Thank you for your thoughtful and insightful posts. I look forward to reading and learning more. I am a first time dog owner and a novice but I've learned a tremendous amount from this forum.
Forgive me if this is a silly question, but what do you define as punishment (obviously hitting or causing physical pain)....but beyond that, would a time out in an expen be considered "punishment"?
Fionn is 11 months old now and I just love him! One of the things I am working on with him is barking out the window at other dogs. I try to stay with him when he has access to the window but it's not always possible. When I'm there with him I reward with an enthusiastic "good" and a treat when he looks at the dog and then at me. If I'm not in the room and he starts barking like crazy out the window I calmly pick him up and take him to his expen where he stays for a minute or so until he calms down. Is this an effective way to deal with that behavior?
Jan - sorry I missed your post earlier this morning.
I agree this forum is a wonderful resource. Congrats on getting a Hav to be your first dog. They are such WONDERFUL dogs!
You'll need to be careful with your timing - any praise or mark (like a click-sound, or a word-event-marker) and the treat that immediately follows that mark,will reinforce the behavior that occurred at the time you marked it.
So, if Fionn looks at the dog he's barking at, make sure not to reward while he's looking and barking. However, if he then turns to you, THEN you can mark (click or say a marker-word) - and immediately deliver the treat.
I don't think a time-out is punishment, but much depends on the dog's view of it. It can be very helpful to calm a dog, to give the dog a time-out in his crate. See how the dog responds. If the dog settles in the crate- lies down, and perhaps naps a bit, then I'd say the time-out is helpful. Dogs, especially puppies and adolescents, can easily get over-stimulated, and a time-out helps settle the elevated stress hormone levels brought on by being over-threshold in arousal levels.
But if the dog is badly stressed by crating, which can occur if the dog has previously been crated too much, or has somehow had bad crate experiences, then it would be punishment to put the dog in a crate - oh; let's see, you asked about ex-pens (red face here!). I do prefer ex-pens to crates, as they allow the dog to move around, stretch, and so forth. Crates CAN be more settling to a dog than ex-pens, being more like caves. So consider how Fionn responds, and I'd base your decisions on that.
The strict definition of "punishment" according to the principles of operant conditioning (which are useful to know, but a more colloquial definition can be particularly helpful), is that punishment reduces the likelihood of the punished behavior of occurring again - in similar circumstances. So we learn after the fact; if the behavior reduces in frequency or intensity later, then the dog was punished.
A reason I don't much lean on that definition is the involvement of the limbic system - the emotional brain - the amygdala - in responding to punishment (something occurring that the dog doesn't like or is afraid of). Fears are difficult enough to remove; we don't need to reinforce them.
Just to cover the bases, there's "positive punishment," (hate this terminology, but there it is), which consists of actively doing something to the dog that the dog doesn't like and there's "negative punishment," which is, removing something that the dog DOES like, or wants.
For me, I've preferred to work outside the strict definitions of operant conditioning. It's useful to know them, but because the emotional brain, the limbic system, quite overrides everything else, I prefer to work with the everyday version of the idea of punishment. That DOES bring us problems at times, because then we're stuck defining punishment for ourselves. HOWEVER, our DOGS - individually - each one - can help us with such definitions, because, if we learn to read them well, THEY will tell us how they are feeling.
Notice I'm talking about everyday living, NOT about precision-training.
Ii think your solution - picking Fionn up and removing him to an ex-pen is a very acceptable thing to do.
Turid makes suggestions that I find useful, which doesn't involve confining the dog, and this is the method I used with Kwali and Kumbi to reduce their excited barking. You could try this, and see how it works out.
Use the splitting-up calming signal. That is, see if you can get your body between the dog and the window. This may not be possible, without getting pushy. If it's not possible, you might try showing your palm to Fionn's nose - placing your palm in front of his nose. That acts as a kind of "stop" signal.
Don't do that, though, if Fionn is so aroused and excited that he "re-directs" at you and snaps at your hand, or even bites it. If Fionn does that sort of thing (a very terrier-like action), I'd wait out the barking, and do nothing but stand there. Any action you take at this point, talking to the dog, tends to reinforce the behavior, because it's attention to the behavior.
If you've been successful in re-directing Fionn's attention to you, for instance, allowing him to look (and bark), and then rewarding him for turning to YOU, I'd continue that practice. Leslie McDevitt's _Control Unleashed_ method calls this "Look at that." Turid uses similar methods.
It's possible that Fionn would find being picked up punishing; many dogs do not like being picked up, so you might keep that in mind.
General principles would include reducing stress generally in Fionn's life (see my post to Suzi). Anything that helps a dog calm is always useful.
Even though this is already a very long post, there are other aspects we can discuss. So please continue to ask questions, and I'll do my best. Camellia is awaiting her morning walk!
I'll be watching. I like your careful attention; that will take you a long way with Fionn. Do tell us anything about him that you're moved to tell! And I can't stop before first congratulating you on the care you are taking with Fionn, and the education you're going after for yourself. I do think this forum is a truly great place to educate yourself!
Sun, 19 Feb 2012 08:40:03 (PST)