Welcome to Saturday's Potluck
“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.”
Today I am going to indulge in gossip/discussion about problem behaviors. A new problem showed up yesterday. A note on the front door mentioned I had two extra cattle in my field and pre-thanking for my patience, which is running thin at the moment. Yep, two young Angus heifers in the field, from the tracks they had been chased all around the buildings, various equipment and through the orchard. Some panel fencing used to protect the water pump and plastic pipes were moved to block the heifers in an area by the corral, gates had been left open in several places between various fields and several sections of fence was damaged by the heifers when jumping the fence and not clearing it completely.
The behavior problem is they are scared, easy to shift to panic behavior and need to contain them to be removed from my place. They were weaned about six weeks ago by Mom's and calves herding into a corral placing in a corral and separating. Calves were ran through a chute to be vaccinated and ear tagged. The group of 18 yearlings were hand fed by throwing hay into the pen for six weeks, before separating out these two and loading them into a trailer one evening to be dropped off in a small field within site of my place. Something scared them so bad the next morning they ran through a fence, crossed an open hay field and ended up at my place.. Not sure if they were pushed or attracted to my cattle, the only other cattle within sight.
How does this discussion fit a political blog. Well it is often mentioned as humans we are being herded into actions not in our best interest like sheep or cattle. These heifers need to be pushed into the corral or tricked into walking into it themselves and staying long enough for the gate to be closed. The techniques used while perfected in animal training are similar to ones used on humans.
Bill’s concept of leadership, established means of being low-key with the dog, avoiding never-ending hugs and freebies, and asking the dog to do something such as sit when asked before getting some brief, upbeat attention, was designed to put both dog and owner on an even keel, to avoid those emotional extremes of excessive indulgence and it’s consequence, excessive punishment.
Bill pioneered treating behaviour problems without the use of punishment. Instead, he improved the relationship between the owner and the dog, and removed the cause of the problem. Let’s remind ourselves that this was in the 1970s. Bill was way ahead of his time.
Bill was heavily influenced by Pavlov. In this regard again he was ahead of the pack. Operant conditioning came onto the dog scene in the 1990s, thanks to Karen Pryor, but Classical Conditioning took longer. Some people still find it hard to understand.
Bill was always a renegade, and made himself unpopular in some quarters because he was not a fan of clicker training or training with food. I do use food rewards and teach clicker training, but I totally understand where Bill was coming from.
The Causative Approach
The other thing that he emphasised was what he called “the causative approach” to correcting behaviour problems. This made so much sense to me. Instead of punishing the dog, he would try to find the cause of the problem, and change that.
Bill did telephone consultations. One evening he got a call from a man whose dog was kept outside. The dog became a nuisance barker, constantly barking at the window. The man had the dog surgically de-barked. He rang Bill in desperation, saying that the dog was no longer barking, but was still driving him crazy, constantly jumping up at the window. “Well…” drawled Bill, “you could have his legs chopped off
Classical Conditioning and “the Interpretive Factor"
The third thing that Bill emphasised was Classical Conditioning, and in particular “the Interpretive Factor”.
According to Bill, it was the dog owner’s responsibility to communicate to the dog how to interpret a situation. When I was in Oregon, Bill was assisting Dogs For The Deaf, who have a great training facility there. They were training rescue dogs from the pound. One lovely, medium-sized dog with a curly white coat was going through the program, but was a bit nervous and inclined to bark in some social situations. Wendy and I assisted with a classical conditioning set up. There were four “challenges” – Wendy marching along with a ghetto blaster, me appearing around the corner on crutches and two other people coming from different directions. Then we repeated the set up in different locations, to help to generalise. When we appeared, the dog handler and Bill turned on “the jolly routine”, Bill’s famous name for cavorting around in any way that will get the dog’s tail wagging, to create a happy association with the challenging people or situations.
Another author and lecturer I always seem to learn something new is Temple Grandin. Her insights into human autism and animal behaviors has expanded awareness how to manage behaviors and identify when someone is trying to manage me.
Some of her books on Amazon have significant "look Inside" sections.
Tip of the hat to QMS who had the pleasure of listening her in person.
Brought me back about 10 years ago to a hotel restaurant in Ft. Collins, CO where we watched this amazing woman give an informal interview to a news reporter next table over. She was discussing animal behavior, for the most part, but was all over the map. Fascinating. Temple Grandin.
What is on your mind today?