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Section S

SATS

Syn Alia Training System, a set of animal training techniques developed by Kayce Cover.

SATS uses four main elements, which are:

  • Intermediate Bridges.  These are verbal markers that tell a dog that they are approximating the desired behavior but has not yet successfully completed it.
  • Target Training.  Targets are used to prompt the dog to perform a given behavior.  Shaping and luring are never used.
  • Conditioned relaxation.  Dogs are classically conditioned to relax on cue.
  • Perception modification, a set of behavioral modification protocols.

Scaredy Dog

Scaredy Dog! Understanding and Rehabilitating Your Reactive Dog, is a book by Ali Brown M.Ed CPDT CDBC.  The book focuses on communicating the principles of learning theory for behavior modification to the general reader, and also sets out protocols and techniques dog owners can use to work with their fearful or reactive dog.  These techniques are based on positive reinforcement and stress the need for the dog to feel safe and be set up for success.

Schedule-Induced Aggression

Researchers in operant conditioning observed that animals would display aggressive behaviors when they are given access to positive reinforcement on an intermittent basis, even if there was no previous aggression. This aggression was shown not to be a learnt behavior, to be unrelated to the behavior that was being reinforced, and to follow a pattern. Most aggression happened immediately after reinforcement.

References

Cohen, PS and Looney, TA (1982) Aggression induced by intermittent positive reinforcement Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews 6:1,pp.15-37

Scruff

The scruff is the loose skin on the back of a dog’s neck, which a mother will hold if she needs to carry her puppies.  Scruffing a dog is a kind of positive punishment, involving holding the dog by the scruff, making prolonged eye contact, and usually shaking him.

Secondary Reinforcer

Reinforcers are used in operant conditioning to make a desired behavior more likely.  Secondary reinforcers are things that a dog has come to value through their being associated with another reward.

For example, a dog may come to enjoy the sound of an alarm clock because it is associated with his owners waking up and giving him affection and food.  The alarm clock sound can be used as a reinforcer for desired behaviors, even at other times of day.

SEEKING system

One of the emotional systems described by Jaak Panskepp.  SEEKING is associated with finding a reward; when the dog is expecting a reward or actively trying to obtain one, he gets a flood of dopamine, which causes him to feel good.

This system is said to be activated by mark and reward training, particularly by shaping, which encourages creativity.

Self-Reinforcing Behavior

Behaviors are considered to be self-reinforcing if they are enjoyable in themselves, rather than because of the impact they have on the dog’s environment.  For example, many dogs enjoy the sound of their own barking, even if nothing in their environment changes when they bark.

Dogs that repeatedly or persistently perform self-reinforcing behaviors to excess can be considered to be suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder.

Sense-ation Harness

The SENSE-ation harness is a front clip harness made by Softouch concepts.  The harness is fitted around the ribs and the back, and has a strap that sits over the chest where the leash is connected to a metal O-ring.  The SENSE-ation harness is marketed as a device to promote loose leash walking.

Sentiocentrism

A way of looking at the world, in which only animals with sentience – usually defined as the capacity to have subjective experiences, to see oneself as an individual, or to feel pleasure and pain – have any moral standing.  On this view, any creature that meets these criteria deserves to be considered when humans make decisions that might affect them, like, the decision to cut down rainforest or build a road over marshland.

Some kinds of sentiocentrism are also anthropocentric – they see humans as having priority over animals when other things are equal, because humans are thought to have the greatest capacity for rich subjective experiences.  Other kinds accord equal weight to all creatures that meet the threshold of sentience – although there is no consensus about where this threshold is, so some species are included in some definitions and not in others.

Separation Anxiety

When a dog has excessive anxiety about being left alone by his owners.  Can be accompanied by destructive and self-injurious behaviors and attempts to escape, although not always. Some dogs with separation anxiety are less anxious when left with other humans, or other dogs, but some are specifically anxious about being left by the humans they are most closely bonded to.

