Logical Analysis of Blind Trials – A Rare Commodity

blindfoldIn the war of positive vs. negative training there is something sadly missing – logical analysis. This is ironic because the people most responsible for “positive” training call themselves “behavior analysts.” These are scientists who claim to use scientific investigation to learn how to predict and control behavior. They have lots and lots of statements about aversive control that sound incredibly wise and are supposed to be the result of objective research – but they aren’t. They are actually ideological statements that reveal an underlying philosophy that is anything but scientific. I know that because of something that is totally missing from their arguments – blind trials. (Note: There is no such thing as “negative” or “punishment-based” training. Those are simply pejorative terms used by “postiive” trainers to limit objective discussion and vilify evidence-based trainers)

A blind trial is one where the observer is missing specific information. For instance, a recent decision by a therapy dog certification group bans dogs that have been trained with shock collars. That is a popular sentiment these days. After all, shock collars cause all kinds of behavioral damage to a dog…or do they? If you want to find out the truth there is a simple way to tell. Conduct a blind trial. Take a sufficient group, say 20 dogs, and then examine them for some specific purpose. In the case of therapy dogsACOloadingDog, look for a happy demeanor, controlled behavior and an obvious affection for humans. The examiner has to be ignorant of something. How many of the dogs were trained with shock collars vs. without. Now the examiner has to look at the dogs without the aid of prejudice. The findings will surprise you. The person will come up with “reasons” for selecting specific dogs that have no relationship to whether the dog was trained with a shock collar or not. If you pull a fast one and include no dogs trained with shock collars but suggest there were, the findings will be even more interesting. This is not limited to things like examination for therapy and service dogs. Shelter dogs can be examined by which ones were handled roughly being captured and transported vs. those that were walked in pleasantly by their owners. Another example is here – tell me how this superlative pointer was trained. p15He is holding a perfect point. He is not wearing a collar of any kind. Nope. He is in the field doing what he does best. Was he trained with a shock collar or not? How can you tell? Have you made your assumptions about tools based on hearsay or evidence?


The Next Easy Trial:  Pawz Away vs. Manners Minder
The late Dr. Sophia Yin collaborated with Sharper Image to make a remote feeder for dogs. You press a button on a remote control and treats are dropped into a hopper at a distance. It’s an “all positive” tool for controlling behavior. In what looks like a scientific research paper, Yin attempted to use her tool to stop dogs from rushing the front door. You can read about it here. http://drsophiayin.com/about/protocol A quick summation of her findings was that it took as long as four months to teach 20 dogs to not rush the front door and several needed the assistance of a human trainer. It took the owners as much as 30 minutes a day to achieve results. Yin didn’t study what it took to maintain the new behavior of lying quietly.

In essence, the Manners Minder is an expensive, time consuming tool that positive trainers absolutely love – because they have never conducted blind trials. The critical weakness is that the process is time consuming on a daily basis and doesn’t actually fix the problem. Rushing the front door is a considerable mannersminder_small1problem that often leads to injury, bite wounds to guests, running away from home and general chaos. Arousal at the front door is a common trigger for aggression for multiple dog families. What if there were alternative ways to control this problem and we examined the dogs without knowing how they were trained.

Pawz-Away – an alternative tool
The Pawz Away is a portable version of an “Invisible Fence.” It is composed of a small radio transmitter that sends out a harmless signal. The dog wears are collar that will offer an electric shock when it gets to a specific distance from the transmitter. You can adjust the distance from about one foot to an eight foot diameter. The shock collar is powered by two small batteries that are identical to the ones used in most automobile keyless entry fobs. It’s not petsafea big shock, it’s annoying. As the dog lingers it slightly elevates the intensity. If ranks well below a static shock you might get from shuffling across the rug and touching a metal object. (If that is a problem for you then we should put you in a blind trial and identify humans that have never been so shocked vs. you.) The Pawz Away takes about five minutes to set up and then you simply leave it turned on. Any time the dog approaches the front door it will be nicked. To be fully effective takes less than a week and no time investment from the owner. It can be used for teaching a dog not to get into the trash, the cat litter box, crib rooms, pantries and a host of other places dogs really shouldn’t go.

Put Up or Shut Up: The blind trail
Now we get to where science leaves the building. Though a test of these two devices would yield a great deal of information about the ideology of modern behavioral science vs. the reality of how best to control dog behavior, a blind trial has never been done. It would cost chump-change compared to all those fancy research papers that test lab-rats in tiny little boxes. At the end of the study you simply examine the dogs. If you can’t tell a Manners Minder dog from a Pawz-Away dog then the use of aversive control wasn’t harmful or even identifiable. That requires an honest person to moderate their language and adjust their beliefs. In reality, there will be a very big difference in the dogs. No, it’s not that some won’t be wagging their tails. It’s that some of the dogs will look perfectly normal but won’t go to the door. I will let you find out for yourself which are which.

Pseudo-Science and Tangible Proof:
The American Skeptics Society has a rule – extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. Behavioral scientists have passed along fantasies to modern trainers for almost 70 years. The fantasies have never been proven when the scientists couldn’t rig the game. Real scientists do not prove hypotheses – they reveal nature through riBoundaryCockers 005gorous testing using tools like blind trials. So, here is my challenge to you. Take a look at this YouTube video and tell me how these dogs were trained. No current or dead behavioral scientist can do that. No, these dogs weren’t trained with either a Manners Minder or a Pawz Away. I use methods that are more effective than either because they are attached to a brain that can make rational choices based on many years of experience – the best way to create a happy ending. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vFXxOaDEi-A

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