Tag Archives: philosophy

How Do You And Society View Controlling Others and Controlling Dogs?

I am beginning to think I have opened a subject too big to cover in a dog training blog. This series would be best on a Philosophy and culture website or my personal site. While the article is about training it goes beyond training. The subject involves control in general and to what degree are we willing to force our desires onto another. What form does our preferred style of force take?

It appears that at least some to these posts will not be focused on dog training, but general ideas related to controlling others. I feel it is important to consider these issues when training our dogs. Control will come up as a major theme when you embark on a dog training program and even after you have quit formal training. Training never ends. You are training your dog anytime you interact with it. Your dog is always learning about its environment.

The Dogs Environment Matters in Dog Training and in Controlling Behavior
The Dogs Environment Matters in Dog Training and in Controlling Behavior

How the Environment controls behavior is a worthy area of consideration. The environment plays a part in controlling many aspects of dog training, self governance, and interacting with others. The Environment is a huge controlling variable.

The “Is Positive Reinforcement Best” series is setting the stage to work through the linguistic wrangling of a contentious question. I want to find an answer that will cut through the emotional clutter. Originally I intended this to be a short series of posts. Now I don’t know how long it will be. As I ponder the illusions and practices of controlling our dogs the project has become much more interesting.

One of the interesting attributes of dog training is it can take on many of the roles and functions found throughout society. It is a mix of Culture, Philosophy, Strategy, Science, Economics, Mythos and Personal Beliefs.

Dog training encompasses the human experience. Dog training gives us a way to both express and model what it is to be human. We can see the best and the worst of humanity in the human/dog experience. Dogs are micro cultures within a household and they are also players in a macro culture influencing world politics.

Edshu The Dog Trainer
Edshu The Dog Trainer

I have a wide area of interests so I may reference ideas that are culturally different than what is familiar to most. The figure of Edshu is from an African tradition. The Edshu story I am most familiar with is his causing mischief by wearing a red and black hat. It is quite common for me to don my imaginary black and red hat when I have some question that needs to be answered. In this series I am afraid I am going to wear that hat. So please forgive me I don’t want anyone to be judged or condemned because of my hat or my insight. The Edshu story as I learned it is a little different than the wikipedia version.

So many blogs I read are the same old thing; they just repeat what other people say.

I have read that when people explain what others want to know about it’s called being a thought leader. I may do that in this series of articles, but I hope to accomplish something more. Hopefully I can do more than explain an aging argument or an entrenched dogma. I hope to add new meaning to an old question. Find new answers and help people gain new insight. I do not desire to be a thought leader as much as I try to be a thought innovator. You wouldn’t want me to just rehash the same old thing would you?

When I first started training with food it was a time when most people condemned positive reinforcement training
When I first started training with food it was a time when most people condemned positive reinforcement training

One problem with innovation is it can be controversial. When I started using positive reinforcement, I was constantly told I could not do that with dog training. I took a lot of heat for my training style and my views of how best to control the dogs I worked with. Now some years later there is a new all positive reinforcement culture that has developed some interesting qualities of its own.

Until next time

Wishing you the best in dogs and the best in life,
Andrew Ledford
Southern California Dog training

Questions About All Positive Reinforcement Dog Training Is It really Best For Our Pets?


Managing dog behavior and people’s too

Encourage good dog behavior with the appropriate discriminative stimuli

Is managing discriminative stimuli part of philosophy, business management, or dog training? This is what Wikipedia has to say about “Stimulus control and discriminative stimuli: Stimulus control is the phenomenon of a stimulus increasing the probability of a behavior (operant response) because of a history of that behavior being differentially reinforced in the presence of the stimulus. In other words, stimulus control is basically learning to pay attention to things that we identify in the environment (discriminative stimuli) that give us information about the effectiveness of our behavior.” Discriminative stimuli help us determine what rules apply to achieve reinforcement.

At a social media group I belong to I was talking with a philosopher about how we have certain rules that help us do the right thing. More importantly we have rules that keep us from doing what society considered immoral. This part of the conversation revolved around how a man of good moral character would not go to an attractive married woman’s room where they are alone and drink alcohol while at a conference.

Why is it that alcohol is a major factor or variable to this scenario? It could be that alcohol reduces the inhibition we associate with moral behavior. By reducing inhibitions our more animal like nature shines through. The nature of animals is probably driven more by lower level needs than the higher level needs we like to associate with being human. At this point my post diverged into two different lines of thought. I will post my more whimsical thoughts about the possibilities of animals experiencing altered states of consciousness on my new dog website.

Getting back to dog training and behavior management. If we can’t expect other humans, not to mention ourselves, to behave properly under certain conditions, how can we expect our dogs to do any better?  For the most part dogs don’t have the ability to manage discriminative stimuli that control behavior.

The inability of dogs to control this aspect of their environment places the responsibility of discriminative stimuli management squarely on the shoulders of us humans.

We need to live by rules that help arrange the environment in ways where dogs have an easy time being good. Dogs can’t decide I’m going to spend more time inside so I won’t be so tempted to go visit my neighbor when she smells sooo good because it would lead to a show dog with less than desirable children. But people can arrange the environment so our dogs are not hated by society.

Some interesting strategies for self control were used by children in an experiment that required waiting 15 minutes to have 2 sweets verses having 1 sweet right away. It was found that children with good self control employed a strategy of not thinking about the sweet. This was often done by thinking about something else. They were managing the internal discriminative stimuli. These children were managing the signals that controlled their behavior. I like calling internal discriminative stimuli the controlling signal(s). It may not be scientific but it makes sense for normal conversations.

Managing discriminative stimuli or the controlling signal(s) is often one of my first objectives when doing an in home dog training program. Discriminative stimuli management is especially critical where the owner is so frustrated with the dog’s behavior they are thinking about getting rid of the dog.  Usually we can at least make the dog’s behavior good enough so the owner can keep the dog. This give us time to do the needed training to change the offending behavior. Now even if the behavior can’t be completely changed, it usually can be managed. Efficient management of the dog’s behavior can make cohabitation with humans possible.

There are established social rules for managing the attractive woman + Alcohol + opportunity syndrome.  There are also individuals who have personal rules for managing these scenarios. With dogs you need to be your dog’s social authority. It’s important to know that you can direct and manage your dog’s behavior without being overbearing. Sometimes this involves teaching a new response. At other times you may need to make some physical changes to the environment. It is up to you, the dog’s owner, to manage the signals that control your dog’s behavior.

I can be reached at 714-827-4058