Service Dog

A dog that has been trained to perform tasks that are helpful to people with physical, neurological and/or cognitive disabilities.
Some service dogs provide alerting to impending medical issues likes seizures or hypoglycemic attacks, others physically assist with daily tasks like shopping and laundry, and others provide sensory assistance like guidance for people who are blind.
Psychiatric service dogs are specifically for people whose mental health condition causes their functioning to be significantly impaired, and can be prescribed by a psychiatrist.  They are trained for specific tasks related to their handler’s disability, such as interrupting repetitive behaviors or reminding them to take medications.   This makes them different from emotional support dogs.
Service dogs are sometimes specially bred for their tasks, but dogs from any situation can have the potential to become a service dog with the right temperament and training.  Service dogs in training are often abbreviated to SDiT.

Shaping

A technique commonly used in clicker training, where a dog is reinforced for performing successive approximations of a desired behavior. As the dog gets closer to a perfect execution of the behavior, the trainer reinforces only the closest examples and stops reinforcing the less accurate ones. For example, a dog might be shaped to stand on a box by marking and rewarding him for moving toward the box; putting one foot on the box, then two feet, then standing on the box.

 

Shut Down

A dog is considered to be shut down when he is undergoing chronic extreme stress but is not showing any obvious reactions, like anxiety or aggression.  This is often due to flooding.  Shut down dogs can be difficult to tell from dogs who are calm, but some common differences are:
  • Being very still
  • A tucked tail
  • Shallow breathing
  • Panting
In some situations, a dog will even fall asleep as a kind of self-protective mechanism.

Side Sucking

Also called flank sucking. Side sucking is a compulsive behavior in dogs, where the dog curls into a ball and sucks his flank. It is especially common in Doberman pinschers, although it’s not unique to the breed. Left unchecked, this behavior can sometimes lead to lick granuloma.

Signaling

When an owner creates a stimulus that tells the dog that something unpleasant is about to happen.  A safety signal, for example, tells the dog that something unpleasant is not going to happen.  For example, the collar component of an invisible fence will beep when the dog is approaching the boundary area, where he will be shocked.  The dog learns that the beep precedes the shock, and can then avoid the shock.  According to the safety signal hypothesis, the beep could become positively reinforcing because it is associated with avoidance.

In an experiment, psychologists found that rats strongly preferred to be in a situation where an electric shock was signaled by a sound, even when the rats couldn’t avoid the shock.  The experimenters suggested that this was because the sound was a signal the rats could use to predict safe and unsafe periods of time, and the predictability was something the rats preferred.


 

References:

Badia, P and S. Culbertson (1972). The relative aversiveness of signalled vs. unsignalled escapable and unescapable shock. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior 17(3), pp.463-471.

Simultaneous Conditioning

A kind of conditioning where the reinforcer or punisher is delivered at exactly the same time as the *stimulus.

For example, when conditioning a dog to accept having his coat brushed, a trainer can deliver constant food treats all the time she is using the brush, and stop as soon as the brushing stops.

Sit Pretty

When a dog sits, and then raises his front paws and head up until his spine is vertical and straight, and he is balancing in a column from his hind end upwards.

This exercise can be used in rehabilitation and conditioning, because it strengthens the dog’s core muscles when it is held for a duration.

Skinner Box

A chamber developed by B.F. Skinner to test how animals learn by operant conditioning by isolating them from the kinds of distractions found in a natural environment.  The box contains one or more items that the subject can manipulate, like a lever a rat can press, or a colored key a pigeon can peck.  It also contains lights and sounds that can be used as cues.

Skinner, B.F.

One of the “fathers of modern behavioral science”, Skinner was a professor who pioneered the experimental analysis of behavior. He distinguished between classically conditioned and operantly conditioned behavior, which have become the cornerstones of behavior modification in dogs.

Operant conditioning is sometimes called Skinnerian conditioning, to contrast with Pavlovian conditioning.

