Rover Achiever | Classical Conditioning
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Classical Conditioning

Classical Conditioning

IMG_3531I’ve been slowing working my way through Kathy Sdao’s seminar Does Pavlov Ring A Bell? Anytime Kathy Sdao speaks, she has something important to say and this workshop is amazing. Classical conditioning is not training with consequences, it’s all about reaching the dog at an emotional level. I’m so interested in this because despite all the work I have done with Tyson, I have never managed to change his mind about the presence of dogs. There’s no question that he fears large dogs. I have taught him alternative behaviours when they are around. I have given him strategies for dealing with his fears but have I actually taught him that large dogs are not scary? NO. This is where classical conditioning comes into play. You are pairing the thing that your dog is uncomfortable with (large dogs) with a things that they love (real meat) and trying to create a conditioned response (I love large dogs). So the first part of the video talks about pairing the conditioned stimulus with the unconditioned stimulus, there are rules to this that must be followed or it won’t work. So out we go with roast beef everyday. Large dog comes into picture, bar opens, Tyson gets fed. Large dog leaves the picture, bar closes, roast beef stops coming. Classical conditioning is so powerful in behaviour modification but it is largely unspoken about. If I wanted to go find a reference, I don’t think I have a single book that even talks about it. Now, having not seen the other discs yet, I have some questions about my application. Do I feed if Tyson doesn’t see the dog but hears a dog bark? What about if I’m meeting Emily and her dogs (who Tyson knows)? From far he doesn’t recognize them. Do I feed him as we approach and then when he realizes he knows them (and they are safe) feeding stops? What about new dogs that I introduce into my group? What about smaller dogs, who he’s not fearful of? I hope the rest of the video answers my questions with regards to these variables. In the meantime I do see some subtle difference in Tys’ behaviour around large dogs. He’s quicker to ignore them once we pass. If he does bark, it seems like it’s more of an alert bark or a gimme a treat bark, rather than his fear-based bark. This work is only the first step. If you watch the video and you stop pairing the treat with the scary thing, the dog’s feelings quickly revert back. It’s really a window to allow operant conditioning to step in. I’m looking forward to watching the rest.

  • Andre
    Posted at 04:39h, 08 February Reply

    I can answer one of your questions. After classical counter conditioning, to the point where you have a conditioned emotional response at the introduction of the stimulus — old operant behaviors, such as a bark or grr may remain. The sound of the bark or grr may change slightly. But the rest of the body shows a positive CER. The bark may never go away.

    FYI, Have you heard about Behavior Adjustment Training (BAT)? It is an emerging form of behavioral modification that emphasizes the use of functional reward vs. primary reinforcer as the reward for appropriate operant behavior in the face of scary stimuli. It is worth investigation.

    • Julie
      Posted at 13:25h, 08 February Reply

      Thank you . I have heard about it but it always seemed more complex. She outlines the steps in a practical manner which makes sense to me. I’m going to try using it.

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