conditioning

dogtrainingConditioning: The term conditioning is used to describe both operant and respondent behavior. It refers to a change in the frequency or form of the organism’s behavior as a result of the influence of the environment. 

In Respondent Conditioning, a neutral stimulus comes to elicit a response as a result of pairing it with an unconditioned stimulus. 

(Both definitions are from the book, Animal Training written by Ken Ramirez.)

When I take my dog out for our morning hikes, we spend most of our time either in open, agricultural fields or in the forest. Vehicles are very limited in these spaces. Unless you’re a farmer, or work for the forestry, you’re not supposed to be on the roads leading through these places.

As most dog owners here, I love letting Mattie off leash during our walks and in these places, I know she is safe from traffic. Occasionally, however, we run into the random vehicle passing through. When this happens, I respond consistently with her. I stand off to the side, call her to me, and when she approaches and stands on her hind legs, I hold onto her collar as the vehicle passes. Once cleared, I tell her she’s been a good girl, give her the release command of “ok” and our walk continues.

Today, while in the forest, Mattie was ahead of me. She tends to walk ahead whenever we are on our way home. As we were nearing a curve, she stopped in place, clearly observing whatever was ahead. I could not see or hear anything. I assumed it was most likely another person, perhaps with a dog.

Mattie then turned around and began coming straight for me. I smiled at this response. I like it that my dog will come to me when faced with something she’s unfamiliar with. However, I smiled even more when I saw the headlights approaching. I quickly and excitedly told Mattie she was a very good girl.

This is an example of successful “respondent conditioning”. Mattie had gotten so used to “see vehicle, mom calls me to her”, that she has taken it upon herself to react in the appropriate way, without me saying so. Today, Mattie saw a vehicle before I did, and came straight to me. This makes me smile. It’s not so much that I intended to condition this response in her, it’s that this response was even conditioned in her in the first place. This wasn’t something I set out to “train”. So, I view it more as something my dog came to recognize for herself and for me, it’s a win towards her safety. She’s a smart cookie that one.

I’m a proud dog momma.

© Semi-Charmed Life

 

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2 thoughts on “conditioning

  1. That’s awesome! And reassuring! I’ve always felt some apprehension when it comes to my girl and cars. I have her heal at intersections, sometimes even sit. When I’m ready we go. Despite her always looking for me, I’m still hesitant to trust she will be safe. Then again, we live in a city!

    • If you start being consistent with her, you’ll most likely begin seeing her stopping and sitting at the intersections without you needing to say anything. Again, the key is consistency and then of course praise.

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