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Section U

Umwelt

“Umwelt” is a German word, translated as “self-world” or sometimes, as “worldview”.

The term was coined by biologist Jakob von Uexküll, and has recently been popularized by the canine behavioral researcher Alexandra Horowitz, who uses it in her book “Inside of a Dog”.   She uses the term umwelt to describe the way that dogs perceive the world through their senses, and relate to it using their cognitive abilities.

The umwelt of a dog is different from that of a human, because dogs have different sensory and cognitive abilities; scent, for example, is very important for dogs and allow them to perceive things that humans cannot. Humans, by contrast, can see things in more colors, and recognize complex patterns in the environment in a way that dogs cannot.  This means the same object can be endowed with completely different significance, depending on the species perceiving it.

Unconditioned Punisher

An unconditioned punisher is something that a dog is scared of or finds otherwise aversive without first having to be trained to have that response.

For example, the citronella used in bark collars is unpleasant to a dog from the first time he is exposed to it.

Unconditioned Response

A UCR is an innate response that is elicited by a stimulus with no prior conditioning. For example, a dog salivating in the presence of food.

Unconditioned Stimulus

In classical conditioning, a US is a stimulus that elicits the desired response without any conditioning. In Pavlov’s experiment, dogs were conditioned to salivate at the sound of a bell by the bell always being followed by the presentation of food. The food caused the dogs to salivate – it was the unconditioned stimulus – after enough repetitions the bell became a conditioned stimulus and also caused the dogs to salivate.