 

Slat Mill

A type of treadmill used for conditioning or rehabilitating dogs.  It is made of a series of slats, joined together in a loop and situated over a set of rollers.  When the dog runs forward, the slats move underneath him.  There is usually an attachment point for a harness, and barriers on either side so that the dog remains in position and avoids injury.
Slat mills are not electrically powered, so the dog has the ability to control his own speed.

Slip Leash

A cord, line or rope with a loop at one end. The line is put through the loop and over the dog’s neck. It tightens indefinitely, like a choke chain, but is more commonly used in handling shelter dogs than in a home or training environment.

Social Facilitation

When a dog is motivated to perform a behavior because someone else – another dog, or a human – is doing it.

Different from modeling and social learning, where the dog learns the behavior from someone else doing it, social facilitation is about the reason the dog is performing a behavior he already knows.

Social Learning

Learning from other members of a social group – usually other dogs.  Social learning is an important part of the socialization period in puppies.  Dogs that are new to a household can also pick up behavioral habits (good or bad) from established dogs in the home.

Socialization Period

Between 3 and 12 weeks of age, a puppy’s brain is developed enough to begin learning appropriate responses to things in his environment. Through interactions with his litter mates and mother, the puppy learns basic social skills. Through pleasant experiences around his exposure to novel objects, noises, people and other animals, the puppy is likely to be tolerant of these things in his later life. Adequate socialization as a puppy can be considered as an inoculation against phobia and anxiety as an adult dog.

Space Dogs

A UK-based organization that aims to spread awareness of the need to respect the personal boundaries of dogs with behavioral issues through raising the profile of the yellow ribbon as an indicator that a dog needs space.  They sell educational materials and yellow merchandise for dogs to wear from their website.

SPARCS

Society for the Promotion of Applied Research in Canine Science. A non-profit organization created to promote funding opportunities for graduate students and PhD candidates pursuing research in canine science. Their annual conference, also called SPARCS, attracts many prestigious speakers and is streamed live over the Internet.

Sport Mix

A designer dog that has been specially bred to be predisposed to excellence in a given sport.  Popular breeds to include in a sport mix include collies and whippets.

Sprinkles

Sprinkles™ is a type of scent game used for enrichment, copyrighted by Sally Hopkins. The game involves throwing some small pieces of of moist food over a large area of grass, then allowing the dog to search the area.

Stages of Learning

When a dog is being taught a new behavior, he goes through several stages before he can be said to have completely learned the behavior.

The first stage of learning is acquisition, where the dog is first making the association between the stimulus, behavior, and consequence.  The second is consolidation, where the associations are made stronger and the dog gets “better” at performing the behavior on cue.  Finally, there is maintenance, where the dog can be said to have completely made the association, and it only needs to be prevented from extinction.

Different reinforcement schedules are recommended for the different stages of learning.

Starmark

Starmark Training and Behavior solutions are a company that make a wide variety of treats, toys and training tools.  They manufacture a range of long-lasting treats designed to fit into enrichment toys, training treats, and prong collars.

Starmark also run an Academy program for dog trainers with onsite housing in Texas.  The program includes classes on a variety of tools including clickers and e-collars; for this reason the Academy can be considered as education for balanced trainers.

Stereotypical Behavior

Stereotypies are repetitive movements of the dogs body, which are able to be controlled and serve no useful purpose other than being reinforcing to the dog. Stereotypical behavior in animals is generally thought of as an indicator of poor welfare, particularly of lack of opportunities for enrichment. Dogs that are kept in kennels often show repetitive behaviors like bouncing, barking, and pacing, some of which can be considered as stereotypical.

Reference:

Denham, DC, Bradshaw, JWS, Rooney, NJ (2014) Repetitive behavior in kennelled domestic dogs: stereotypical or not? Physiology & Behavior 128,pp 288-294

Stim

A shorthand for “stimulation”. Refers to the electric current passed through an e-collar into the dog.

Stimulus

Anything that causes a behavior – conditioned or not – to happen.  For example, a slice of pizza is a stimulus for a dog to begin drooling; the word “sit!” is a stimulus for a dog to sit.

