Dogs learn what allows them to feel safe and secure in their environment. So then, how do we help them learn what is safe and secure in our environment?
Whatever methods are selected and used, they should provide for a Wellness style atmosphere between the dog and its owner/handler. Always allowing the dog to sense the satisfaction of safety, relief, and relaxation.
There are the traditional aversive methods utilizing high level of Vibration Stimulation sensations as a warning or high-levels of Impulse Stimulation as a corrective sensation, wherein the dog learns what not to do? (Methods for correcting a dog were written on stone tablets 2000 years ago. These methods describe how to “stop” dogs from doing incorrect behaviors.)
Then, there are Reward based appeasement methods where coaxing the dog through food and treats allows the dog to learn correct behaviors with an audible “Good Boy” encouragement to stand-in for the food.
Fast forward, to the newer non-aversive based Incentive/Guidance method utilizing low-level variable Vibration stimulation sensations and selectable low-levels of Impulse stimulation sensations applied as independent signal strengths for encouragement during the dog’s movement towards a desired task.
Although in Reality, any of these cuing styles when metered out by the owner/handler appropriately and consistently will create a Wellness style program; the caveat, is that it must be accomplished without being painful for the dog. This Incentive Learning method has outperformed the other two methods with longer lasting results, permanence of habit – and hence, this report on its benefits.
The collective evolution toward incentive learning (shaping behaviors).
Almost all dog training books that one can purchase today state that the dog owner should, “Watch-for and Wait-for” an incorrect behavior to begin and then, to stop that misbehavior.
Products since 1967 have been developed to remotely control dogs by giving them aversive stimuli – frequently called “shock”. This shock therapy has satisfied the innate behavior of humans to gain control over their dogs, but has not been the easiest for the dogs to learn. In fact, over time, we have proven that this style of training is least permanent in enhancing behavior modification.
However, back then, 1967 to 1977, we must all understand that the devices were correctly engineered delivering at high output level as needed for the style of pursuit the dogs were under when pursuing particular wild game, i.e. raccoon, mountain lion, wild boar and such.
The only time the devices were activated was when the dog began pursuing the incorrect animal (usually deer) and the owner/handler had to redirect the dog back to the assigned target. Since the dogs were in pursuit, their adrenalin output was at an extremely high level and the only way to communicate with these dogs were through a very high level of electrical impulse stimulation to match the high level of the distraction for the dogs. Afterwhich, the owner/handler would regulate communications back to the normal verbal teachings.
However, as these product models evolved over time, their manufacturer’s began offering lower levels of output; owner/handlers actually began to offer a means to use them in an entirely new non-aversive and positive manner – even the electrical impulse stimulation could be applied using these lower levels.
This method is accomplished with “shaping” (movement into the correct behaviors) and being proactive – full of freedom, calmness, and relaxation. No fear of use by the owner/handler including providing forgiveness to the animal even if the human would make an error.
In this “shaping” method, the approach is entirely different and is administered at the beginning of the routine instead of at the end of the routine. One does not have to wait for the incorrect behavior to occur rather initiate willingly – encouraging the correct behavior. If you are proactive and “signal” the dog to watch for and listen for your instructions and move into the correct behavior, then you have an animal who is willingly working with you as a teammate.
If this is a team effort then, you must be the coach, and the dog must be the performer. Even Scientific Animal Behavior Principles apply here – “As it is the performance to a known command that the dog is waiting for as enticement to complete its task”. And when you become their coach, you will have a willing student/athlete.
This coaching process begets, Wellness – as over time the dog begins to maintain the desired performance by itself with only an occasional back-up reinforcement to enhance their performance – bringing the performance back to its acceptable level. This builds “Trust” in the dog, it believes that it is the one in charge.
Wellness is the end result – to have a tool that can assist in your training desire and observe positive results on a daily basis with your dog allows for the dog to become an acceptable family member. Now performance and value are one-and-one. Everyone wins and the results are fun to showcase and to be proud of – a real beneficial process and the dog acquires its own safety, relief, and relaxation.
