DRO – Differential Reinforcement of “Other” Behavior:

DRO stands for “differential reinforcement of ‘other’ behavior”. You can shorten it to “teach something different.” It is a widely recommended means of fixing behavior problems. For example, if a dog jumps up on people, teach it to lie down, instead. There are variations on DRO, such as DRI (teaching an incompatible behavior) and DRA (teaching an alternate behavior) In essence they all mean the same thing – teach the dog something new to replace an existing behavior. Despite the popularity of these tricks the reality is that they are not suggested because they are the most effective way to stop unacceptable behavior. They are suggested because they avoid considering punishment. This is often attributed to being the “scientific” way to solve behavior problems. It’s not. Continue reading

Aversive Control: A biological and evolutionary perspective. Part 1

 Punishment is generally considered the human application of naturally occurring forces that influence behavior. That’s about all you can say about the subject before hitting a fork in the road: the traditional, colloquial use of the term and the attempts by science to describe the phenomenon. Both roads, guided by good intentions, lead to perdition.
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Aversive Control: A biological and evolutionary perspective. Part 2.

(Note: Part 1 is here… http://clickandtreat.com/wordpress/?p=388)

To refresh your memory about the topic, I have presented a case for the idea that punishment is innate in humans and a key survival behavior of both individuals and groups. For millions of years this fact has not been questioned.

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Aversive Control: A biological and evolutionary perspective. Part 3

MousetrapNow that we’ve laid out the foundation for the topic it’s time to talk about specifics. First and foremost I have to clear up a widely held fantasy. Training is not the only situation where your dog might experience some fear inspiring or painful events. People who predict dire consequences from using aversive control in training seem ignorant of this fact. Scary and often painful events are part of life. Dogs are built to deal with it. Some of those events change a dog’s behavior and sometimes – like a vet performing a terrifying and/or painful procedure – they simply have to bite the bullet.
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Emperor Skinner’s New Clothes

In the late 1930’s, Burrhus Frederick (B.F.) Skinner wrote his magnum opus, The Behavior of Organisms. Today, his perspective on behavior is the foundation for almost all behavioral fields that deal with non-verbal animals. Skinner is the creator of the term operant conditioning, or “learning by consequences.” Skinner’s primary desire was to create a science of behavior. He promoted the idea that scientific behavioral control would make the world a better place. The essence of his ideology was a non-punitive society that would control behavior through “reinforcement” – the strengthening of behavior through rewarding good behavior. (See: http://clickandtreat.com/wordpress/?p=44 for more about the “non-coercive society of B.F. Skinner)  If you have noticed that scientists with an agenda often stray from the essence of science, you’d be correct. B.F. Skinner failed to create a science of behavior. Instead, he created an ideology that fails even cursory tests of scientific validity. You can skip any reference to veritas – truth for truth’s sake.
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Rebound Aggression:

61Iw-+dSv5L._SL500_SY344_BO1,204,203,200_One of the big bugaboos of the modern, ‘positive’ training ideology is the generally promoted concept that if you punish aggression you will trigger “rebound aggression.” Most of the people who say this pretend to be “scientific” in their perspective and claim scientific validation of their opinion. Bunk. Their fascination with rebound aggression simply displays their ignorance of a full reading of the literature and their unwillingness to look at the world around them. For starters, here’s a quote from The Effects of Punishment on Human Behavior by Axelrod and Apsche. They are referring to a foundational study that is never cited by ‘positive’ ideologues. In the study, monkeys were shocked into attacking other monkeys. (Ulrich, Wolfe & Dulaney, JEAB, 1969, Punishment of Shock Induced Aggression) This was called ‘elicited attacks.’ They caused the monkey to attack with electric shock – and then stopped that aggression with electric shock. They used electric shock because of the ability to tightly control the conditions of the experiment.
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Commands and Signals Revisited:

Ivan Pavlov, the great Russian physiologist, said that in order to survive, animals must have a way to identify beneficial and harmful events before they actually occur. More simply, he said that if a dog had to wait for the claws of a bear to sink into his flesh before he reacted to the threat, there would be no dogs. Likewise, if animals could not learn that thunder in the distance preceded a flash flood or that the snap of a twig preceded a succulent deer, they would be unable to avoid harmful events or take advantage of available entrees. If these examples sound far to simplistic for great science, think again. Sometimes the very best scientific information helps us build secure foundations for more complex knowledge. In the case of Ivan Pavlov, the diligence of his work pays off big-time for anyone interested in the most fundamental of dog training skills.

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Operant Modalities: Alternatives to Psychotropic drugs – Presentation for CVC, Washington DC By Gary Wilkes

One aspect of veterinary behavioral therapy is the use of psychotropic drugs to control behavior. To set the context for my comments, I am not a veterinarian. I do not claim any direct working knowledge of these drugs – but I routinely work with animals that do. Note: This presentation is not about abandoning or curtailing the use of chemical therapy for treating behavior problems. Diagnosis and treatment with psychotropic drugs is often a needed component for a dog’s sustained mental health. The goal of this presentation is to offer a different perspective and potential solutions that dovetail standard medical diagnosis and treatment.

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Secondary Reinforcers: Primary Blather

In the language of modern dog training a clicker is a “secondary reinforcer.” Sorry, but the term “secondary reinforcer” is simply eight syllables of blather. Why? Because reinforcers must, by definition, strengthen a behavior connected to them. That isn’t what happens when you click a clicker (or say the word, “NO”) and then not provide the tangible event that is supposed to follow. I can prove it. No, I have proven it – at MIT no less. You can prove it too, in the privacy of your own home. No lab coats, no rat or pigeon cages needed. Just you, a clicker and a hungry dog.

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Left or Right: You make the call.


The chart above signifies something. First, you have to know that this is a standard celeration chart. The horizontal lines increase logarithmically. Meaning from the baseline to the first line is 10. From the first line to the second line is 100. Next is 1,000 and the final one is 10,000. The individual human in this study is doing an undesired behavior, such as self-injury, up to 100 times a day. More than 5 per hour. The left side of the chart shows the use of positive methods to control the behavior. (That is the meaning of “positive programming” in this example.) The chart below shows the full cumulative record after a change in treatment. It shows a dramatic drop in the behavior. What was the change? The introduction of contingent punishment in the form of skin-shock. Meaning if you do X (pound your eyes) you will be shocked. If you do not do X you will not be shocked. Continue reading