Stimulus Control

A dog is said to have a behavior under stimulus control when he only performs it on a cue the trainer has paired with the behavior, not on any other cue. For example, a dog who immediately puts his front paws on any book after a session of platform work does not have the behavior under stimulus control. If the dog only put his feet on a book when his owner said, “Mark”, for example, that dog could be said to have the behavior under stimulus control.

Stimulus Relevance

Some combinations of conditioned and unconditioned stimuli tend to result in much faster association than others. For example, a dog will learn not to eat something if it makes him feel ill, even if the taste and illness are far apart in time and it only happened once. In contrast, it may take several trials for a dog to learn not to pass the barriers of an invisible fence because location and shock are less relevant a combination.

Stress Signals

All dogs have a relatively stable set of behaviors that they can exhibit when they are stressed.  Which behaviors are more likely to be shown under stress depends on the breed and the individual, but a dog showing one or more of these behaviors is usually considered to be under some stress:

  • Ears pinned back or tense at the base
  • Face wrinkled with wide eyes
  • Whale eye
  • Long, tight commissures
  • Tense front legs with a stiff posture
  • Body curling in a ‘C’ shape
  • Yawning
  • ‘Checking in’ with the owner excessively
  • Sniffing the ground when there’s nothing interesting there
  • Tail tucked under the body
  • Panting
  • Standing completely still
  • Increased heart rate and breathing

Submission

The term “submission” can describe a number of things. It can refer to submissive posturing, such as a tucked tail or exposed belly, or it can be used to describe basic obedience, especially as part of dominance theory. Or, submission can describe part of a dog’s temperament, if he is inclined to choose submissive postures and appeasement when greeting or interacting with people and/or dogs.

Submissive Posture

A variety of different behaviors are described as “submissive” in dogs.  Some are appeasement behaviors, like licking the muzzle of another dog. Others might be calming signals like looking away or curving the body away.  It can be difficult to judge whether a submissive display is part of a normal greeting or play ritual, or whether it is rooted in stress and insecurity.

Submissive Urination

When a dog urinates a small amount during greetings, especially of new people, even though he is otherwise housetrained. Can sometimes be a sign of anxiety.

Successive Approximations

In shaping, trainers aim to reward when a dog performs a behavior that is close to the target behavior. For example, a trainer who is trying to teach a dog to put a toy in a basket might reward the dog for moving toward the basket with a toy, then dropping the toy near the basket, then only for dropping the toy right in the basket. The dog “homes in” on the right behavior as the trainer raises the criteria.

Sudden Environmental Change

Usually shortened to SEC, a sudden environmental change can be anything from a tipped-over trash can in the middle of the sidewalk, or a person getting out of a parked car, to a pile of laundry left on a bed.  An SEC can cause a dog to panic or become anxious and try to leave the area, or to become reactive.

Dogs that are sensitive to sudden environmental changes are usually reactive or fearful in general, but some breeds have a higher tendency to monitor their environment and can be upset by changes despite have generally stable temperaments.

Superstitious Behavior

Sometimes, dogs make associations between a stimulus, their response, and a consequence that are not quite accurate.  For example, a dog might bark incessantly at the door after his owner has left, because in the past, his owner has happened to come home just as he has been barking.  He has come to associate the two in his mind, even though there is no connection between them.

B.F. Skinner describes this phenomenon in his book, Science and Behavior: 

In superstitious operant behavior…the process of conditioning has miscarried. Conditioning offers tremendous advantages in equipping the organism with behavior which is effective in a novel environment, but there appears to be no way of preventing the acquisition of non-advantageous behavior through accident.

Dog trainers tend to agree that superstitious behavior can be very difficult to extinguish.

Suppression of Behavior

When a dog’s behaviors – either one, or a variety of different behaviors –  become less frequent or less varied as a result of some stimulus acting on the dog.

Positive and negative punishment are intended to suppress undesired behavior.  Excessive and/or improper use of positive punishment in particular can lead to high levels of behavioral inhibition and learned helplessness as the dog becomes unwilling to try new things out of fear that he may be punished.