Now, how did we get here? The history.
Originally (1968) the electronic remote collar was designed to “fix” one problem – dogs chasing deer. This one, high level of Impulse Stimulation was utilized to “stop” the behavior which was out of control and was applied by the dog’s handler at a long distance from each other.
Here the output of the device was seldom used – as if, once the impulse stimulation was activated, and the dog became “Clean” then, there would be no further need to utilize the product. Therein, began the following, stated policy, “To only use when it was decided that a dog was on a deer track and it was necessary to let it pay with one big correction.” Hopefully, the dog would never do that again and would be considered “Clean”.
Well it worked very well in those situations and became a desired activity for hound handlers to acquire. With the following statements, “Oh, but seldom used – except on those non-clean dogs”.
However, later-on, within a few years, the bird dog hunting industry learned about this new “remote” access to the dog’s brain. Dog trainers of a variety of disciplines began using this same device to “Correct” certain missteps which their dogs would take while supposedly being taught new behaviors or while undergoing normal obedience training. In this approach, over many applications, the dog would learn what not to do.
Seems rather crazy – Well it was – So we had to change the environment – 1982.
We – the top manufacture of electronic dog collars – began deciphering what was really needed for this new style of remote training. Then, we addressed these findings to enact or provide our clients a means to achieve new behaviors, rather than to beat the dog over the head for misbehaviors.
Well, the Scientific Animal Behavior Community within their well-documented evidence gave us a “big” clue – it was called “shaping behaviors”. This is all spelled out in the book, “Understanding Electronic Dog-Training”.
So instead of focusing on bad behaviors, we began focusing on how to “shape” appropriate new behaviors. We learned how a dog could learn without all of the opponent outcomes. Our results lead to offering lower-levels of Impulse Stimulation by utilizing the same energy spectrum as the one high-level; but with varying degrees of intensity to be applied during an action by the dog rather than after an action by the dog.
However, it was very important to continue to utilize our same energy spectrum as we still needed to activate the dog’s sensory system, therein providing the dog’s recognition and cognition at these lower levels therein motivating (enticing) movement without pain overtures occurring.
During our testing and building these new devices, there were many who said, “You can’t do that, we must be the alpha component in this relationship, anything else will fail”. But we listened to our clients – the dogs. And they said, “Drop the level, but also offer it as a means to redirect us to where you want us to go, then we will.”
And our findings were became quiet in parallel to what the dogs were telling us. In fact, it was very easy to implement, and the dogs instantly approved of this style of training and loved it. By 1987, as we continued using our own time to understand, we observed the behavioral power of this new non-aversive approach. To the point, that it requires one to change their total mindset toward the operational aspects in order for them to accomplish and observe the benefits of this new process.
Its approach was just like being a coach; you can only win if the team believes, listens and learns during the process. So we asked the dog trainers, “Why wouldn’t you want to be your dog’s coach; shaping new behaviors, instead of stopping misbehaviors?”
We learned that while acting as the coach – “shaping” behaviors can only be accomplished with utilizing “low” level cuing signals, and they must be implemented at the beginning of the task and during the task; but never afterwards – so no corrections, just reinforcement of their good actions – allowing the dogs to learn what is expected without all of the other opponent processes.
After which, around 1994, became the term, “pressure on/pressure off”, or the “Guidance Training Approach”. However, this new training style was not really new – horse riders/trainers, for centuries, have activated this guidance approach every time they use their reins to guide their horses toward the desired direction.
By now, the Scientific Literature was being proven correct – Animals do learn when the cue signal ceases. Any new behavior will become learned more permanently at the moment of offset of the cuing signal and especially done where there is no fear or pain leading to the end-result.
We also discovered and learned about the “pain quotient”. All dog trainers, dog owners, and dog collar manufacturers must pay close attention to this – if at any moment, the dog feels threatened, all is lost.
