Identify fear, anxiety, frustration etc In assessing body language we need to look at: Ears Tail Eyes Mouth Head Body position Piloerection-hackles Vocalisation As with breed influences the assessment will depend on: 2011 Kathy Wilson The Lake Veterinary Hospitals Group Page 11

12 individual differences- what is normal for that puppy prior learning what is happening at the time The things we may see people do to dogs and puppies: lean over them and pat them on the head hug them around the neck firm holding or restraint stare into their eyes put our faces in close proximity walk straight into the puppies space meet head-on pat them in between the shoulder blades approach strange puppies when they cannot avoid interaction force puppies to interact with other puppies and people A more appropriate way of dealing with puppies to avoid stress: Approach puppies from the side Crouch down beside the puppy and don t lean over their heads Stroke their chests and the side of their neck rather than hugging or patting in between the shoulder blades Do not stare avert your eyes Do not put your face into close proximity to their face Do not approach if puppy cannot get away 2011 Kathy Wilson The Lake Veterinary Hospitals Group Page 12

13 Do not force a puppy to interact with another dog/puppy or person, particularly if their body language is indicating that they do not wish to interact Give puppies plenty of personal space in class Summary Understanding puppy learning behaviour and body language is critical to the success of your classes. Positive reward based training is humane. Reward the behaviour you want to continue. Ignore or Manage the behaviour you do not want to continue. Learning is faster when the reward is desirable. Learning is strengthened when the reward is intermittent. Learning will be inhibited if puppies are stressed, anxious and worried Kathy Wilson The Lake Veterinary Hospitals Group Page 13

14 2011 Kathy Wilson The Lake Veterinary Hospitals Group Page 14

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