Receiving discreet and graded signals

Published on September 5th, 2017

Pay attention

Although my students of April 2008 onwards have this information in the updates to the book delivered in our courses, several people have told me that it is a largely unknown topic and it was worth making this “cut and paste” job; with my apologies to those who already know the text.

Dogs are animals capable of receiving discreet and graded signals about their environment and social group.

Discrete signals are on/off signals, they have different intensities or the intensity difference is irrelevant to the main message. They are usually related to the emergence of resources or dangers, so the clarity is the most important parameter, not receiving or misinterpreting a signal of this kind can have a serious economic or vital impact for the dog. Discrete signals are usually related to events of interest that are outside the social group.

Graded signals are those subject to variations in shape and/or intensity according to the emotional state of the issuer. They are the most used within the social group and allow interactive situations between two subjects. For this reason, they are the most important for coexistence.

Perhaps one of the most harmful effects on the education of the dogs that are derived from the vision of training as a sum of operative conditioning is “untraining” dogs to receive and evaluate the graded signals, the dog that limits itself to assessing the information coming from its social partners in black and white, will be an incompetent member of the group and will have difficulty establishing subtle relationships with its guide, it is taught to ignore signals not directly related to good or bad. What may be very beneficial at the beginning of training for its clarity, so that the dog learns new actions is not very useful when handling a trained dog, which is enriched with the nuances of the information that it receives from its guide.

To train it may be sufficient to use discrete signals, to educate we need the dog to enhance its nature to receive graded signals, as this will increase its ability to act properly in the family setting. Social mammals are particularly prepared for receiving and sending graded signals, as this allows an animal to know if their behavior is met with some joy, with some anger (or a lot) and to grade its social actions to which each individual in the group, in every situation, is receptive. So, the dog must learn to receive and send messages to the rest of the group with different levels.

Wellbeing or comfort behaviors

Published on July 19th, 2017

Today we know that many animals, once their survival needs are covered, look to improve their wellbeing or comfort (Korttland 1940 makes the pursuit of comfort in animals explicit). The discovery of this characteristic showed us that the way of generating behavior -both social and individual-, and the learning of animals that have secure resources (food, water, resting place …) in sufficient quantity and quality and that also live in continually safe conditions is different from those without these guarantees. Thus we have the same species showing differences in their ethology as found in an ecological niche in the struggle for survival or pursuit of wellbeing.

There are a number of behaviors or movements that are indicators that a dog is in a state of wellbeing (Baerends 1960 coined the term “comfort movements”). The appearance of these behaviors on a frequent basis is an indicator of the quality of life and mental and emotional health of the dog, more reliable than the absence of signs of appeasement or the active pursuit of external reinforcements. Among the comfort or wellbeing behaviors of the dog are playing (social or individual), invitations to play, “wallowing” in the grass, resting upside down with the paws in the air, resting in open places instead of corners or closed places, seeking contact with the paws or nose, an “expansive” attitude, movement with jumps and sharp turns …. If these attitudes are continued and common, our dog will be in the optimal situation: its behavioral objectives will be intended mainly to “enjoy life” and not to fight for survival. Obviously a dog in a state of wellbeing will be able to enjoy training and living with us to a greater degree.

One of the characteristics of the comfort movements is that a large number of cases have no communicative purpose, a dog can wallow in grass without anyone watching it and of course when sleeping one way or another it makes no attempt to inform anyone of anything, of course if another dog or a person with knowledge sees it, they will know that it is happy and relaxed, respectively, but compared to behaviors of appeasement or aggression that are always made to transmit information to another individual, comfort movements do not necessarily have this informative objective, except in those cases where it wants to share its wellbeing by inviting us to play well!

Points to consider to satisfy a customer

Published on April 24th, 2017

Customer satisfaction is the third key to commercial success (the other two are quality work and optimizing training), to achieve it here you have some tips.

Learning and thinking through mental images (I)

Published on April 2nd, 2017

Unlike we humans, dogs do not have a linguistic code that allows them to mentally operate with symbols (words) that represent things, they operate with sensory mental imagery. Minimizing the amount of information relevant to some point improves the thinking process efficiency.

How to optimize our commercial training sessions

Published on February 9th, 2017

In commercial training, like in any professional field, you must have some optimization keys to avoid having to work more in situations we have created ourselves. Here you have some hints to optimize your sessions

What makes for successful commercial training?

Published on February 1st, 2017

Success in commercial training depends not only on the technical competence of the trainer, there are two more factors that are often neglected: customer satisfaction and the positive balance between hours worked and the price of training.

Welcome to “The Green Box”

Published on January 23rd, 2017

Be welcomed to “The Green Box”, a space to share Carlos Alfonso’s -company CEO- insights and analysis after twenty years of studying, training and working with behavioral problems in dogs and cats.