By utilizing these new low levels, we could keep well below the dog’s pain threshold and stay within the dog’s learning capability. This assures that we stay being the coach and the dog remains as the athlete. In this manner, even as the dog’s adrenal releases change within a given moment, the handler can also respond, therein many applications could be given to the dog, and it was okay – “No Fear”.
By 2004, we needed to continue to address the fact to ourselves and our clientele; that we had evolved over time from making an electronic two-by-four into offering a true teaching tool which signals encouragement for appropriate responses.
With today’s technology, we (collar manufacturers) can accomplish a means for every style of dog training and within any discipline to allow for positive outcomes from the dogs under our tutelage. It is up to us to continually show that ecollars are what will lead to happy and long-term relationships without the past “FEAR” of operational usage.
It is this “fear of use” which we must overcome. Case in fact, in all of the current educational materials, it is still stated that what is offered is a “correctional” training device.
In many areas, it still remains the stated policy even though it has been proven to be the least beneficial feature. And even with this knowledge and understanding the past vocabulary and practices used for controlling bad behaviors were so limiting; they also predicted how frightful they made the use of any remote system appear.
But by 2007, our users could now accomplish more positive outcomes using our remote training devices by activating a variety of electronic cues more frequently and with the dogs reacting in a more positive manner – enhancing good behavior.
While electronic cues are just that – meaningless, unless the application follows through with letting the dog know what the cues mean and that this action leads to a sense of being safe and secure.
VERY IMPORTANT: if the remote trainer is hardly used, then it is very difficult for the dog to clearly understand the meaning of its use. However, and if, the selected cues are used frequently with the dog and for the same purpose, then the dog has a more clear understanding and can comply to the handler’s desires – isn’t that what we are all seeking out of remote training – a means to communicate our desire to the dog and that the dog complies willingly to these desires.
The different styles of electronic stimuli and their make-up
Impulse Stimulation: – Is the most efficient of the selectable electronic cues:
With the appropriate levels of Electrical Impulse Stimulation*, the use should not be feared; but appreciated for its cleanliness, consistency, and wellness:
- Cleanliness – capability, of being cognitively smooth and acceptable within finite levels of adjustment,
- Consistency – believable, each independent level is always of the same sensation,
- Wellness – calmness, the eagerness in responding with movement toward a desired objective (less stress, building eustress).
Herein we can change the stereotypes – and redefine why it is acceptable to offer many levels of Electrical Impulse Stimulation while other cues offered contain only one level. When utilizing appropriate output levels of Electrical Impulse Stimulation, dogs can discriminate between these levels allowing for their cognitive transfer toward appropriate motions or movements without any over-reaction to each independent level. Herein, the handler can follow the up/down, moment-to-moment, movement of the dog’s adrenal releases keeping within the dog’s head. This is in the same manner which horses have been being trained for centuries with an assortment of bit pressure – you must stay within the horse’s head or you will be on the ground looking up.
Vibration Stimulation – is the best outside stimuli for standing in for Impulse Stimulation, as dogs can also discriminate between varying, independent levels of variable Vibration Stimulation through their sensory system – but there is a point in which the dog’s adrenal releases can overshadow even the highest level of vibration capable from the dog’s collar; and therefore can continue their movements toward a non-desired target.
Audible Sound (Tone) Stimulation – if used by itself, it is tremendously useful for creating a notification (a signal) of safety, relief, and relaxation (a naturally occurring positive release) – but does not have the quality for independent levels to create the mental recognition necessary for the dog to respond during the many adrenaline releases that it goes through during many of its daily exercises. A caveat – if it is utilized as a signal after or at the cessation of comparative outside stimuli events based upon other cue styles (Vibration Stimulation or Impulse Stimulation) – it becomes the positive reinforcer – extremely useful and powerful.
In closing, the “Reality” is that we want our clients – all dogs, and their handlers to explore the use of and characteristics of shaping behaviors by using Guidance Training with low-level pressure outputs – we design for this kind of use – and it works.
Happy dog training!