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.

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