(VICT) Re: Task ideas- Feedback?

  • From: "Shelley L. Rhodes" <juddysbuddy@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <vi-clicker-trainers@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Fri, 31 Aug 2007 23:26:40 -0400

I think that is the principles behind TTouch too, Ann, that the position of 
the animal, or the body part manipulated effects the emotions of the dog.

Have to totally agree with you on it, and that has been my experience too, 
with my dogs, and yawning on cue, or other relaxing behaviors, I love 
yawning and having the dog yawn back

Shelley L. Rhodes M.A., VRT, CTVI
and Guinevere, Golden lady Guide
Guide Dogs For the Blind Inc.
Graduate Alumni Association Board

More than Any other time, When i hold a beloved book in my hand, my 
limitations fall from me, my spirit is free.
- Helen Keller

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Ann Edie" <annedie@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
To: <vi-clicker-trainers@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Sent: Friday, August 31, 2007 12:50 PM
Subject: (VICT) Re: Task ideas- Feedback?

Diane and Everyone,

The discussion of teaching the behavior of tail-tucking in dogs has raised a
point of curiosity in my mind.

First, It seems that in many species emotional states are associated with
certain physical positions or behaviors: for example, in humans, smiling is
associated with feeling happy; in horses, a lowered head is associated with
feelings of calmness and safety; and in dogs, a high tail is associated with
excited alertness.

Sometimes we use these associations to teach our animals, or ourselves, to
connect with desired emotional states.  So, for example, we teach our horses
to drop their heads to the ground on cue or in response to a situation which
scares or worries them.  Once they learn this behavior, they can be calmed
or calm themselves in stressful situations.  Last evening I spent about 20
minutes during a raging thunderstorm asking my Arabian horse to lower his
head, and clicking and treating when he was able to maintain a head-down
position.  This enabled him to remain calm and manageable in a situation
which would otherwise have caused him to panic.  In these cases, the
physical act of lowering the head seems to actually produce the feeling of
calm in the horse.

Another example is that if we have a horse which pins its ears at other
horses or at people, and we want the horse to be more pleasant and accepting
of the proximity of other horses or of people, then we shape the horse to
put its ears forward and we reinforce that behavior with a c/t.  We set up
the training so that the cue for the ears-forward behavior is the appearance
of another horse or of a person.  Eventually, the assuming of the
ears-forward position actually produces the emotional state of pleasant
anticipation in the horse.  And as long as the behavior is not punished, by
say, people inappropriately patting and sticking their hands in the horse's
face or by other horses bullying the trainee horse, the behavior will become
self-reinforcing, because feeling pleasant is more desirable than feeling
threatened or grumpy.  (Occasional c/t or other positive reinforcement will
help to maintain the behavior also.)

We humans can often teach ourselves to feel happier by practicing smiling or
laughing, even if at first it seems forced and unconnected with our true
emotional state.  And we can find our courage in stressful situations by
practicing accessing that emotional state through use of a cue, such as
whistling, singing, or talking encouragingly to our dogs.

So, these examples would seem to illustrate the principle that teaching a
body position or behavior which is naturally associated with a certain
emotional state can become a way of triggering the actual emotional state in
the animal or person.

On the other hand, I can think of examples where an opposite principle seems
to be at work:  One example involves the movement called "piaffe" in horses.
Piaffe is a very collected trot-in-place.  It is one of the higher level
dressage movements in horses, but it is also a natural horse behavior in
situations of high excitement, such as a dominance challenge between two
stallions.  At least when we teach the behavior using the marker signal and
positive reinforcement, we seem to be able to dissociate the behavior from
the nervous and stressed emotional state.  So, for example, my Arabian horse
loves to piaffe and does so with a very pleased and happy expression on his
face and none of the feeling of being about to explode that he might have
naturally exhibited in connection with this behavior.

It seems to me that teaching a dog which barks out of excitement and
protectiveness to bark on cue, and rewarding with c/t for the cued behavior,
can work similarly, to dissociate the behavior from the original emotional
state.  In this way, we can therefore teach the dog greater emotional
control and reduce the unwanted barking behavior.

I would love to hear other people's experience with using this connection
between behaviors and emotional states in training with their animals.  And
I would also like to hear if you have had similar experiences of achieving
the dissociation of behavior from its natural emotional state by bringing
the behavior under stimulus control.

Here's the connection of the above observations with tail-tucking--It is my
understanding that tail-tucking in dogs is associated with feelings of
submission, fear, or depression.  So, if you teach the dog to tuck its tail
on cue, using C/T, does this produce the submissive, fearful emotional state
in the dog, or does the behavior of tail-tucking become dissociated from the
emotional state that would produce it in natural circumstances?

When I teach my horse to lower his head in response to a scarey situation or
to put her ears forward at the approach of another horse, I want to maintain
and strengthen the natural connection between the behavior and the emotional
state it produces.  But when I teach my dog to tuck it's tail or teach my
horse to piaffe, I want the behavior without the emotional state that it
would naturally produce.  This seems to work fine in practice, but I find it
to be a bit puzzling on the theoretical level.  So I thought it might be fun
to play with these ideas and see what you all think.

By the way, even though this topic may be a bit theoretical, I think it has
important implications for our practical, day-to-day work with our animals.
For example, with a good intuitive grasp of these concepts, Sheila can teach
Gretch to be more confident in challenging street crossings and more
enthusiastic about guide work in general, and we can all teach our dogs to
assume body postures and behaviors which can make them less vulnerable to
loose dog attacks or to human petting assaults.  (Hmmm, those last two
examples--of the loose dog attacks and unwanted human attentions--show that
we can not only use cued behaviors to affect the emotional state of the
trained animal, but also to affect the emotional state and behavior of other

I hope you have fun turning these ideas over in your heads and that you will
share your thoughts with the group.

Best to all,

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Diane & Raven" <dlshotwell2@xxxxxxxxxxx>
To: <vi-clicker-trainers@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Sent: Friday, August 31, 2007 9:21 AM
Subject: (VICT) Re: Task ideas- Feedback?

> Hi Sheila,
> I believe I first recommended this behavior in reference to one of the
> guides tails getting pinched in a door.
> Some assistance dogs have long tails and some assistance dogs wag them in
> the joy of their work with their partners quiet liberally.  With dogs like
> Great Danes this can mean that in stores and in homes things can get
> knocked down or the tail can get injured.   Add to this that a  dogs tail
> sticking into isles, or stretched across the floor could mean injury to
> the dog or some one who steps or trips on it.
> It is not a frequently taught behavior.  However, when I mentioned it in
> my earlier post I said I would share the teaching of the behavior.  So I
> was trying to do so before I forgot.
> Best Wishes & Wags,
> Diane & Raven
> APDT#72225
> http://AssistanceDogJournal.net
> http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Golden_Paw_ADC/
> "My Assistance Dog is not my whole life, but she makes my life whole"
> ~D.L.Shotwell
> "Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened."
> ~Anatole France
> All posts are considered copyrighted by the author. You must get
> permission from the poster before forwarding.

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