animal behaviour: dogs

Part A: Dogs display a range of normal and abnormal behaviours in their lives. Abnormal behaviour is a behaviour that a dog would not normally display such as digging. When dogs get neutered, it can cause abnormal behaviour afterwards as it causes spayed and castrated dogs to hump everything that they see in sight such as cushions, stuffed animals and people’s legs. This behaviour can because of non-sexual play when they are young puppies, they are socially interacting with other dogs when they have reached sexual maturity, they are trying to relief stress and it is a sign of urinary tract problems. Another abnormal behaviour displayed by dogs is digging holes in the garden. This can be because they are escaping from anxiety and separation issues from the owner, they can hear underground sounds, the summer heat, instinctive behaviour such as prey or food, to hide food somewhere sheltered and it is the mating behaviour for females and this is natural.  In the “Animal Welfare Act 2006″ there are five animal needs which needs to be met by people who keep animals such as pets and one of the five animal needs states that” animals should exhibit normal behaviour”. Normal behaviour is a behaviour that a dog normally does such as chewing. Dogs chew and it is very natural. This behaviour occurs as a dog examines its environment with its mouth and it may chew an object out of curiousity. Puppies chew on objects as they have a lot to examine in the world and they are growing their adult teeth and chewing helps them to relieve the pain of their sore gums. An adult dog chews when they are bored, excited and destructive. Another normal behaviour in dogs is biting. Puppies nip at other dogs or people when they are learning their place within the pack or family. Biting is a normal behaviour however, when it goes beyond puppyhood and becomes harmful then it becomes an abnormal behaviour. Most dogs bite when pain occurs, they are feeling threatened by an animal or person and guarding their territory. These behaviours can be harmful however, it is natural. Some dogs will display dominance aggression which makes them dangerous to people and also, other animals. The owner having vigilance, responsible practice for breeding, training the dog when it is a puppy and socialization can reduce the problem of biting.  Associative behaviour is a learning process where new responses become associated with a stimulus. This type of learning is simple as it broadens the opportunity for the animal to behave. This can be associated with different places and conditions to do with the risks of predators. This can help with abnormal behaviour as you can teach the dog the correct way to behave and you can repeat this many times in various places and conditions so that the dog is learning. An example of this is training the dog not to bite that every time it stops biting you use a training clicker and treats and over time the dog will learn to stop biting when it sees the clicker. It can also help with normal behaviour as you can continue to train the dog the correct behaviour it is displaying in various conditions and environments and use a stimulus that the dog can associate the behaviour with. An example of this is rewarding the dog with treats by clicking the clicker every time it performs the correct behaviour and then over time the animal will learn to not bite you when it sees the clicker.  Non-associative behaviour is called Habituation and this is a loss of response given to a stimulus when the same stimulus has been given repeatedly. Animals are likely to habituate in response to a weak stimulus being used, a stimulus of less importance being used and the same stimulus being used when training the dog to do certain behaviours. Most animals need to habituate a stimulus when the stimulus is in large amounts, if they need to focus on what is important for surviving. An example of this that some animals are able to focus on the alarm calls which are made by other animals so that they are aware of predators. There can be impacts of inappropriate reinforcement. Negative reinforcement is like punishment as reinforcement can be achieved by taking something away from their environment. To reinforce the dog’s behaviour through negative punishment, the owner removes something that the dog doesn’t like. Depending on the dog’s behaviour and experience plus the choices of the dog’s trainer, the punishment can vary from a verbal response to placing a cruel stimulus around the dog’s neck such as a tightened prong collar.  Punishment has always been part of animal training and this has been since animals live closely with people. Using training techniques which are based on fear or pain have been used long-term but it might not be the best option for the animal’s welfare and how successiveful it is. Training a dog using techniques based on fear or pain has a number of risks which include: increasing a dog’s fear or anxiety due to the situation that it is used in, decreases  the chance of the dog learning, associating other events with a distressing event, causing confusion to which behaviour is required by the dog and causing physical injuries. Since there are training techniques used which do not cause the use of harsh punishment, there is no point in using techniques that impact on the welfare of dogs as it can cause severe behavioural issues such as nervousness or aggression. The safety and effectiveness when using reward based training techniques must be taken into account.  