How Dog Habit Training Works.
Consider the impact habits have on our lives and how they assist us in achieving our goals. Bike riding is a habit. Numerous ingrained actions are needed to play an instrument.
Additionally, driving contains a lot of habitual elements. For instance, we automatically turn the steering wheel to maintain our distance from the center lines, turn on the turn signal as we approach a corner (hopefully), brake as we approach a red light (again, hopefully), and pull over whenever we see an ambulance (except in some large cities, where you’re on your own!).
While we are mechanically doing all of those tasks, we could be mentally reviewing our shopping list, thinking about the report the boss needs by tomorrow, changing the radio station, picking up the phone, or adjusting the rearview mirror.
We’ve developed effective multitasking skills thanks to our habit of driving, which takes us where we want to go. The drawback of multitasking is that sometimes we develop the undesirable habit of juggling too many tasks at once and lose our concentration. One such is the increase in car accidents linked to mobile phone use.
Both good and bad habits may take off and become powerful forces that influence everything we do. This behavior is quite comparable to that of dogs. Two examples with real safety implications include teaching your dog to sit or lie down as a door opens or when he approaches a curb.
Even the most ingrained routines can seem to vanish in the face of distractions and novel circumstances. Have you ever been asked for your phone number and forgotten it?
Or maybe after having done it many times previously, you failed to put the milk back in the refrigerator after consuming it? Contextual learning is a concept that underlies everything.
Behaviors in Context
With context learning, your puppy or dog will act as if the behavior was never taught anytime the circumstances change. You must start afresh and teach the habit from scratch this time. It’s as if it never happened.
Using a person as an example Imagine striking up a conversation with someone you’ve never met before at a library. Then, two weeks later, you’re greeted at the grocery store by the same individual. He now has a few kids with him and is dressed differently.
Because you only knew him in the setting of the library and not the new context of the store, you could find it difficult to recall him. However, if you see him a few more times, maybe in a variety of settings, you will quickly recall him in subsequent encounters, regardless of the setting.
Generalization describes this.
Here’s another illustration: you always fasten your seatbelt when you get into your automobile. You soon stop having to think about it since it is instinctive.
However, since it’s a new and unfamiliar situation, you may have to intentionally think about fastening the seatbelt when you enter the rear seat of someone else’s vehicle.
But if you hear it enough times, you’ll begin to buckle up anytime you enter anyone’s rear seat.
In the same manner, dogs learn. For instance, a dog could have picked up the habit of sitting on the kitchen’s tile floor. She seems to have completely forgotten what the term “sit” means by the time you get her into the living room. Because you’ve never instructed her on the carpet, the living room carpet is a separate substrate.
Similar to this, asking her to sit after you’ve changed your perfume, put on a hat, requested someone to exercise with you, and other similar actions all occur in different settings or circumstances.
You have to start again with each one. Your dog will eventually “generalize” and essentially declare, “I get it. Even if the scenario is unfamiliar, you want me to sit wherever and whenever.
When creating a habit, you start by repeating a certain behavior in one scenario or context, and then you progressively “generalize” it by doing so in other situations or contexts.
When it comes to contextual behavior, both children and dogs have excellent perceptions. A youngster just needs a few trips to the grocery store or restaurant to notice that their parents behave differently there.
The toddler is saying to himself, “Oh, I get it… when people stop and speak to you, you’re not going to force me to comply,” in effect. I’ll shout, scream, and jump on this person instead, cool.
(Please note that I’m not referring to your children here; I’m talking about the children of the majority of people.) A similar thing happens when you’re out with your dog and people stop to talk to you; you don’t focus as intently on what your dog is doing as you normally do.
The person suddenly turns to bribes, unenforced threats, and whatever else he can think of to maintain the peace, yet the dog or the kid may be addressed in no clear terms when it comes to unpleasant actions at home. This is why it’s crucial to maintain consistency wherever you are.
Learning and Emotions
Reverting to the seatbelt example, how challenging was it to develop the habit of always fastening your seatbelt? After a few weeks, the habit of fastening your seatbelt was created simply by doing it each time you went into the automobile.
It wouldn’t have been much simpler to learn to fasten your seatbelt if you had griped and complained. How difficult is teaching a dog to sit?
Although it’s really simple, people often whine and complain because their dog didn’t sit when requested in a timely manner.
Even if you believe you are not “being emotional,” the dog may detect any and all emotional responses on your behalf.
This is true regardless of your emotional reaction, which may include resentment, irritation, worry, or rage, or on the other hand, may include pleasure, joy, and love. Positive or negative emotions have an impact on the whole training process and how fast any behavior is picked up.
Understanding how the situation may either reinforce or diminish habitual behavior is a crucial component of this. If the instructor is upset, irritated, or furious, the dog will find it harder to learn. If the owner is having fun, encouraging, and patient, the dog will learn things lot more rapidly.
It’s time to activate your willpower when a contextual shift tempts you to break your routine and weaken the habit. If so, I’ve got you covered with whole chapters on willpower and motivation.
The secret to creating any habit is to take modest steps at first, then greater ones, and finally the ultimate objective. These actions are known as sequential approximations in psychology. Reading this book is a terrific illustration.
It’s the first step in modifying your behavior in order to develop better habits, which will then affect your dog’s routines. Your journey to your objective is already underway. Well done!
Everyone has heard tales of individuals who, after years of inactivity, made the decision to get up off the sofa and start moving. Naturally, a variety of circumstances affect our success in life.
A friend of mine just sent me an email about her plans to run a marathon to raise money for a good cause. Generally speaking, running a marathon may seem out of reach for the typical individual whose lifestyle is mostly sedentary. How is she going to do this enormous task?
Baby steps. She’ll begin with modest objectives based on her present level of fitness.
Maybe just walking 10 blocks per day would suffice as the first objective. Then, by jogging a mile, two miles, and so on, she will gradually advance to greater and bigger objectives. These developments are iterative approximations.
Behavior is shaped through successive approximations. The essential term here is “form,” which refers to the process of gradually materializing or manifesting a final goal by employing smaller components of the goal as objectives in and of themselves. You will get closer to your objective of learning habit training with each phrase you read in this book.
Confused? Read on.
To improve their “shaping” abilities, many dog trainers go-to chicken training camps.
The truth is that if you can teach a simple-minded chicken to do a complicated activity, you can teach a dog to perform a task using the same shaping techniques.
At my first chicken camp, I gave a chicken to teach to each trainer. I taught my chicken to run up a ramp, ring a bell, and then take a bow for the grand competition. The Japanese instructors at the same program were quite inventive.
They created wrestling rings out of origami, an ancient art form in which paper is folded into elaborate shapes, complete with origami sumo wrestlers within the ring. Their chicken leaped into the origami ring at the sound of “Hai,” knocking the wrestlers down.
The chicken then celebrated by leaping into the air and ringing a bell. Then, as a last flourish, their chicken stretched his wings and pranced around the arena while crowing and bowing three times.
(It was obviously a rooster.) The Japanese won the tournament because no one could surpass that.
You must first train a chicken to do something easy, like touch a stick, before moving on to more difficult behaviors—a collection of actions linked together to create a pattern.