By Marilyn Wolf, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA
Several years ago, I was volunteering in a shelter. The puppies were in an area separated from the older dogs. There were about ten kennels with at least one pup in each. The wall toward the hallway was block on the bottom and glass on the top so the puppies were visible from the hallway.
I was working with socializing the puppies and introducing them to a collar and leash. The day I was working, there was a litter of Australian Shepherd X puppies only about seven-eight weeks old. Fat, fuzzy, cute, and wrapped around each other sleeping. In the kennel next to them was a four-month-old Weimaraner puppy who recently had surgery on her thigh to repair a broken femur. She was healed, but her fur had not grown back yet. She was bouncy, noisy, and pushy.
When a potential adopter came in, I had to put all the pups into their kennels to keep them safe. A young man came in and was looking at the puppies because he wanted to get one as a Valentine’s Day surprise for his wife. As he walked around, I was offering small treats to the pups, who were awake, and quiet. The man walked over to the Aussie pups and wanted to see one of them so I opened the kennel and he bent down to pet them. They were really sleepy so they did not interact much. He would pet them a little while, then stand up and look at the other pups then pet them some more.
Since the Weimaraner was in the kennel beside them, I gave her a treat from my pocket every time she was quiet, and she stopped barking. Then I gave her a treat when all four feet were on the floor and she stopped jumping. Then she started sitting for more treats. Then she gave me eye contact and earned more treats. The man noticed what she was doing because I had not been talking to her at all. I could tell he was beginning to consider her, too.
He decided he needed to step out of the puppy area to call his wife and talk to her about the pups he was interested in. As he walked down the hallway, I saw him put his phone away and smile really big. His wife ran into his arms and they gave each other a big hug. They had both come to the shelter to adopt a puppy to surprise the other for Valentine’s Day.
Almost immediately, she began sitting quietly. The woman was impressed. This is when I knew the man had been paying attention because he began to describe how quickly she “got it.”
Since they lived in an apartment, they were concerned that this pup would have too much energy for their home. We talked about a regular exercise schedule including playing ball, taking long walks, and using Kongs™. Before long, they decided to go to the office and fill out the adoption paperwork. They took her home that day. Cupid smiled.
1. Health, nutritional, and physical factors: The trainer should ensure that any indicators for possible medical, nutritional, or health factors are addressed by a licensed veterinarian. The trainer should also ensure that potential factors in the physical environment are addressed.
2. Antecedents: The trainer should redesign setting events, change motivations, and add or remove discriminative stimuli (cues) for the problem behavior.
3. Positive Reinforcement: The trainer should employ approaches that contingently deliver a consequence to increase the probability that the right behavior will occur, which is more reinforcing than the problem behavior.
4. Differential Reinforcement of Alternate Behavior: The trainer should reinforce an acceptable replacement behavior and remove the maintaining reinforcer for the problem behavior.
5. Negative Punishment, Negative Reinforcement, or Extinction (these are not listed in any order of preference):
a. Negative Punishment – The trainer should contingently withdraw a positive reinforcer to reduce the probability that
the problem behavior will occur.
b. Negative Reinforcement – The trainer should contingently withdraw an aversive antecedent stimulus to increase
the probability that the right behavior will occur.
c. Extinction – The trainer should permanently remove the maintaining reinforcer to suppress the behavior or reduce it
to baseline levels.
1 Adapted from: WHAT’S WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE? EFFECTIVENESS IS NOT ENOUGH, Susan G. Friedman, Ph. D., Good Bird ™ Magazine, Vol 4-4; Winter 2008.