To suppress a behaviour in dogs, the basic level of punishment needs to be of decent severity to be able to suppress a behaviour and avoid the behaviour from coming back. This can lead to problems of determining and administering the correct level of punishment which is high to suppress the behaviour but not too high that it causes long-term fear or anxiety response in individual dogs.  Part b: There are many ways in which learning theory can be used to develop management strategies to modify behaviours in animals such as LIMA. LIMA has certain requirements that animal trainers and behaviourists must follow when they are using the LIMA technique because it will make the training or behaviour in animals more achievable and it will minimize the risk of producing adverse side effects in animals. Associative behaviour can affect the LIMA technique used on animals as some animals have short lifespans such as guinea-pigs and rabbits do not use associative learning and different animals learn in different ways because some animals will go straight to an object that it has associated a behaviour to and others will search thoroughly for the object instead of going to the object that it has been taught to go to. An example of this is training an animal to go to the object and the other animal searches for the toy.  When it comes to using the LIMA technique, a positive reinforcement is the first thing when it comes to training an animal using the LIMA technique as this could mean that handling and petting an animal using various tools and environments are assessed by the handler each time before training and the measure of each stimulus used is dependent on the animal’s target behaviour and whether it is strengthening or weakening. When using clarity and consistency in problem solving from the LIMA technique, the trainer or behaviour consultant has to make it clear to the animal what you are wanting the animal to do when you are training the animal e.g. you need to make it clear to the dog if you want the dog to sit or lie down. As a dog trainer or behaviourist, you may need to change the training methods, you are using on the dog and this can be due to changes in the behaviour development of the dog however, you must continue to use the LIMA technique with the dog and not change the training technique.  When it comes to the ethical use of this technique, you must be dependent on the consultant or trainer’s ability to problem solve and understand their own actions with the animal that they are training and the trainer or behaviourist must have some sensitivity towards the animal’s experiences as the dog may have been abused in the past. The LIMA guidelines requires consultants and trainers to offer the animal as much control and choice during the learning process and they need to treat each individual of any species with respect and awareness of the animal’s individual nature and needs.  There are two types of schedules of reinforcement depending on what behaviour you are looking to reinforce in the dog. The first schedule of reinforcement is continuous schedule of reinforcement and the second is the intermittent schedule of reinforcement. Continuous reinforcement schedules are used more than intermittent reinforcement schedules when teaching new behaviours to an animal such as a dog while intermittent reinforcement schedules are used to sustain previously learnt behaviour by a dog. Continuous reinforcement occurs when reinforcement is delivered after every target behaviour is displayed by the dog whereas in intermittent schedules of reinforcement, some behaviours or responses get reinforcement but the reinforcement is never given after each behaviour or response shown by the dog. There are four types of intermittent schedules of reinforcement which are fixed- ratio schedule, a fixed interval schedule, a variable ratio schedule and a variable interval schedule.  Conditioning is the structure of a learned association between two events so associative learning is linking certain outcomes. Associative learning is an easy form of learning which increases the animal’s opportunity to behave more efficiently.  Classical conditioning is a type of learning process in a stimulus to get an adjustable response which is put into place by a contrasting stimulus. An example of classical conditioning is Pavlov’s dogs as Pavlov presented his dogs with meat powder and they began to salivate. He then paired the meat powder to a bell and after many times, the dogs began to salivate when they heard the bell on its own. Operant conditioning is a type of learning in animals where a controllable and non-reflexive behaviour is strengthened if it is reinforced and then weakened if it is punished or not reinforced. An example of this is Skinner’s box in 1938. Skinner used a shaping technique in which a rat approached the lever then sniffed the lever and then learnt to touch the lever and then the rat pressed the lever.  The rat’s behaviour is shaped by its continuous changing requirements for reward.  