Today I want to share with you some thoughts on my work with Torvi the GSD.
Torvi came to see me because she is showing reactive behaviour towards other dogs. She will bark and lunge at them even at long distances.
Besides that, she barks. She barks very, very often, even when there is not much going on.
After a couple of sessions, we realized that her regular barking is part of a behaviour cycle which has been reinforced and well reinforced.
This happened mainly because Torvi was reinforced for “silence” right after barking. Over, and over again, in different circumstances.
As a result, she engages in bark-stop-bark a lot in her daily life.
Reinforcing unwanted cycles in a trial to implement positive reinforcement training with dogs is quite easy if we are not aware of the possibility for this to happen.
The devil is in the details. And so is the angel.
It is easy to understand the overall concept of almost every skill or technique, but what makes a person a professional in a specific area, is the knowledge of every detail within that skill or technique.
I know it well by experience, after building furniture, renovating a house, growing vegetables, painting bikes, fixing cars, replacing parts in a motorbike. Yes, I did all that, but the majority of times I found obstacles, details that I did not expect and did not know how to deal with them. Because in the end, I am just an amateur in all those areas. I understood the overall concept, but I did not have the necessary knowledge to do the job perfectly.
Although once you master the skills, it is in the details that you turn a reactive dog into a social dog, it is in the details that you turn an over-aroused dog into a calm and stable dog. The angel is in the details.
Sometimes it is not as simple as it seems, and usually, it is never as simple as it seems. But there are ways to correct things, there are solutions for problems and certainly, there are techniques to improve any dog’s behaviour.
For now, we implemented a strategy to break the unwanted behaviour cycle that Torvi is showing, while at the same time we start to build new reinforcement histories for a new set of behaviours which will improve her behaviour in daily life and also help later on when working on her behaviour around dogs.
Thank you for reading,
Dog Behaviourist Ricardo Ministro