Operant conditioning can be used to find out how hard an animal is willing to work for a reward. Animal training through operant conditioning has to involve reinforcement and punishment. The reinforcement and punishment can be both positive and negative. When an animal is learning a behaviour through operant conditioning, the trainer can use positive reinforcement to encourage a desired behaviour such as using praise, toys or food. An example of this is police and drug dog handler use play when rewarding their dogs for the desired behaviour displayed. The reward that is given to the animal has to be sufficient enough to motivate the animal to repeat the behaviour and the reward must be instant.  Social learning is a type of learning that requires more than one animal and not all animals will be able to learn socially. There are many benefits of social learning in animals such as copying another member of the group and this reduces the time spent doing trial and error method could go wrong with some animals. Choosing a mate is part of social learning as if a female observes a potential mate then another female is more likely to choose that mate as she will learn from the observing female that the male is a good male to mate with. Non associative learning is also known as habituation and it is the loss of response to a stimulus when the stimulus has been given to the animal repeatedly. Animals are most likely to show this behaviour to a weak stimulus, a less important stimulus, a stimulus which has been given repeatedly or a frequent stimulus. Animals need to display this behaviour to a stimulus when they are given large amounts of stimuli or they need to focus on what is more important for survival. An example of this is animals focus on alarm calls which are made by other animals to protect themselves from predators.  I agree to some extent that learning behaviour in animals can be used to develop some management strategies that will alter behaviour animals by using the LIMA technique as it has certain requirements as trainers and behaviourists must follow before they start training an animal a preferred behaviour. I personally think that not being able to give advice on a behaviour or training issue outside of their concern is true as a dog trainer should not be giving advice on a behaviour or training issue of a horse or donkey. The trainer or behaviourist must have the correct qualifications and skills to train an animal otherwise they are going to make the behaviour and training of the animal much worse than if they do not have the correct qualifications and skills. I think that you should use reinforcement and punishment that is positive and negative when training an animal as it teaches the animal what behaviours are acceptable and unacceptable during a training session.  Overall, I think that the most important factors when it comes to training an animal are medical factors such as age, the sex of the animal, any injuries or illnesses and whether the animal has been abused. I came to the conclusion that these were the most important factors when it comes to training an animal as an older or very young animal will not want to do too much trained than a young mature animal as it is too much for them to be able to learn and they can become easily tired due to their age. Whether an animal is male or female is very important as it may help the trainer or behaviourist with the animal’s temperament when it comes to training the animal as males tend to be more aggressive than females. If an animal has any injuries or illnesses than they are unlikely to train as they will want to be left alone in peace and quiet to recover from their injury or illness that they have sustained. An animal that has been abused in the past will affect their behaviour and training as the animal as the animal may be very shy and nervous or they could be really aggressive towards the trainer or behaviourist. Dogs that have been abused can show hyperactivity. Hyperactivity in dogs can be described as displaying uncontrolled activity, the dogs have short attention spans and high impulsiveness which the dog is unable to control. Hyperactivity can also be described as the canine form of ADHD. Part C: Medical factors can influence the development of behaviour in dogs. Behavioural changes may be caused by an underlying medical condition such as an abscess on the tooth causing pain and this may lead to growling and snapping in dogs. Dogs which display aggression must be seen by a vet to determine the cause of the aggression as if the aggressive behaviour is medical related then the medical problem can be treated by the vet and then a dog trainer to get rid of the aggressive behaviour. Medical problems such as neurological problems, brain tumours and seizures can be responsible for aggressive behaviour in dogs. Animals are very good experts at masking symptoms of pain and illness so if you think that your dog has a medical problem then it is good to go to the vet to get your dog checked out. Vaccinations and medications can lead to behavioural changes in dogs. Dogs having increased aggression around food and an increased appetite could be related to hormonal diseases. To eradicate the health problems that causing behavioural problems in dogs, all owners need to speak to the veterinarian about the behaviour problems that their dog is experiencing so that the vet can examine the dog and identify any health causes which are responsible for the dog developing certain behaviour problems. These health problems need to be treated before the behaviour problem can be resolved by the dog trainer or behaviourist.